Swept by around 5-8 knots of WSW'ly, Brest 2008 has proved particularly popular this Bastille Day. Naturally, given this commemoration of the French uprising, today's guest of honour at this maritime extravaganza is the French Navy and what better opportunity to bring out the big guns?
For this fifth edition of the event the modern day racing craft have also been invited to join in with the festivities for the first time and the spectacle of old and new on the water amongst the pomp and ceremony is a sight to behold.
'Playing host to old and new writes further pages in what is a very fine history book, that of world yachting,' enthuses the mayors of Brest, François Cuillandre. Out on the water today we have the French classic Pen Duick V, the first boat ever designed with ballast, which crosses tacks with a 60 foot monohull in its racing stripes in preparation for the next Vendée Globe.
To port, the Recouvrance hoists its sails ahead of the largest boat of the fleet the Russian 114.5 m Kruzenshtern. In a flash, the trimaran Groupama hurtles past flying two hulls. Just another day in what is an incredible week at Brest 2008, attracting one and all from sea dogs, to families, from minis to maxi multihulls, from every corner of the globe.
This anniversary is synonymous with the uprising of the modern French nation and the end of French royalty. What better setting for the festivities than the backdrop of 2000 traditional craft from all around the world and a range of some of the finest modern day racing steeds to symbolise the advances in technology and the maritime environment.
The progress of those involved in the maritime environment is also evident in the French Navy which is today's guest of honour. Brest has had close links with the Navy for centuries and it now comprises 18,000 sailors, two air and sea bases at Lanvéoc and Landivisiau, as well as a site for nuclear submarines at Ile Longue and the Naval College. For the maritime festival a fleet of eight boats is on display including a 160 metre submarine. 'Over 10,000 visitors have been given a tour onboard' according to the captain of the frigate Bertrand Hudault, 'it's a record'. We also have three tall ships: the schooner the Belle Poule, the tuna boat the Mutin and the yawl the Grande Hermine. Split between official ceremonies in the morning and displays of the Navy's strength in the afternoon, the public were in for a real treat: displays of various combat techniques, aerial displays and commandos jumping out of helicopters to name but a few activities.
Also out on the water today were some classic beauties from times gone by which belong to the elegant family of Fife yachts designed by the talented Scottish architect William Fife. One of these is this year celebrating its centenary year, Viola. The pureness of her lines and the quality of her various sections: an elm keel, an oak bow, a mahogany companion hatchway, teak deck, etc. everything is the height of elegance. 'It's a boat of friends' says Yvon Rautureau, her third owner. Though Viola is not very large (15.25 m long) she can carry 115 m2 of sail on her gaff rig. Over the past ten years she has been restored five times. Classed as an historic monument, she still comprises 80% of her original features.
Other members of the Fife fleet present at Brest 2008 include Pen Duick I (a virtual sistership to Viola and just one of four other Pen Duick vessels at the festival, made famous by the French sailing legend Eric Tabarly) and the 25 m Moonbeam, one of the most beautiful and most elegant yachts at the maritime festival. Constructed in 1903 this beautiful yacht was entirely restored in 2005 and 2006. The boat has often changed name and owner and currently sails off Saint Tropez and participates in the large classic regattas.
From the classics we go to the range of modern day racing steeds and there are a host of sailors set to take part in the Vendée Globe later this year who are enjoying the atmosphere of Brest 2008. These include Brit Air (Armel Le Cleac'h), Cheminees Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm), Sill et Veolia (Roland Jourdain), and Akena Verandas (Arnaud Boissieres).
Of the modern multihulls the Orma trimaran Groupama (Franck Cammas) is soon set to be accompanied by the maxi trimaran Sodeb'O (Thomas Coville), still on target to break the North Atlantic record time after setting out from New York last Wednesday. Sodeb'O is set to complete his transatlantic crossing (in less than 6 days, 4 hours, 1 minute and 36 seconds) , Tuesday Luly 15, and what better welcome for a modern day record breaker than a fleet of 2000 traditional craft from Brest 2008? Quotes of the day
Yvon Rautureau (Viola – Fife design): 'Brest 2008 is a unique maritime festival. In addition it is a town with a history, an exceptional harbour and a unique race zone. The festival must continue!'