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France for Festivals - 'Douarnenez Temps Fete' & Brest International Festival of the Sea

French Festivals are not as frenetic as you think. Firstly you have some great sailing to get there. Both Douarnenez and Brest have fine summer sailing grounds on their doorstep ....and they encourage boats and tall ships to go out sailing each day. Actually we don't need much encouragement. The real action is always out on the water in an afternoon sea breeze.

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Why we love this sailing ground

Douarnenez Festival for Artist & Wooden Boat Lovers

Douarnenez itself has two ports: The old fishing port, on one side of the town and the river basin, Port de Rhu, with its wooden wharves and waterside bars on the other. The town is medieval in origin and has fascinating architecture and narrow streets. This year the Guests of Honour will be from the basque Country but Cousins on Cornish Boats are always welcome. There will be a lot of boats and ships coming from Brest so the sailing adventure will continue.

Returning to Cornwall via the Chanel du Four and calling in at a french Port on the way, maybe Camaret Sur Mer or L'Aberach both with excellent restaurants and full of the charm and character Brittany is famous for.

crazy sailing gigs in Douarnenez Bay
crazy sailing gigs in Douarnenez Bay. Photo Debbie Purser

Brest Festival - the Biggest Traditional Fleet Gathering in Europe

Brest  International Maritime Festival is a huge gathering of traditional craft from coracles and fishing vessels from Africa to towering windjammers. Eagerly awaited every four years, and followed by the more intimate Douarnenez Festival of the Sea further down the Brittany coast – the event is a mecca for music lovers, photographers and adventure sailors. Few festivals can match the spectacle of over 2000 sailing ships out on the water, and being out there with them is the best way to experience this sailors event.

When is the Next Brest Festival of the Sea ?

The mighty Brest Festival is held every 4 years so the next one is in July 2020.

Brest Festival has always proved popular with our Classic Sailing adventure sailing customers, so we usually have a large number of vessels heading for the Rade de Brest. Typically there are 6-7 day voyages out to Brest Festival, exploring on the way. A crew change in France and a voyage back via Douarnenez Festival.  The beauty of French festivals is that also encourage all the boats to go out sailing in the morning – so the Classic Sailing Fleet can sail in company and go out into the Rade de Brest amongst the colourful fleet of sailing ships.

The best thing about Brest is the port is huge and the adjacent inland sea is deep enough for all vessels to sail in and out of harbour and go for a spirited romp in flat seas each day. There are no lock gates to get through and some ships sail right off the dock without engines. Many themed parades of sail like the ‘parade of the dandies’ where around 40 old sailing ships that used to fish from around the world will sail through the harbour, or the parade of Classic Yachts.

Brest Festival of the Sea
Brest Festival of the Sea

Bastille Day fireworks, light shows and illuminated night parades 

There are boats from many countries. In 2012 there was an Asian theme with  a Vietnam flotilla and Junk rigs,  special features on craft from Croatia, Gallicia and Norway. Rarely seen in Europe tall ships like Cesne Branco from Brazil (sister ship to tea clipper inspired Stad Amsterdam) may turn up, and sometimes the event is used as a media platform to launch a new ship or start a yacht race.

Sheer variety of vessels includes over 560 gaff and lug rigged boats, 117 ketches and schooners, 56 old coasting vessels from 25- 50m, at least 25 three masted tall ships and over 900 small craft under 8m.

As crew sailing any of our vessels you may have a chance to take an active part in a dynamic demonstrations of international maritime history out on the water. It is not compulsory but daily the organisers encourage boats to sail in an out the harbour entrances, and go for a blast in the adjacent inland sea of Rade de Brest.

Ashore are events for crews, bands, craft demonstrations , street theatre, a Rio style carnival parade, ariel human displays hanging off Penfold Bridge in the Naval Dockyard.

Sailing Grounds in Atlantic Brittany

Limestone cliffs, beaches only acessible by boat, offshore islands like Ushant, Isle de Molene, Isle du Sein and inland rivers and seas like Rade de Brest and Gulf du Morbihan offer varied sailing and many big bays with relatively few hazards. Its a friendlier and warmer sailin ground than North Brittany...most the time!

escaping the crowds during Brest Festival
escaping the crowds during Brest Festival

 

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