The Rookie First 53 owner who won Saint Tropez

Hi Philippe, thanks for answering our questions regarding the highly successful Yagiza program. Before we start, could you please tell us a few words about yourself and your background?

Philippe Falle: Yes, sure, I am originally from Jersey, that is why my name sounds so French J. I did the BT Global Challenge (round the world race) as a photographer and crew member. After the race, I had to make a choice between racing and photography, and the racing won. I have been coaching and putting campaigns together for the last 20 years, and the climax of that was when I became boat captain of Hugo Boss 7 with Alex Thomson for the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe and the 2018 Route du Rhum.

How did you come across Yagiza and her owner?

After the intensity of IMOCA, I decided to take a break from high-level racing and ran a 1973 Sparkman & Stephens Swan 65, and I met Laurent, the owner of Yagiza, on that boat. It was one of my last charters, and we got on very well together. He had just committed to buying his First 53 but was completely new to sailing. He actually never sailed before joining me on the Swan 65! He decided to start sailing and get a boat during COVID. One of his friends recommended the 53, and he really liked the clean lines and the simplicity of the deck layout and interior.

What’s your role?

Well, I have been managing Yagiza from day 1. When Laurent was with me on the Swan, he asked me, "do you think we could race with my boat?". I said yes, of course, and we started the project. So I put the team together with a very simple plan: Laurent was funding the boat, but he did not want to pay the crew, so I had to imagine ways of being competitive without professional sailors. I gathered a team of around 20 people as we normally race with a crew of 14 inshore and 12 offshore. This is a pro-am team with three professionals onboard, including myself and the rest of the crew as amateurs who pay to race with us. This is how we fund the racing. We are lucky to have such a fantastic mix between pros and amateurs, and also men and women (basically 50/50) and nationalities (full 5 of them) that works really well and provides a good level of performance. It is hard work but good fun!

What is the program?

We took delivery of the boat in December 2020, the first event we did was Rolex Giraglia 2021, and Laurent loved it. So we went on and did the Voiles de Saint Tropez and Rolex Middle Sea Race that same year. It was a nice mix of inshore, coastal and offshore racing so Laurent could learn and decide what he liked best. He was totally hooked after the 2021 Middle Sea Race, so we ran the same program again in 2022.

What did you change on the boat?

The boat is fast anyway, with a nice design concept and balance right from the start, but we had to prove to ourselves that the potential was there before going any further.

Then we focused on good boat preparation:

  1. We invested in a good sail package with North Sails with 3Di sails, three spinnakers, a code 0, staysails, etc., first with the UK loft and now with the Marseilles team where I live.
  2. Big job on the bottom of the boat, filling and fairing, and getting the best possible performance from the hull and appendages. This improved the performance in light air massively.
  3. Replacement of most of the running rigging, backstay, new rod forestay with a Harken foil, a few padeyes here and there...

I do most of the boat maintenance and preparation myself with a few team members to allow Laurent to invest in the performance of the boat.

I think it is important to note that we have the aluminum mast and the standard keel, which is good for the rating; this proves that you can win with good preparation and crew work. I would love to have the carbon rig to further improve our performance, but Laurent wanted his boat quickly, and we could not wait for it…

What’s next?

Well, we have a super ambitious program for 2023, starting with the RORC Transatlantic Race in January (Editor's note: when you read this, the Yagiza team will be racing across the Atlantic from Lanzarote to Grenada), and then we will do the RORC Caribbean 600 in February and Voiles de St. Bart in April.


If you want to follow Yagiza, you can check the RORC Transatlantic website:


Published on 19.01.2023