Tall ships to Polynesian canoes at French festival

Saturday marked the opening of the world-famous Brest 2008 festival. The fifth edition of the maritime extravaganza sees a mixture of large yachts and coasters, historic replicas, fishing boats and working boats, classic boats, small traditional craft and skiffs. Added to this there are some classic motorboats from the ‘belle epoque’, exotic boats such as Asian junks, pirogues and boats from the West Indies, the Southern Ocean and Polynesia, and adventure boats which have made incredible journeys such as Kurun, Joshua and Tara.

There are also boats uses by the professionals of the sea such as fishing boats, crab boats, trawlers and offshore racing boats from Figaros, to Mumms, to Imoca 60 footers and ORMA Trimarans. 73% of the fleet is French with the remaining boats from Spain, Holland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Vietnam, Switzerland, Croatia, USA, Madagascar and Russia.

A total of 28 countries are represented at the festival including Australia, Brazil, Japan, Madagascar, USA and New Zealand. Of the 2010 boats present, 1003 measure between 5 and 9 m, 434 from 10 to 19 m, and 37 in excess of 30 m. 56 of the boats are 100 years old or more and a total of 1012 date from prior to 1970. Some of the oldest boats in the fleet include an 1876 gaff-rigged Smack from Essex (Martha II), Ibis an 1888 gaff-rigged cutter from Falmouth, Velsia an 1890 Colin Archer also from Falmouth, and an 1894 oyster smack called Thyra.

Of the historic replicas which have made the journey to NW France (from Bristol, UK), is the legendary Matthew, a replica caravel with three masts and square sails, which was originally commanded by James Cabot during his discovery of Canada in 1497. Another replica is Lindheim Sunds, a replica of a patrolling Viking warship from 1040, the wreck of which was discovered in the bay of Roskilde.

Find out more at the Brest 2008 website.