Friday, 2 June 2023

La Hirondelle 32


The brisk north easterly breezes blow on. A warm dry wind, on this coast. Off the land, so limiting the scale of the swell.

Tempting the ocean racers out. From La Base, located a mile upriver of Port Louis, in the former submarine pens.

First out is Giancarlo Pedote's IMOCA, sporting a For People jib. The boat, launched in 2015, a proven Vendee Globe veteran.

Thomas Ruyant follows close behind, aboard his freshly launched For People sponsored IMOCA. Perhaps planning some boat for boat performance bench marking. For these are perfect foiling conditions.

In Port Louis, the classics pontoon is full to overflowing. By tomorrow Stargazer's berth will be required, for further anticipated arrivals, over the weekend. So we must leave.

Destination to be decided by the morning forecast.

Thursday, 1 June 2023

La Hirondelle 31


Rough hewn stone, soft sand, soothing waters lapping the shore. Dinghies being rigged on a sheltered beach. Port Louis seems the archetypal Breton harbour village.

Houses straggle down to the waterside, set along winding streets. Their front doors opening direct onto the, sparsely trafficked, roadways.

Alleys, deep in cool shadow, provide respite from the midday sun, for a walk up the hillside, to the cobbled high street.

Yet this rustic retreat is set in the beneath the commanding walls of a military Citadel.

Built of Breton stone, to Spanish design, during the sixteenth century War of the Catholic League.

In which Catholic Spain came to the aid of the governor of Brittany. Who was in revolt against the Protestant King Henry IV of Navarre.

The fortress guards the narrow gap, in the granite reefs, which grants access to Lorient's upstream labyrinth of harbours, yards and quaysides.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023

La Hirondelle 30


It is a birthday bash like no other. Seas cascade across Stargazer's foredeck. Sweeping aft as shimmering diamonds of sunlit spray, thrown high above her shoulder.

A constant roaring cataract of white water churns aft. 

As Stargazer heels to twenty five knots of breeze. The forecast lull elusive.

As exuberantly we romp across the swell.

In celebration of my birthday.

To seaward, Francois Gabart's newly modified ULTIM scorches past. Well reefed. Out on sea trials.

 Inshore lie green topped granite cliffs, dotted with whitewashed houses.

Stargazer holds as high to the wind as the offshore hazards will allow. On a close reach. Cutting the corner.

In order to minimise the number of tacks required, to beat down the Lorient channel and reach the Citadel. For the harbour entrance, which it guards, lies in the eye of the wind.

Boding well for the shelter on offer behind those tall sixteenth century walls. Within Port Louis.

Where a classic yacht festival transpires to be in full swing.

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

La Hirondelle 29

The bank holiday is over, yet much of the fishing fleet remains alongside.

As do the recreational sailors.

Bright Breton sunshine intensifies the colours and warms the skin.

Yet an uncharacteristically strong north east wind has set in. Beyond the protection of Concarneau's ring of offshore reefs. . . . 

. . . . .and high stone walls. Keeping boats in port.

Tomorrow's forecast offers the slenderest of possibilities of an eight hour, passage making, lull. Lasting from mid morning until mid evening. 


Monday, 29 May 2023

La Hirondelle 28


The row is over, between the ULTIM class association and Francois Gabart's team SVR-Lazartigue. His trimaran was launched with winches and controls mounted deep within the central hull. Two streamlined, jet fighter style, canopies the (usually solo) crew's only window on the world outside. Thus reducing aerodynamic drag and crew fatigue, from the driving spray, and sixty five knot apparent wind, once the boat is fully powered up and foiling. An approach ruled out-of-class, on safety grounds, following appeals by other ULTIM teams.

Mer Concept, in Concarneau (the company which Francois Gabart founded to support his successful bid, to set the solo round the world sailing speed record, which he has held since 2017) is now completing modifications. After a year of legal wranglings. The enclosed cockpit concept has been widely adopted, since the launch of SVR. Most notably by the Vendee Globe IMOCA fleet. The changes are to ensure that the helm is better able to maintain an adequate lookout, whilst tending lines, navigating and steering, at forty knots. 

The giant multihull dwarfs the dockside buildings. Lean and angular. As much aircraft as boat.

A steady stream of sightseers arrives, by land and sea, to marvel at the chiselled form, of this futuristic craft.

Maxime Sorel's newly built IMOCA lies against a stone quay, further up the commercial harbour. Sporting a low slung, fully enclosed, cockpit, latest generation foils and dragon snouted livery. She is believed to be a close sister ship to (perhaps prototype for?) Charlie Dalin's boat-in-build, under MACIF sponsorship. (Long time supporters of Francois Gabart and Mer Concept).

The replacement for his dominant IMOCA Apivia. Familiar to Stargazer through crossing wakes off the Lizard in 2021. Stargazer returning from her cruise of Scilly. Chalie Dalin on his way to win Fastnet line honours.

Sunday, 28 May 2023

La Hirondelle 27


Long shadows and the residual cool of the stonework, in the stillness of early morning. At the postern gate.

The river entrance to the Ville Close.

Within, artists and artisans set out their wares. With which to tempt the milling sightseers. Soon to arrive.

As yet the close set mediaeval streets are deserted. Save for a few stray delivery vans. Which squeeze incongruously through the double archways of the main gate. Built to deter a charge of mounted knights.

Racks of temptations emerge onto the pavements, as street doors swing back.

Above the shops, window shutters open to welcome the new day. 

And the Breton and city flags flutter over the rooftops.

To the north, of the walled city, lie the rough stone quays of the commercial harbour.

To the south, the pontoons of the port de plaisance.

Saturday, 27 May 2023

La Hirondelle 26


Stargazer lies serene, in the lee of the city walls. Sun awning rigged and windows opened. Myself clad in shorts, polo shirt and sun hat. Enjoying summer in the south.

Thanks to the help of two hire boat crew (whose breezy berth Stargazer had occupied on arrival). Who not only negotiated a more sheltered spot, with the harbour master; But came aboard, as line handlers, to assist us into it. 

A stone bridge joins a granite outcrop, to the shore. On this defensible island the mediaeval city fathers built the Ville Close.  Concarneau's bifurcated harbour forms the moat.

Sally ports pierce the battlements, as they wind their way around the outcrop. Enabling the defenders to spring surprise counter attacks, upon any assailants.

Today bright flowers cascade from the machicolations. The ports built to enable burning pitch to be poured upon would be wall climbers, in time of strife.

The tight jointed, massive blocked masonry runs on. Out to the deep water channel, which divides Concarneau from near neighbour Lanriec.

Towers and gables peer from above the firing step and archers slits. The fortification adapted from the age of the bow and arrow to the era of gunpowder.

Built for war; Peace reigns, close in beneath the wind blocking, sun trapping bulk, of the ancient walls.