Now I know why my girlfriends like to visit Saint-Tropez in the fall instead of summer. Every year, in late September or early October, the world’s most impressive sailing yachts gather here for Les Voiles, a race through the emerald-green waters of the bay. These yachts come with crews of handsome (mostly), single (mostly), fun (mostly) men (mostly), who, after a hard day of tacking and jibbing, are ready to party in port.
Les Voiles began in 1981 when two gentlemen having lunch at Club 55, Saint-Tropez’s most famous restaurant, made a bet on whose yacht was faster. The American won, the Frenchman insisted on a rematch, and almost thirty years later, the race includes hundreds of boats from all over the world.
Les Voiles lasts a week, with traditional yachts racing one day, modern boats another–all of them separated by class. The race culminates in a big party at which the Trophée Rolex is awarded to the fastest classic boat over 16 meters, but I’m not sure if this is an actual watch or fancy goblet. In 2013, the weather gods smiled, with sunshine turning Saint-Tropez to gold.
The sailboat race is amazing to watch, beautiful, elegant and a bit scary when a dozen yachts in close pursuit lower their spinnakers and jockey for space to make a tight turn around a buoy. The sea never seemed so small.
From my friend’s speed boat we had the best seat in the house to see the timing and coordination needed to harness the wind so precisely. But that evening in the crowded port, the party got rolling just as I had to take my nieces home to bed. My boy-chasing years are long behind me, but still it’s fun to look.