October 2001by Tim Warburton
Les Voiles de St. Tropez occurs the first week of October each year, and has taken the place of the Noulargue. This year, the New York Yacht Club in concert with the Royal Yacht Squadron had celebrated the 150th anniversary of the America's Cup by holding the Silver Jubilee regatta in Cowes with racing for about 200 yachts on the Solent. Some 50 vessels including a number of vintage 12 meters represented the club. The "Grand Tour" continued to Sardinia in early September, and on to Monaco and Cannes before arriving in St. Tropez by way of a feeder race from Cannes on Sunday the 30th of September.
What a sight! From Alden Schooners to beautiful Fife's mixed with some 20 traditional 12- Meter sloops, the array of fine sailing vessels (all pre -1950) numbered 120. Of these some 40+ were American vessels proudly flying the red white and blue ensign. All of us there had, with some difficulty, pulled ourselves away from our desire to hole up at home and be with friends and family. Somehow we have prevailed on wives and children to let us go on a trip that had been planned for nearly 2 years and which had we not gone would have only let the terrorists win.
Ultimately we had no choice. We had to go and we did. Getting on the direct Delta flight from JFK to Nice was a little weird. The whole airport nervousness, searches, etc. is so different for us. We welcome the extra vigilance, but hate the need for it. It fundamentally is so boring, just the old "few bad apples" theory in scary practice. Never the less, once on the aircraft, I felt completely at ease and began to feel the old familiar travel anticipatory feelings as I reflected on the reasons for the trip, the expectations and the sense of returning once again to the warmth of Southern France.
The flight was without incident and arriving Nice, I picked up a little diesel "Beamer". Heading out for St Tropez was a joy. Roads were relatively quiet, it being about 9:30 on a Saturday morning and the countryside's splendor once again cleared away any feelings of guilt for having left the family at home. It simply was too beautiful. It was also too early to call my wife to tell her how beautiful it was and how I wished she was with me. The simple fact was that we were both nervous about both of us being away at the same time in the event something else happened. (A new feeling and thought for us. We simply hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about "something else happening" before. We had grown up with the Soviet/US threat of mutual assured destruction, but we had never thought that the Russians wanted to die any more than we did, so somehow that threat seemed more like Khruschovian brinkmanship than possibility. The shadow of this fear was more ominous.
I called my friend and owner of "Nirvana", David Ray with whom I have spent some 17 years serving as navigator, on our AT&T worldwide cell phone (not so much of plug for AT&T, as it is a plug for the fact that this service does work) by dialing our local US numbers which ring wherever we are in the world. We agreed to meet at a little Bistro in the Parc des Lices just below the Byblos Hotel where he was staying. As usual, on Saturday, (and Tuesdays) the Market was just finishing up as we sat down to some moules and soupe de poisson. We discussed our plans for the races, and wondered whether the US would be altering the GPS signals any time soon.
After lunch, I then called Christophe who runs the villa rental operations in St. Tropez and told him I was in town and would like to go up to St. Hillaire. I had never personally been to the villa and was fairly excited and possibly somewhat apprehensive, since I had three friends coming over the next day who would also be staying in the villa, and for whom I hoped the villa would have all the comforts of home. Any concerns were quick allayed. The villa proved to be perfect. Four equal sized bedrooms with a fabulous kitchen, lots of land, a large pool and terrific views of the Baie de St. Tropez. I couldn't have been happier. Looking for a phone to call my wife, and give news of my safe arrival and the splendor of the villa and to convince her to come over became difficult as I searched for a phone. No Phone. I called Christophe on the cell to say "Hey what's the story? " and shortly he arrived with a fax and phone. Thanks Christophe. While this was going on, a smell was emanating from the kitchen... a chicken Provencal had been kept warm on the stove, and it just got better over the next 24 hours. Needless to say there was also some rosé, which was promptly uncorked and tasted. (Excellent!) It was soon nap time, and, of course, Herald Tribune time.
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