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Lagasse Classic Transat: Dournenez-Agadir-Saint Barth

Twenty-eight classic sailboats set out from the port of Dournenez in Brittany, France on August 17, 2008. Destination: Agadir, Morocco, on the first leg of the first edition of the Lagasse Classic Transat, a transatlantic race open to classic sailing vessels and other boats built before 1975 (and a reproduction or two), as one-of-a-kind or limited edition sailboats. There was a three-month hiatus between their arrival in Agadir in late August, and the second leg of the race, which set sail for Saint Barth and the warm waters of the Caribbean on November 28, 2008. Only 16 boats finished both legs of the race, with Stiren taking top honors.

The first boat to sail across the finish line and into Saint Barth’s Port of Gustavia was the famous Pen Duick VI, a 72’ aluminum ketch built in 1973, with which French sailor Eric Tabarly won the 1976 single-handed transatlantic race, the OSTAR. With skipper Juliette Hennequin at the helm, Pen Duick VI arrived on December 16 at 9:29am after sailing from Agadir for 18 days, 3 hours, and 29 minutes. Hennequin and her crew celebrated in honor of the late Taberly, a sailor of mythic proportions.

The closest competitor, Faïaoahé, a Dutch cutter launched in 2006, arrived during the night of December 17, a little after 1:30am. Rémy Gérin, the skipper/owner and his crew were welcomed by the crew of Pen Duick VI—against whom they were battling the entire length of this second leg of the race before being forced to reduce their sails.

One week before reaching Saint Barth, Faïaoahé was obliged to head further south to avoid high winds after detecting a problem with the mast. The crews celebrated their arrival by singing, and setting off fireworks under the moonlit sky.

Stiren, a 49’ 1959 yawl, was the actual winner of the race once the times for the two legs were combined, and arrived during the night of December 18, at around 2:30am. By the weekend, the 59’ 1956 Bermudian sloop, Pazienza, crossed the finish line as well, followed by Mistral, the 82’ schooner dating from 1938.

For the last week of the race, both Pazienza, with its British crew, and Mistral, with its German crew, were hot on the heels of Stiren and its French crew. But to no avail: When Stiren succeeded in escaping a zone with no wind, the other two boats were “stuck,” which explains their later arrival.

The fleet for the Lagassé Classic Transat included a beautiful collection of old sailboats, some dating from the early 20th century, such as the 1914 Polar Star by Abeking and Rasmussen, and the “old lady” of the race, the 59’ ketch, Helena, from 1913, to name just two. Classic boat fans in Saint Barth had quite a treat as the fleet from the Lagassé Classic Transat graced the Port of Gustavia through the Christmas holidays. The next edition is planned in three years’ time.

Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in- chief of Harbour Magazine, and has been a regular contributor to All- At-Sea since 2000.  She also writes regularly about entertainment design and technology for Live Design magazine, and about Caribbean architecture for MACO, a Trinidad-based lifestyle magazine.

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