AVEL crowded winner of ROLEX Trophy at Les Voiles

Skipper Chris Austin, Alessandra Gucci, Philippe Schaeffer, Director of Rolex France, Allegra Gucci, (front row L-R) and the team of AVEL, winner of the Rolex Trophy - Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Prizegiving - Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

It seems the summer may never end in St Tropez this year. For more than one week straight, unseasonably hot weather has dominated the region, caused by a high pressure system that seemingly stalled over the northern Mediterranean. It was a week of hot sunny days and little breeze, unusual in its duration. Again today, not a cloud could be found from the vantage point of La Citadelle, the 16th century fortress overlooking the village and old port of St Tropez, and the site of the Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez prize giving midday today.

Certainly many competitors could not remember a prior Les Voiles that didn’t feature at least one day of big breeze or a mistral. But the modern classes managed to finally get two races in during the week, the Wally class five, and the traditional classes sailed three completed races.

Trophies and prizes were award to all of the modern and traditional classes in the 300+ fleet. Highlight in the Traditional division was the Rolex Trophy, awarded to the low point winner from the Tradition classes that are more than 16 metres (length on deck). This year, 51 boats were eligible for the Trophy. It was Avel, a gaff-rigged cutter designed by Charles E. Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholson in 1896, which won the Rolex Trophy. Philippe Schaeffer, Director of Rolex France awarded Allegra and Alessandra Gucci, sisters who own and race on Avel, the Rolex Trophy and a Rolex Submariner timepiece.

Skipper Chris Austin, Alessandra Gucci, Philippe Schaeffer, Director of Rolex France, Allegra Gucci, (front row L-R) and the team of AVEL, winner of the Rolex Trophy - Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Commenting on Avel’s win, Allegra Gucci said,

“It’s absolutely fantastic, especially because it doesn’t happen very often that a gaff boat wins the overall. We had extraordinary days – we especially want to thank the organization on the water, because without wind it’s very difficult to do a race.  So many thank yous to everyone involved in the organization.”

The story of Avel has been told: found in a mudbank in southeastern England, the boat was taken to Harry Spencer’s yard in Cowes for a refit – though according to captain Christopher Austin, both the hull and the interior were about 85% original, which made it a great candidate for restoration.  The boat was relaunched in 1994 and has been sailing in the classic races ever since.

Philippe Schaeffer, Director of Rolex France, awards a Rolex Timepiece to Allegra and Alessandra Gucci, owner of AVEL - Photo By: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

One key ingredient to a successful racing boat, of any era, are the sails, considered the engine that drives the boat. Ratsey & Lapthorne built Avel’s original sails, as well as her ‘new’ sails. The sail loft in Cowes has been in existence since 1790, and has constructed sails for a ‘whos who’ of classic and traditional yachts. Mike Ratsey, Ratsey’s “man in the Med”, who races on Avel said,

“We’re still racing with the original Dacron mainsail that was built when the boat was relaunched in 1994. We’re always thinking how can we make Avel that bit faster and every year, from the previous year, we think if we do this and do that we’ll get a bit more speed. This year has been exceptional, it’s been Avel’s weather: we like some wind, for us 8-10 knots and flat water is perfect conditions. It’s just the way she is – she’s quite a tender boat.”

The win at Les Voiles proved to be a great ending for the season for Avel, which is kept in Palma de Mallorca, and will return there this week to be decommissioned for the winter.

The Rolex Trophy was first awarded in 2006, past winners include:

  • 2010 – Ikra, 12-metre. Originally built as Kurrewa V, a trial horse for the Royal Thames YC for the 1964 America’s Cup.  Later owned by Baron Bich, who sold it in 1977, after which it was converted for racing/cruising in the Mediterranean.
  • 2008 & 2009 – Rowdy, Herreshoff-designed New York 40 class. Commissioned by the New York Yacht Club and built in 1916, this design is 40 feet on the waterline (approx 65 ft LOA).Grand
  • 2007 – Agneta, 25-metre yawl, built in 1951. Agneta’s beautiful varnished mahogany hull and tanbark sails are unmistakable on the water.
  • 2006 – So Fong, 25 metre Marconi-rigged schooner. Designed by the renowned naval architecture firm, Sparkman & Stephens and built in Hong Kong in 1937.

For full results, go to the club site:


Grand Epoque A (Vintage)
1) Mariquita – Jim Thom
2) Cambria – Chris Barkham
3) Elena – Steve McLaren

15 Metre Class:
1) Mariska – Christian Niels
2) Tuiga – Bernard D’Alessandri
3) The Lady Anne – Paul Goss

Epoque Aurique A (Vintage Gaff)
1) Kelpie – Olive Pelham
2) Victory – David Carne
3) Bonafide – Giuseppe Giordano

Epoque Aurique B
1) Avel – Christopher Austin
2) Partridge – Alexander Laird
3) Veronique – Hans Albrecht

Epoque Marconi A (Vintage Marconi)
1) Rowdy – Graham Walker/Nick Barham
2) Halloween – Inigo Srez
3) Emilia – Gastaldi/Sicotte

Epoque Marconi B
1) Leonore – Mark Faulkner
2) Anne Sophie – Hanns-Georg Klein
3) Helen – Jeffrey Ventre

Epoque Marconi C
1) Mercury – Jordi Cabau
2) Stormy Weather – Christopher Spray
3) White Wings – Mike Sparks

Epoque Marconi D
1) Cometa – Richard Herbert
2) Vagabundo II – Robert Fabre
3) Arrow – Phil Plumtree

Classique Marconi A (Classic Marconi)
1) Maria Giovanna II – Jean Pierre Suvan
2) Outlaw – Mike Horsley
3) Stiren – Gildas Rostain

Classic Marconi B
1) White Dolphin – Fabrice Payen
2) Galvana – Pella Freres
3) Sagittarius – Frederic Laffitte

For the sixth consecutive year Rolex is a Partner of Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. The regatta, organized by the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez (SNST), is part of the Rolex Yachting portfolio that includes over twenty world-class sailing events that take place around the world.

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, FRANCE
Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez is an amazing rendezvous of yachts. First run twenty-seven years ago as La Nioulargue, the regatta gathers together the most extraordinary modern sailing boats alongside the most beautiful traditional yachts in the early autumn. A host of racers and sailing enthusiasts come from all the corners of the globe to do battle in the bay of Saint-Tropez. The Trophée Rolex is awarded to the winner of the Classic Division over 16 meters.
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Norberto Moreau is co-founder of the Allied Management Ltd Consulting Group (Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Spain). The group and his associates have activities in Yachting, Properties, Events and Online Services.
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