For the 10th edition of Les Voiles De St. Barth, Richard Mille celebrates sailing and fine watchmaking, and fresh from winning the race, the CEO of the EMEA Region, Peter Harrison, discusses the parallels between sailing and fine watchmaking.
Picturesque scenes provided the perfect backdrop for the 10th edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille. The glamorous boat race on the sunny island of St. Barths, has quickly become the most highly anticipated regatta in The Caribbean.
This year’s event marked the 10th edition and saw nine classes of yacht race around the west side of the island, taking in the stunning views and displaying some great teamwork. 1,200 sailors took part in the four-day regatta, which saw 63 yachts battle for victory in a stage of 24-29 nautical miles and winds that varied between 16 and 18 knots.
The annual regatta has been growing in popularity over the last decade and attracts sailing teams from all around the world with over 30 per cent of this year’s contestants joining the race for the first time. The event annually attracts some of the world’s most exclusive yachts and best sailing teams in the world, including Peter Harrison, CEO of the EMEA Region, Richard Mille, who’s Maxi 72 winning yacht Sorcha, won the overall Maxi Class category race and brought home the Richard Mille Maxi Cup and win the coveted Richard Mille RM 60-01 watch, which will be sold through the Paris boutique, with the money raised going to charities that support in young people learning to sail, while the remainder will contribute to safeguarding the coastal areas of St. Barths.
Harrison shared helmsman duties with the event patron and Richard Mille ambassador Pierre Casiraghi who joined for the first time. Casiraghi is a well-known entrepreneur and a member of Monaco’s ruling family, but he is also a seasoned sailor with impressive credentials. A former athlete, he began sailing at a very young age and began his regatta career aboard Tuiga in 2010. “It was great having Peter and Pierre alternate driving,” said Andy Clark, long term Sorcha team member.
But the event is not purely about the race. When the hard work is over, participants and supporters relish in taking the time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, by partying, engaging in sporting activities and basking in the sun on the beach at some of the island’s exclusive resorts, something we were keen to talk about with Peter Harrison.
Peter Harrison has 25 years of experience in luxury goods sales and marketing. In 2006 he created Redgrave Luxury Ltd. a UK-based distribution company that specialises in prestige luxury products across Europe, The Middle East and Africa. One of the company’s key brands is Richard Mille. After developing a relationship with Richard Mille himself over a number of years, the two went into business together. Redgrave Luxury Ltd. became the sole distributor for Richard Mille across EMEA.
Harrison is known for his wish to create a close relationship with the clients and it’s events like this that allow him to bond and form this closeness with the Richard Mille family. Fresh from the boat race A&E caught up with Peter Harrison to talk St. Barths, business and the future.
Why is it important for you to align Richard Mille with the des Voiles de St. Barth?
We like to partner with events from the beginning and make them our own. They have to reflect the lifestyle of the brand. There are a lot of synergies between the sailing world and watchmaking. In both industries the R&D is primordial. The research and engineering it takes to create the best yachts are constant. Yacht companies always aim for better aerodynamics, lightest weights and better resistance. As well as for sailing or car racing, it requires a lot of engineering and hours to create a Richard Mille timepiece. At Richard Mille, we are well known for pushing boundaries to create the lightest and most resistant tourbillons. We test our Tourbillon pieces at up to 10,000 G!
Congratulations on your victory this year! How has your experience been?
Thanks, we have a very good team made of some sailors who won some world cups and regularly take part in prestigious sailing events like the Volvo Race. Most of the 22 sailors onboard are regulars in Sorcha team now and we know each other very well. We are well synchronised; we were meticulous and it paid off as we won the regatta in the Maxi 1 category!
This regatta was very interesting as Pierre Casiraghi, patron of this year’s edition of Les Voiles de Saint-Barth and ambassador for Richard Mille, co-helmed the boat with me. He is an experienced and passionate sailor and it was interesting to exchange with him about sailing.
What can you tell us about the boat you sailed in this year?
Sorcha is a maxi yacht, a JV 72. She is a 72ft custom race boat built to the Mini Maxi 72 rule. She is a racing boat made of Carbon fibre and uses technical materials throughout. She was designed by the successful Judel-Vrolijk. Her overall length is 23m (same as a tennis court), the Mast is 30m high (same as a 10-story building) and is made from carbon fibre and titanium. As you can see from the materials used to build Sorcha, Richard Mille uses a lot of the same ones to produce our timepieces, like Titanium and Carbon. Sails are constructed from TPT.
What do you love most about coming to St. Barths?
St Barths is a beautiful island that offers a unique landscape. I like to travel there every year, take part in Les voiles de Saint-Barth and spend some time there with my family. To me, sailing and competing is a perfect way to discover places. You meet new people and immerse yourself in different cultures. It is a good break from work as when you sail on a boat like Sorcha you need to be 100 per cent focused on the regatta and on your helming. In Les Voiles de Saint-Barth the best crews and yachts compete. It has become one of the most prestigious regattas in the world.
