The two week rally sailed one way from the French port of Toulon to the last French town before Italy – Menton (pronounced Monton with thumb and forefinger clasping your nose to get the French accent working) before the rally participants checked into the luxurious Columbus Hotel on the western side of Monaco.
The French may justifiably lay claim to the adjective, sumptuous, because almost everything on display along this coast is best described as just that – sumptuous. From the thesaurus; luxurious, extravagant, costly, lavish, splendid, opulent, plush, superb, magnificent, grand, elaborate, spectacular – all of those and more.
In this part of the world boats start at 30 meters, while a 30 square meter apartment can cost more than E1,000,000! Ferraris are as common as Toyota in Oz and E600 for a night in a hotel can make the Mariner rally package sound cheaper than chips.
Tracy Mathews from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania said;“we have contemplated a trip along this coast many times in the past but could not take on the road version of exploring it – navigation, traffic, parking among the big deterrents, and someone has to drive.
When the opportunity to tackle it by sea came along we jumped at it and now I would not even consider doing it any other way. And then there was the added bonus of the places we visited on the rally that we had never heard of and in most cases could not even reach by road – the Porquerolles, St.Maxime, Rabe A’gay, Saint Marguerite, St.Honorat, Menton and Villefranche Sur Mer. But we also experienced the big names like St.Tropez, St. Raphael, Cannes, Antibes and of course Monaco.
In all but two of the stops berthing was pre-arranged by the representative of the French charter company, Christophe, who sailed with us, and even then anchoring with its accompanying uncertainty was only needed at St. Marguerite, one of the two islands off Cannes.
There was no uncertainty where we dropped the pick, however. Overlooked by the imposing fifteenth century Fort Royal our anchor grabbed in 6 meters of water and we spent the night in total peace under a near full moon. On the shore the restaurant under the stars cooked a 2 kg. Sea Bass for the four of us to the accompanying tunes delivered by the enchanting Linda. The bill did come to E120 per person so that dinner became our little flirtation with luxury. There were wines on the menu at E3, 600 a bottle!
The culinary adventures on this trip left me in no doubt that the French sit at the top of the global gastronomic league table. The French do not eat in order to live; they live in order to eat.
The straight line rally distance on the water was only 120 nautical miles; the sailing spiced as usual with six short fun races using the revolutionary T.I.T.S handicapping system, developed by Mariner Boating Holidays for use in their series of rallies in the cruising grounds of the world.
During one of the races we heard an example of French Riviera excess on the VHF. A passing super yacht called into the Cap Ferrat met station near Villefranche. “This is Cap Ferrat”, came the reply. “How many crew and guests do you have on board”, the polite request? “Twenty six people on board; twenty four crew and two guests”!
The prevailing weather conditions during the entire two weeks were almost too stable to believe with day temperatures consistently in the high twenties and winds thermally driven at strengths rarely more than 15 knots.
The mistral we half expected did not arrive until the day after we disembarked but then it did arrive with vengeance from the south west, which meant the delivery crews had to drive back through the tempest to the home port of Toulon. Hence the one way charter of the yachts for the rally.
Two nights in Monte Carlo at the end of the rally was really the icing on the cake, with lunch at the Yacht Club Monaco one of the highlights. A new club house is under construction in the main harbour and the plan is to use it as the terminus in the next French Riviera Yacht Rally planned for 2014.
By the way one of the greatest sailors in the world (by his own admission), Peter Sorenson won the rally with an aggregate 19 points after the six race series. The next four boats finished on 21 points and a count back gave eight times rally participant Rob Tardif second place.
Past CYCA commodore and Mariner regular Hans Sommer said, “I could not give this trip a ranking among all the others I have done because each has been special in its own way, but it was certainly up there with the best. Absolutely fabulous”, he concluded.
More details on the Mariner Boating rally program are available on www.marinerboating.com.au
or in Sydney on 02 9966 1244.