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La ronde des Iles 2014

- A cruise in company from Quiberon

 quib map

The route (from the comprehensive information pack that Alban provided for all participants)

John and Josephine road trailed their boat to Port Haliguen in southern Brittany in order to take part in this event held over a French bank holiday weekend. I have placed this acount in the 'Sailing Festivals' section of our website, although the event was rather different in scale to the major French sailing festivals such as Semaine du Golfe and Douarnez. This was a relatively modest privately organised event, just a group of freinds cruising in company in small open boats, indeed not unlike the HSC. I understand that this was only the second time this group has met afloat, the first occasion being with a smaller number of boats in the vicinity of La Rochelle. We got to hear about the event from Roger Barnes of the DCA who knew some of the people involved and mentioned the event on the DCA internet forum. Roger, Josephine and myself were the only English participants, the others were French. I admit to having forgotton nearly all the French I had to learn at school but Roger translated for us when that became essential.

port haliguen

Some of the boats being launched and prepared at Port Haliguen

As is usually the case in Brittany, the boat launching facilities at Port Haliguen were excellent with a choice of several slipways within just this one harbour and there was also a large and almost empty free car park quite close by. The plan had been to leave about miday but by the time everyone was afloat it was lunchtime so the crews broke into their provisions and it was early afternoon when the fleet rowed out to sea. Once clear of the breakwaters, we had a light wind, but it was a wind blowing more or less directly from our destination at Sauzon, ten miles away towards the western end of Belle Isle. The fleet consisted of nine open 'sail and oar' boats and one Rigid Inflateable Boat (RIB). The RIB took crews ashore when the fleet was at anchor as well as providing transport for those who wanted to be involved but preferred to avoid the perceived hardship associated with sail and oar boats.

I think this event was really intended for traditional style boats, for example, the fleet included three 'Illur' dinghies designed by Francois Vivier who bases most of his designs on French working boats of the early 20th centuary and before. The largest boats in the fleet were a 'Bayraider' built by Swallow Boats in Wales and a long narrow double ender 'Caredic'. Our home made gunter rigged sailing dinghy was the least traditional of the boats, all the others were older in style, but I suspect not in actual age.

Tacking to windward, we soon found ourselves separated from the other boats and that meant that we had to think about navigation rather than just following the others. It was at that point that we realised we had not downloaded the detail for the chart on our Ipad - the chart was showing only the approximate outline of the coast with no bouys or rocks marked. We noted a deep draft yacht motoring ahead of us and followed it through a gap in the string of rocks that extends to the south east of the end of the Quiberon peninsula. The coming and going of car ferries showed us the location of Le Palais, the main town on Belle Isle, we knew that Sauzon is a few miles to the west of that. The wind dropped away as we approached Sauzon so we had to row the last mile or two.

caredig at sauson

 The lovely double ender 'Caredig' at Sauson

The harbour at Sauzon is in an attractive little estuary between steep and mainly wooded hillsides and with Sauzon village on the west side. The harbour master had been notified of the event and escorted us to a row of bouys in the inner harbour. We set up our boat tent and pumped up our small inflateable tender while waiting for the rest of the fleet. Once all the boats were moored we walked a few hundred yards to the campsite where the French contigent were to spend the night, then the whole group met at a waterside restaurant for supper.

camping sauson alban

Setting up the tents at Sauzon - picture from Alban

 sauson emmanuel

The whole fleet at Sauzon on Sunday morning - photo from Emmanuel

On Sunday morning we just had time to go ashore and buy some croisants for breakfast before the RIB was ferrying the others out to their boats. The next destination was to be one of three bays on the island of Houatt, I think the idea was that the final choice of bay would be made by discussion over VHF radio. We switched on our VHF set as we approached Houat but heard nothing, we learnt later that there had been a change of working channel to avoid clashing with the organisers of a yacht race. By now the light wind had dropped to nothing so we rowed up to the nearest of the three possible bays to wait for the others. Although the sea was now almost glassy there was a slight swell from the Atlantic that was raising surf on the beach so it did not look good for landing. In due course the rest of the fleet appeared out of the heat haze. They had now given up both sailing and rowing - the RIB and the two other boats that had outboard motors were towing the others. We became the forth boat in the line being towed by the 'Bayraider' to a sheltered bay on the other side of the island - the bay marked with an anchor on the map above.

towing alban

Towing the boats round the east end of Houatt - photo from Alban

The bay where we landed at Houat was beautiful and provided easy landing on a broard sandy beach (picture below). We had brought a land tent with us but we reckoned that this bay would be calm enough for us to sleep aboard with the boat afloat so we anchored and set up our boat tent before going ashore in our tiny tender to join the others at their campsite.

beach houatt

Beach at Houat - our boat with tent is in the middle distance

supper alban

Supper was on the outdoor terace of a restaurant with a great sea view - photo from Alban

launch at houatt

Some of the boats were dried out on the beach on Monday morning but many hands made launching feasible

Monday started even calmer than the two previous days and just as sunny. Some of the fleet tried to sail but before long all were rowing, some with sails stowed, others with them still set and flopping around. One or two boats seemed to be getting a bit competitive about the rowing, others were less bothered. The boats equiped for more than one person to row gradually moved ahead of the others. Soon after noon ripples appeared on the smooth sea and within half an hour or so we had the best sailing breeze of the trip. Once sails were set we again moved ahead of the rest of the fleet, enjoying a splendid sail past the Teignouse lighthouse and into Port Haliguen. I think most of the participants had to be back at work the following day so little time was wasted getting the boats hauled up the slipways then for a few minutes we all gathered in the car park for a celebratory drink, a group photograph and goodbyes before dispersing.

group 02

 Group photo - all except Josephine who took the photo

Clearly this event was blessed with really good weather - much use was made of high factor suncream. We did have some completely calm spells but that just gave us a bit of exercise rowing - far better than struggling to take in reefs in a rising wind. For much of the route we were several miles from any harbour or other shelter, so I think there must have been a plan B should the weather have been less favourable. I guess that such a plan could be easily worked out given that the Morbihan and other relatively sheltered estuary waters are within an hour or so drive from Quiberon. A great event, we are so pleased to be invited and particular thanks to Alban Gorriz who did much of the detailed planning.