The merging of centuries at Brest 2008

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The ocean currents have swept right across the event with the arrival of Thomas Coville and his brand new Atlantic record, and the departure of the beautiful training ship from Rio de Janeiro bound for Liverpool.

From Adriatic waters, Croatia has been the country in the spotlight today and its village was officially opened this morning by the President of this young republic, which has been warmly welcomed to Brest 2008.

The oldest boat of the fleet at Brest 2008 is the 1868 Anna Rogde, a Norwegian schooner from Harstad and with the arrival of the 32 metre maxi-trimaran Sodeb’O, launched in Sydney, Australia in June 2006, comes a merging of centuries. The town of Brest and event organizers Pen Duick have introduced a brand new element to these maritime celebrations by inviting sailboats from modern day ocean racing to join the fleet of traditional boats. They are all here, Imoca 60 footers, Figaros, 50 footers, and Maxis. Thomas Coville and his 32 m maxi trimaran Sodeb'O had promised to attend Brest 2008 and now it’s a done deal with the added bonus of pocketing an Atlantic record en route. Sodeb'O crossed the finish line this morning shortly after 0700 hours UT. With a time of 5 days, 19 hours, 29 minutes and 20 seconds, Thomas Coville snatches the solo record for traversing the Atlantic Ocean. The previous record held by Francis Joyon since 2005, was 6 days, 4 hours, 1 minute and 37 seconds. Joyon said earlier today: 'I congratulate Thomas on his Atlantic record and for his great patience at the start in New York waiting for this weather window. In 2005, on the first IDEC, we too had to wait for over 3 months... The Atlantic record is a record which is earned on the water but also during the long period running up to that!'

Pierre Bojic, General Manager of Pen Duick, is here of course to welcome home the hero of the day: 'The arrival of Thomas today is particularly moving, because it reminds me of 14th July 1981. It was Marc Pajot who arrived in Brest after having beaten this famous 'Atlantic record' in 9 days 10 hours 6 minutes and 34 seconds, and he arrived in Brest on the day of the French national holiday, which I thought was quite symbolic! After the triumphant arrival of Francis Joyon on January 20th from his fantastic solo round the world record and now Thomas Coville’s arrival today, in the heart of the Maritime Festival, a new era of ocean racing is opening in Brest, thanks to these fabulous, oceangoing giant multihulls. We’ll see them here again for the Brest Ultime Challenge in December 2011.'

A mixture of old and new, Brest 2008 is today honouring a young republic, Croatia as it’s special guest and the Croatians are certainly making quite an impression. Four years ago there was a single traditional ‘gajeta’ boat from this area at the show and now another dozen or so craft have made the trip from the Adriatic coast. Captain Jadran Gamulin’s fleet now comprises several replicas of this craft and, in addition to these, the show is playing host to pasara, guc, gajeta, leut, bracera and trabakul crafts.

Zdenko Jakus, clad in red and white checks and pirate style bandana has made some fantastic fish traps and some folding crab and lobster pots for Brest 2008. 'We can stack 100 traps in a single metre cubed,' he says proudly. To look at the invention it is a marvel of intricacy but the Breton lobsters seem timid today. Thankfully this Balkan land has a wealth of fine dishes on offer in their Croatian village alongside the quay, including marinated sardines, grilled squid, and spicy fig cake, washed down with a fig liqueur. To accompany this fine fare, Croatia has brought with it a folk band from the region of Split as well as one of their international stars, Tamara Obrovac. This singer, flutist and composer plays a mix of spellbinding songs of Istrian dialect, whose traditional airs are reminiscent of jazz. In this way, Brest 2008 enables access to the diversity of the young republic, which since escaping the terrible warring with its Serbian neighbours, hopes to integrate the European Community in two years time.

One thing for sure is that Brest 2008 not only attracts the whole of Europe but the whole world. From spectators, to sailors to press, the feel here is distinctly International and one of cultures and traditions coming together to share and learn from other nations.