What are the five things that should be on our to-do list while in St. Barths?
It is hard to only limit to five! The whole island is a wonder.
I love hiking from Cheval Blanc to Colombier. It offers some amazing views. Colombier is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. You can only access it by a 20-min walk or by boat. The path from Cheval Blanc to Colombiers can be a bit scary in some places but the landscape you get when you arrive is the best reward. I also sometimes go there with the chase boat and picnic on the beach.
The restaurant from Hotel Toiny offers one of the best lunches on the island.
I like to go to Shellona on Shell Beach after an intense day of racing for a cold drink.
This year I went on Gouverneur beach with my family for a picnic. With Colombier, it is one of my favourite beaches.
There is a new restaurant on St Jean, called Pearl Beach, they serve excellent food.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment for you since the partnership began?
The two victories of Sorcha! We first won with my previous boat also called Sorcha, a TP 52 in 2017 and won again this year with the new Sorcha, the JV 72 mentioned earlier.
Last year was also memorable as it was the first year after Hurricane Irma. It felt good to see the solidarity and all these boats taking part in the regatta and supporting the island. However, it was quite challenging with very strong winds, going up to 45 knots. We broke three spinnakers over the week.
What’s your typical day while you’re here?
I wake up quite early and start my morning with an hour of cross-training with my personal trainer. Then, I go to Gustavia harbour and prepare for the regatta with my crew.
Depending on how long the route of the day is, we generally start at 10 am and finish around 3/4 pm. We debrief about the day, decide on the strategy for the next day and then I either have a refreshing drink or go back to my villa. Every year I rent a villa in Gustavia. It is close to the harbour and some of them offer an endless view of the sea. It is magical and helps me to disconnect. In the evening I either stay in the villa or go to a restaurant.
Have you been reading a book on this trip and if so what was it?
New York by Edward Rutherfurd.
Of course the devastation of Hurricane Irma affected the race last year, what can you tell us about the re-building and recovery of the island since?
In 2018, it was impressive to see all these boats attending the regatta and supporting the island. 53 boats competed last year! This year 60 competed. It is almost full capacity for the island as the organisers cap the number of boats participating to 70. Anything over this number the island would not be able to welcome all the sailors and visitors. The island recovered pretty quickly. Almost everything has been rebuilt now.
Aside from the race what do you like to do here when you have free time?
I like to spend some time with my family, cycling around the island and swimming.
The 2019 edition of the event has been deemed eco-responsible – Why was it key for you to ensure this was a key factor in this year’s event?
The island is a wonder, so it is important to keep it like that. This year the organisation wanted to underline the importance of respecting nature. We see a lot of rubbish and plastic in the sea we witness the damages it is causing while sailing, so we respect it and make sure we do not have a negative impact on the landscape. This year they particularly insisted on the water waste and plastic pollution. Some children from the island often go to the beaches and pick up plastic. From that plastic they made a sculpture representing a wave that was exhibited in the harbour to embody the danger it represents to the sea.
What is the importance of sustainability as a watch brand and how is Richard Mille achieving this?
Sustainability is part of our daily effort. When producing our timepieces, we make sure to recycle and reuse water and oils for example in order to reduce our impact on the environment as much as possible.
What can you tell us about the watches you are showcasing through the race?
While sailing I wear the RM 60-01 Regatta. Every sailor wears a watch during regattas as time is crucial. We need to know when to start and how we are doing during the race. The RM 60-01 is a timepiece that showcases a compass, running seconds function, flyback chronograph with central seconds counter, 30-minute countdown timer, and UTC function.
Which watch are you wearing today and why?
Today I am wearing the RM 60-01 as it is a sailing day.
What do you love most about being at sea?
You disconnect from the day to day life and forget any preoccupation.
What is your first memory of sailing?
In my late teens, I started to windsurf on the south coast of the UK. It grew from there. We have had a house on the Isle of Wight for almost 20 years where we sail competitively and recreationally through the summer months with a Tofinou. I started to race in competition sailing around ten years ago.
What would you still like to achieve at Richard Mille?
The general trend for Richard Mille has been a continued upward trajectory and we have been expanding our boutique network. We are closing our retailers by the end of 2019 and will be from now on distributed in dedicated Richard Mille boutiques only, from 2020.
Between the end of 2018 and this year, we have been opening boutiques in Doha, Kuwait, Jeddah, Riyadh, Istanbul and Moscow and we will relocate our London Boutique on Bond Street. We will maintain a healthy growth of our distribution network.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
Work to live not live to work.
And what about a personal motto?
Describe Richard Mille in one word.
Richard Mille, the man: Friend
Richard Mille, the brand: Innovation