Tuesday, 21 June 2011

VOR : One Year to Lorient - the French City of Sails

Lorient. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/Sea&Co/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

This time next year, the fleet will be in Lorient, Brittany. The first Volvo Ocean Race stopover in France in over 10 years, Lorient is a city fully dedicated to sailing.

“France is sailing-addicted!” enthuses Stopover Manager, Christophe Baudry. “Offshore sailing is always successful here. French races such as the Route du Rhum or the Vendée Globe have huge media and public impact.”

Once a base for the French East India Company, Lorient has always had a strong maritime bond. Yet, much of that port infrastructure was destroyed during World War II. Held by the Germans until the end of the war, the city suffered extreme Allied bombing. The submarine base survived these attacks and is now a successful tourist and nautical centre.

Next to the base is now a sailing museum, the Cité de la Voile. It is a spectacular place and the port facilities already host 70 skippers training everyday - all positive points for the venue that will host the Volvo Ocean Race’s fleet on 17 June 2012.

The French home team : Groupama 4. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/Sea&Co/Groupama.

“We can already say that the public will be there,” adds Baudry. “It’s not only France that is coming back to the game, but people will support Groupama Sailing Team, whose home port is Lorient. 

“The key to a successful stopover is generosity. It’s obviously about yacht racing, but it will also be a festival – art, culture and music. In that sense this will be different from most French sailing events where there is nothing to see but the boats. We’ll have concerts, musical shows around the village, educational exhibitions and art demonstrations. Our programme will be unveiled in September.”

Another key to Lorient’s stopover is their volunteer campaign. Launched on 11 June for Groupama 4’s christening, the campaign got off to a good start with 150 people enrolled already. Everyone is welcome and job descriptions are many and varied – security on the water, hospitality in the race village, cultural touring around the submarine base, translation, etc.

Lorient is also working closely with the local universities to offer students their first professional experience.

Lorint Grand Large

Volvo Ocean Race