by Trevor Joyce
'You will never find berthing for a fleet of boats in the ports of the French Riviera' was the popular wisdom before the recent start of the inaugural Mariner Boating French Rivera Yacht Rally. The start point was Toulon with disembarkation planned for Monaco two weeks later; Porquerolles, Cavalaire sur Maire and St. Tropez being the stops during the first week.
Mariner Boating French Rivera Yacht Rally
Well how wrong could popular wisdom be? The Mariner rally had Frenchman Christophe on the event management team and he found berthing where there was none. Not only that, but he instantly fixed a few minor technical faults and generally provided the local knowledge essential to the success of the event.
The first race in the rally, from Toulon down to Porquerolles, saw a shifty southwesterly breeze calling for astute tack calls before it died almost completely. They say that cream always rises to the top and Peter Sorensen, on his seventh. Mariner Boating rally, got nearly all of them right and finished well ahead the rest of the fleet. He also won on handicap.
Royal Geelong Yacht Club member and ex-commodore Brian Marshman came second and 14 times Mariner client Hans Sommer from the CYCA and also an ex commodore came third.
The honours for the day, however, went to the restaurant L’Oustaoude for an outstanding three-course meal with the final of the ubiquitous European Soccer Championship in the background. Viva L’ESpanya.
Then a full on Mistral arrived from the west and blew through the night into the next day, a lay day when participants planned to motor off to the many anchorages around the island of the Porquerolles group. 'No thanks', was the consensus and trips were otherwise made on bicycles, on foot and by taxi. Christophe again arranged berthing for the extra night when there was none available.
After a swim stop in the magnificent Baie de Man on Ile de Port-Cros the second race to Cavalaire Sur Mer started in a soft southwesterly breeze. The breeze softened further before the end of the race but then kicked in again near the entry to the bay. Once again space had been reserved for the whole fleet when reservation was 'impossible'.
Mariner Boating director Trevor Joyce was summoned to the office of the Capitainerie, 'with papers of toutes le bateaux' if you please. The 'Capitaine' welcomed all the rally participants to France and to Cavalaire sur Mere and then attempted to process the very reasonable berthing charge, included as part of the rally package.
'Vortre address s’il vous plait', came the request as part of the process with Sydney, Australia as part of the answer. 'Australie I’lle ne pas la, ne pas existe'. There had never been anyone from Australia in this marina before!
As usual in Mariner Boating rallies a lay day followed with Le Club 55 on nearby Tahiti Beach one of the attractions. Supposedly a magnet for the rich and famous and their boats the day saw a line-up of hardware off the white sand beach that would make Australia’s sovereign debt look like play money.
Lunch was also a magnet for more than two hundred people, twice; a nice little earner at 100 Euros a head and with no building to maintain! If a cyclone came and blew the whole thing away it could be operational again within a day or so with most of the shelter being provided by a huge canvas awning. Great service, great food and a great experience! Bruce Willis was supposedly there but he did not stop by our table.
The real people magnet, St.Tropez was also on the doorstep and the evening saw the packed promenade overlooked from the after decks on high of the monstrous gas guzzlers lined up along the quay. There is nothing real in St.Tropez but you have to go there to tick the box. Unless you have 50 or 60 million Euros on the water and/or on the road to show to the world there is not much point in going there twice.
St. Maxime across the way, in contrast, was quiet, friendly, very high quality and we even jagged the Thursday market, which offered an extensive array of just about anything you could want to buy.
The next race was to St. Raphael and its 1,600 boat marina was next and after three races in the rally the fleet is all tied up but Trev’s International Timing System has leveled the playing field so the truth remains to be revealed. Sorro leads the fleet.