L / 8º
Village Opening: June 9, 2015
Estimated arrival of the boats*: June 9 - 12, 2015
In-Port Race: June 14, 2015
Leg start: June 16, 2015
So sailing is big in France?
Huge, the French love their ocean racing and the athletes are feted like basketball players. None more so than the legendary Eric Tabarly, who just happens to have a palace of glass and steel... I mean a museum... in his honour in Lorient. Tabarly raced in the first Whitbread (forerunner of the Volvo Ocean Race) in 1973-74, and then again in 1993-94. So although the town will only be hosting its second Volvo Ocean Race, after debuting in 2011-12, it has a strong connection to the event, as you will see.
And Lorient is... don’t tell... it’ll come...
Can I put you out of your misery? It’s in the Morbihan department in Brittany, just round the corner from the north-western tip of France, to the south. The town has a population of about 60,000, with the hinterland bringing it up to about 200,000 people. Remarkably, over ten per cent of them are involved in marine-related industries, spread amongst the fishing and cargo ports, passenger ferries, the marinas and recreational boats. It’s something they try to encourage locally, with primary school children getting free sailing lessons. How about that?
So it’s not far from Lisbon?
No, it isn’t; just 647 miles straight up the Atlantic coast of Europe. So if there is a decent breeze, you will have to be organised and keep the pedal to the metal to beat the boats to Lorient. The In-Port Race starts on June 14, with the next leg starting on June 16, 2015. It all happens very quickly from here.
Isn’t Lorient famous for something?
I suspect you’re thinking of the Keroman Submarine Base, an important German military installation during the Second World War. It’s possible to tour some of the old U-Boat pens, and a new specialist dock dedicated to offshore racing is actually situated in the Base. Many of the modern stars of French sailing have called it home – not least of which is Franck Cammas, winning skipper of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011–12. That’s where the race village will be located, too. I told you there was a strong connection to the event.
Anything else to see?
I mentioned the Eric Tabarly museum already. Larmor-Plage is a cute beach town in the neighbourhood, and a great place to enjoy crêpes or seafood by the water. If you get the chance, take the ferry out to the island of Groix, or a day trip to Belle-Île. We’re talking wild, open beaches, wheeling sea birds and the salt wind in your hair.
Going north, and getting cooler?
Correct - but he oceanic climate is ideal for sailing, especially in June. This is the month of the year with the longest days so you’ll be able to enjoy your activities for as long as you want. In Lorient, they say it’s never too cold or too warm...
*ETA: We love sailing for its freedom and unpredictability. The crews can master the boat, study the waves, embrace the wind and trust in their navigators - but ultimately, it's the combination of those four things that decide when they arrive. For that reason, we need a range of dates which accounts for every one of these complex variables to estimate, as closely as we can, the potential arrival dates.