Semaine du Golfe Sailing Festival - 7 to 11 May 2013
Map of the Morbihan
This was our fourth attendance at the biennial Semaine du Golfe sailing festival in southern Brittany. I find it no less enjoyable for the repetition, it is always good to re-visit this wonderful sailing area and to renew aquiantances with participants from previous years. The arrangements this year were very similar to the previous events except that we had an extra day of organised sailing in place of the free day we have had in the past. So, for our flotilla 2, the 'sail and oar' flotilla, the event started with the usual Tuesday picnic on the Ile d'Arz and as always it ended with the grand Saturday afternoon parade up to the city of Vannes. In between we sailed from Vannes to Lochmariaquer (Weds), Lochmariquer back east to Port Anna (Thurs), Port Anna up to Plougoumelon, above Le Bono (Friday) then on Saturday morning down the river Auray to Port Navalo where we waited our turn to join the grand parade.
Josephine had other business this year, so I sailed with HSC member Gerald in his Drascombe Dabber dinghy 'Suzi' which proved to be a sturdy vessel, well suited to this event. Richard and Mark S. sailed in Richard's very smart Tideway dinghy 'Winchat'. In previous years, Josephine and I have stayed on board our dinghy throughout the event, but this year I camped with most of the other Flotilla 2 participants at the Conleau campsite. Since flotilla 2 moves around the Morbihan from day to day, the organisers provide free coaches to take people to and from the boats, these coaches sometimes departing Conleau before daybreak to catch the morning tide. These arangements worked well but on balance I think that staying on board using a boat tent is the easier way to do the event, at least you can get up just a bit later in the morning! Conleau campsite was not overcrowded this year so perhaps Flotilla 2 had reduced a bit in numbers from last time. There is now a new heated swimming pool at Conleau campsite and although we were far too busy to go swimming during the sailing days, Gerald and myself arrived at Conleau a couple of days before the sailing started so we then made good use of the swimmming pool.
Flotilla 2 landing for the picnic at Ile d'Arz
Inside Isle Berder
Our route from Vannes to Lochmariaquer on Wednesday included an interesting loop, this being a circuit around Ile Berber, including passing over the concrete causeway that connects Ile Berder to the mainland near Lamor Baden. I assume that this diversion was included just for a bit of fun, fun for both us boaters and for spectators on shore. I noticed a newspaper report that said a crowd of 300 people gathered to watch us go over the causeway, I cant imagine the general public taking any interest in such a happening in the UK. The photo above, looking aft from Suzi, shows the popple on the water caused by the tide carrying us through the narrows towards the causeway and the water level suddenly dropped about a foot as we whizzed over the causeway itself. The best route had been well marked with bouys and rescue boats were standing by so there was no problem at that stage. However, at the other end of Ile Berger we had to tack and/or row against the flood tide which caused the fleet to bunch up and it was at that point that another UK crewed boat cut across Susie's stern, breaking off the bumkin. Hence the picture above, taken half an hour earlier, is the last you are likely to see of Suzi's original bumkin, I understand that at the time of writing Gerald is busy making a new one.
After the excitement at Ile Berger, we contined to Lochmariaquer, tacking against a strengthening breeze. Lochmariaquer was a new destination for Flotilla 2 and smart new pontoons in Lochmariquer harbour made it easy for us to tie up and walk ashore. It was at Lochmariaquer that we met up with Roger Barnes, he having launched his boat near Nantes a few days beforehand then sailed west along the coast to join the festival.
Breakfast at Lochmariaquer
Lochmariaquer harbour does dry out and that meant an early morning coach trip from Conleau in order to board our boats before the tide had fallen too low on Thursday. Breakfast was served at Conleau campsite at 05:30 that morning, so I think it was a somewhat bleary eyed crowd that gathered on the quayside after the best part of an hour in the coaches from Conleau. The organisers seem to have overlooked the fact that we had already breakfasted at Conleau since they provided a second breakfast for us, FOC, in a big tent set up on Lochmariaquer quayside, see picture above - I am very happy to forgive them for that small oversight!
Richard's boat on route to Port Anna
The return from Lochmariaquer to Port Anna took us south of both Ile aux Moines and Ile d'Arz. The wind strengthened during the afternoon, allowing me to take some pictures of Richard's boat sailing in a breeze- see above - Mark told me that the floorboards in Richard's boat were afloat at that point. Gerald felt that Suzi was a bit overcanvased so we dropped the mainsail and sailed with just the jib. That was fine until we got to the final reach into Port Anna when we were unable to sail close enough to the wind and were grateful for a short tow from one of the safety boats. Gerald reckons that if we had still had our bumkin intact we whould have been able to sail close enough with just the jib and mizen.
One way to reef
I thought this little boat did well in the breeze. Steering with just an oar, they easily kept up with the fleet. I don't know if they had lost their gaff or had set their sail without a gaff as a way of reefing.
Picking up the moorings at Plougoumelen
The long sail from Port Anna to Plougoumelen on Friday unusually did not include any officially sanctioned onshore lunch break, although some boats did make unofficial landings on islands. I guess there is a limit to how long most poeple want to spend on an open boat without the normal facilities of modern civilisation. When we reached Fort Espangnol we were invited to raft up alongside a couple of large oyster fishing barges and we were served wine and oysters on board the barges, although I would admit to choosing my sandwiches in preference to the oysters.
Ready for an open air party at Plougoumelen
I think this was the first time Flotilla 2 had ventured above Le Bono and I thought the upper reaches of the river were very pretty. On getting ashore we found that the organisers had set up tables and benches sufficient to seat hundreds in a clearing in the woods by the river, see above. There was clearly going to be some musical entertainment later that evening but our party were quite tired at that stage and once we had finished our supper, with light rain now falling, we were happy to seek out the first coach back to the campsite.
On the final Saturday we waited at Port Navalo for our moment to join the Grand Parade of sail through the Morbihan to Vannes. The breeze was strengthening as we all tacked out of Port Navolo and picked up the flood tide that was rushing past the harbour entrance - an effect like stepping on an escalator. However, once we gained some shelter from the islands further into the gulf conditions settled down and my impression was that the waters were less turbulent than they had been for some of the grand parades in the past - at least I did not see any of the small boats swamped as they sometimes are. Below are a few pictures I took during the parade.
Spectators line the whole route of the parade
Music while you sail
Most of the 1000+ boats were running downwind and down tide, but just to make it interesting there were a few tacking the other way - including this one!