St. Tropez swaps brash for beauty and the classical power of sail

Waiting list to spend, spend, spend on the glories of a bygone era and relax without security headaches

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The Independent Online

St. Tropez, such a symbol of outrageous and strutting luxury, was in violent and tempestuous mood for a torrential Tuesday which saw many of the 304 lovingly cared for boats pinned ashore and the restaurants revelling in an unexpected boost their lunchtime takings. But André Beaufils was displaying enough stiff upper lip to qualify him as an honorary Brit.

Beaufils is president of the Société Nautique de St. Tropez, host of the annual Voiles de St. Tropez regatta which is the successor to Nioulargue gathering which had its origins in some Franco-American rivalry and blossomed into a social and racing affair which is firmly established in the calendar of racers both youthful and gnarly from all over the world.

It finishes on Saturday and by Monday the little offices will be sorting a stream of entries for next year. A mixture of intrigue and influence will decide who is accepted and offered a precious place in the harbour. There were over 100 on the waiting list this year, Beaufils says he does not want the number to grow and plays a balancing act between steady as she goes and fostering regenerative vibrancy.

“We want to stage a serious regatta in good humour,” he says adding that he means the execution should be serious without it becoming emotionally obsessive.

 

There are double the number of boats which contested Nioulargue, though they can only win bragging rights and some bits of silverware and what cannot be won trackside has its compensation in the concours d’elegance dockside.

“How do you make a small fortune,” is the ironic question ashore. The hoary old answer is to make a large fortune and then take up yacht racing. The love and money lavished on the restoration and upkeep of yachts ranging up to 165 feet and one which celebrates its 130 birthday next year is eye-watering.

Not that that worries Matt Brooks, not his wife Pam, who are apparently loving every penny (or should that be cent) they spend on a 52-footer called Dorade, designed in 1930 by the revered Olin Stephens when he was just 20 years old. They will be back in Europe next year to do the Fastnet Race as they repeat the boat’s early life programme.

Brooks wants only to emphasise a Corinthian approach, however well-funded, saying: “Classic boat racing is more about fellowship, and I would like to see that continue.” As for moves within the International Sailing Federation to sweep away categories of professionals and any separation with amateurs: “You should be able to sail with anyone you want to sail with,” says Brooks. “You cannot control whom people want to associate with.” There are dozens of professionals populating the dockside.

A dockside where Brigitte Bardot and so many others have held court for so long after St. Tropez was, like so many other Cote d’Azur favourites, promoted by a painter, Paul Signac.*

What is surprising is the lack of any heavy security measures for what could be obvious targets. “We have not been asked to raise security levels,” says Beaufils. “We have always had famous people walking around here.”

*La Société Nautique de St.-Tropez since 1862; Jacques Tanglang et Antoine Sézérat (translated Nigel Pert); e-mail snsttropez@aol.com; Euros35

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