With one of the highest participation figure in its history, 23 yachts, the 12th edition of the Gstaad Yacht Club Centenary Trophy, will be remembered for the breathtaking finale between US Charlie Ryan’s Spartan and P-Class Olympian, skippered by French icon Bruno Trouble.
Since its creation, the Gstaad Yacht Club Centenary Trophy is raced with a Pursuit Race format with staggered starts, that has proved extremely attractive for the sailors and the public alike over the years. Thanks to an especially created and constantly refined handicap system, the competitors cross the starting line according to their handicap, with the first boat to cross the finish line in front of Saint Tropez to be declared the winner. Given a weather forecast for light wind in the gulf, the Race Committee from the Société Nautique de Saint Tropez, co-organiser of the event, opted for Course 2, a 9 miles long coastal course with start and finish between the iconic Portalet Tower of Saint Tropez and a mark set just outside the gulf.
First boat to start was the tiny gaff cutter Jap (William Fife III 1897) with a crew led by Irish sailing legend Harold Cudmore, followed by Dainty (Westmacott 1922) and in turn by all the other 21 boats, according to their rating. Once again the three P Class, Olympian (William Gardner, 1913), Chips (Starling Burgess 1913) and Corinthian (Herreshoff 1905) offered a great show at the start, separated by just a few metres and at full speed on the line, as if they were modern racers.
Bigger and more powerful, and therefore with a higher rating, the three 15M, Tuiga (William Fife III 1909). Mariska (William Fife III 1908) and The Lady Anne (William Fife III 1912) went on to close the procedure.
In a light air of 5 to 6 knots, slowly but constantly building up to reach10 knots, the centenarians headed to the turning mark and smaller boats were overtaken by the bigger ones. On the leg back to Saint Tropez, the leading pack made of the the three P Class and the NY50 Spartan , was able to get the better of the conditions and quickly reach the area off the breakwater and the finish line. In an incredibly close fought finale, it was American flagged Spartan to claim the first place, her second win after the 2016 edition, with Olympian coming in second, and Chips in third. All in all it took the winners slightly over one hour and a half to cover the distance, not bad at all for a century old boats. Docking in, an elated Charlie Ryan, owner of Spartan declared: “Feels amazing. This is one of my favourite races ever. For the pursuit format, for the fact that the boats are required to be 100 years old, the fact that every year there are new entries, like Barbara this year. It’s cool, it’s very cool. Also we don’t get often the chance of racing with the other centenarian boats, because we’re in different classes. Also you get to fight against some incredibly good and talented sailors. We just love it.” Ryan also thanked his crew for their outstanding performance today: “We were 19 on board today and we are a very multicultural crew, but we’re all corinthian, some friends come over just for this wonderful regatta and we have fun being together. The wind was very shifty at the end so we had to adjust and change gear constantly. Tactics were also tricky, you needed to stay away of bad air, but I guess the real secret was hard work.”
Bruno Troublé skipper of Olympian, despite having missed the opportunity of an historic fourth victory, payed tribute to his competitors ability to keep the pressure up until the finish: ”The Gstaad Yacht Club Centenary Trophy remains a great regatta because it's often played out close to the finish line and it's often the same boats. Two years ago, we managed to avoid Spartan overtaking us 100 metres from the line and this year, just 100 metres from the line, we were still ahead of them and they managed to overtake us. It's a really exciting race and we're really pleased! Well done to the Gstaad Yacht Club.”
Daniel Heine, the Club’s sailing officer and an experienced sailor himself, who participated to five editions of the Trophy said: “Every year it seems it can’t get better and every year it gets better! The number and quality of the boats we had are amazing and the level of the competition was incredible. It’s always nice to welcome new friends and to see old friends come back and we, at the Club, want to thank them all. I hope everyone enjoyed the racing as much as my crew on Silhouette and I did and that next year we will see another exceptional edition of the Centenary Trophy.” The Trophy, handed over every year is also over centenarian, having been created by Wakely and Wheeler of London in 1911, that is exactly 100 years before the first edition of the regatta.
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