Normandie Le Havre race village officially opened

The Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre race village was officially opened Saturday 21st October by the mayor of Le Havre Edouard Philippe and with that the pre-start week of festivities kicked off. The weather may not have been too kind but the crowds turned out in force and took their chances to dodge the showers and see the 96 strong race fleet lined up and primed on the Basin Paul Vatine.

Reflections on 30 years around the dock….

Of course within the crowd there are the first timers who arrive amazed, transfixed by the size and range of shapes, sizes and configurations of the different boats.

“I’ve been coming 30 years and still I come most days just for the atmosphere and a few Jacques Vabre coffees.” Says local Le Havrais Jacky with his friend Michel who adds, “We have seen it all evolve step by step. The bridges are now practical as well as aesthetically pleasing. The boats have all changed massively. In 30 years the design changes, technology and the beauty of the boats has moved on so much it is unbelievable.”

Behind them screams the familiar noise of a pedestal winch turning. No self respecting race village is complete without a winching competition and on the Région Normandie stand there is a test to see who can hoist a sail 15 metres. Children, parents…. even grandparents…race each other for the bragging rights. Without doubt, if the size of the queue is any measure at all, this is one of the most popular attractions.

In the main pavilion there is the stand for the city of Le Havre which reflects 30 years of urban and human development and human. Here the people of Le Havre come to write down their memories which are displayed throughout the week. Alain, who left the town at 24 has now returned to settle back here 50 years later to live, says “I finally fell in love with my hometown.” With a friend they scrutinize the model of the city in search of the different neighborhoods that they knew. “Before it was a sad, damp, concrete town.” Recalls Alain, “Now it is an attractive, alive city, economically and culturally.”

The opening

There is a perfectly timed lull for the opening, a good sign, surely. Among those opening the village are Edouard Philippe (mayor of Le Havre), Agnès Firmin Le Bodo (minister delegate to the Minister of Health and Prevention), Vincent Prolongeau (president of JDE France) and Augustin Leboeuf (delegated regional advisor of the Normandy region).
“This is a great popular festival for the city and the region. The extraordinary atmosphere is the same as it always has been over the 30 years so far.”

Dreams of being a sailor

Along the quaysides there are enough different immersive experiences, racing boat hardware set up on dry land that the visitors can almost live the life of the sailor at sea. They can climb masts, experience life in a cockpit. “It was so good we felt we were at sea.” Enthuses Nicolas a young visitor.
And, certainly over this opening weekend there are dozens of skippers around, catching up with their friends and rivals, making media appearances and meeting the public in between making final preparations. And the sun is promised soon…..

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