Harbour launches Gallic gala as sailors stop by
Sacre bleu -- not even the sturdy Martello towers built to repel invaders could prevent this particular French armada from landing its fleet yesterday.
Almost 50 doughty and mostly French seafarers sailed into Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, to complete the second leg of the Solitaire du Figaro, the famous single-handed yacht race.
The arrival of the 46 skippers in what France regards as the "Everest" of solo sailing marked the start of three days of all things French for the busy ferry port.
French markets, a festival village, free concerts and a giant fireworks display will cap the fleet's arrival between now and Sunday.
The local National Yacht Club is hosting the first ever stop in Dublin bay of the legendary event which has the yachtsmen pitting their wits against the elements over a gruelling 1,700-mile four-leg race.
And once they head for Les Sables d'Olonne in France on the third leg, the decks will be cleared to host the opening race of yet another huge sailing event for Dun Laoghaire -- the Sovereign Ski Topper World Championships, the international sailing event for under-18s.
A jubilant but exhausted French sailor, Jeremie Beyou (35) from Lorient, was last night celebrating his second leg win of the race.
Despite losing his spinnaker sail, which "exploded" a couple of miles from the finish, Jeremie -- who won the overall event six years ago -- crossed the line in first place, 65 gruelling hours after leaving Caen.
"All in all, I feel very happy. Winning is something magical, impossible to explain what you feel, it's just great," he said.
National Yacht Club spokesman Martin McCarthy said the race, coupled with the Sovereign Ski Topper World Championships on Sunday, was a huge boost for Dun Laoghaire and was the perfect curtain-raiser for an even bigger event next year.
Just ahead of the London Olympics, more than 1,000 young sailors will head for Dun Laoghaire to take part in the Youth Sailing World Championships in July.