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Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta: All Ship Shape in Le Havre

Posted on: 17.03.17

If you simply love everything to do with sailing and the sea, then Le Havre, France, is the place to be this September.

From Tall Ships to tugs, dinghies to naval destroyers, ribs to rescue boats, fishing vessels to pleasure craft – the final port of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta is putting on a festival that celebrates every kind of ocean-going vessel. And everyone will receive a special blessing.

In this blog series, we’ve covered Race 1 between Royal Greenwich, UK and Sines, Portugal. We’ve looked at Race 2, from Sines to Bermuda. And we’ve covered Race 3, between Bermuda and Boston, USA. This week we’re jumping ahead to Race 5, the final Transatlantic leg of the event from Halifax, Canada to Le Havre, France.

About Le Havre

It’s the largest city in Normandy, France, and the biggest container port in the country. It was built on the estuary of the River Seine by King François I, who decided to establish a harbour and walled city in 1517.

During the 19th century, the city prospered because of ship builders and traders. And, the famous Transatlantic cruise liners between Le Havre and New York made it one of the most prosperous ports in Europe until the 1930s.

Le Havre was devastated during the Second World War. However, the city was reconstructed by the famous architect Auguste Perret, known as a world leader and specialist in reinforced concrete construction. This noteworthy work has shown Le Havre to be one of the greatest examples of France’s post-war regeneration and optimism.

During summer 2017, Le Havre will celebrate its 500th anniversary. This major cultural event will infuse the city and its harbour with artworks in public areas, landscaping, prestigious exhibitions, festive gatherings, gastronomic delights, and more.

Paul Bishop being interviewed by France 3 TV in Le Havre

Paul Bishop being interviewed by France 3 TV in Le Havre.

Welcome to Le Havre

To commemorate 500 years of the city and the port, the event has been called “Les Grandes Voiles du Havre.” As part of this, the team behind the scenes are well prepared to welcome some of the largest Tall Ships in the world.

Twelve ships from the Regatta fleet will be welcomed to dock in the harbour for four days of celebrations after crossing the Atlantic. These vessels come from the United Kingdom, Latvia, Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Malta, and Vanuatu.

The final race leg from Halifax, Canada starts on 1 August. During this voyage, the crews will face the challenge of a month-long sailing race, before crossing the finish line at the famous Eddystone Lighthouse off the south-west coast of England. Depending on time, vessels will then explore the beautiful British coast of Cornwall and Devon, or visit picturesque French harbours before meeting up for the final party in Le Havre starting on 31 August.

Many ports invite special guests, but in Le Havre these are special ships. A collection of very old yachts will be a great visitor attraction when they race on Sunday afternoon. Marie Fernand (France), classified as a historical monument and one of the oldest service boats built in France in 1914 – and still afloat – will be there to greet her fellow pilot cutter Jolie Brise, who is sailing in the whole event. Five of the Pen Duick fleet will be there – ocean racing yachts built in the 1960s and 1970s for French yachtsman Éric Tabarly (the sixth unfortunately sunk). A French Naval Destroyer will be moored in the cruise terminal and a deep sea survey tug will be taking part in the Parade of Sail – to name just a few of the diverse collection coming together for this spectacular festival.

On Saturday 2 September, the Tall Ships fleet, plus all the other vessels in port, will receive a special blessing. This is an annual event called “Benediction de la Mer.” A fitting end, before the fleet leaves for new adventures around the world.

The team in Le Havre

The team in Le Havre. © erik levilly/vdh.

As well as the “ship-tastic” scenery, the festival will be hosting a wide range of musical and artistic attractions, as well as French culinary delights.

The ships will depart from Le Havre early in the morning on Sunday 3 September for an impressive Parade of Sail up to Cap de la Hève.

The Sail Training International team recently visited the port to discuss arrangements being put in place to welcome the fleet.

“It’s a huge honour and privilege to bring a fleet of international Tall Ships to the final port of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta. We are inspired by the work the city, port and business partners have done to plan this event in such detail.

“The crews and ships will be well looked after and I am convinced they will have a fantastic time. It’s particularly important to look after the crews in Le Havre – some will have sailed for five months, from when the event started in Royal Greenwich in April. Some crews will start their adventure in Sines, Bermuda, Boston, Québec, Halifax – but they will all be ready celebrate the 500th anniversary of Le Havre.”
Paul Bishop, Race Director, Sail Training International.

What’s Next?

Want to get involved with the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta and experience the adventure of a lifetime? Check out our event page for more information. You can book your place directly with a participating vessel, or if you’d like help simply email our friendly team on who can make recommendations, answer questions and process your booking for you.

  • If you live in Le Havre, 50 young people from the city will be lucky enough to embark on the ships and spend several days at sea. For more information, email