Hélène Rémond writes:
Initiated by Nantes Métropole, the Débord de Loire Festival is a new nautical and cultural event. The festival was launched on Saturday, 4 June, in Nantes, a city located on the river Loire, in Western France. The first occasion of this triennial celebration was dedicated to the French three-masted barque Belem. It took place just a few days before the official anniversary of the vessel, which was launched on 10 June 1896 in the Dubigeon shipyard in Nantes. She made many voyages carrying goods from Brazil, Guyana and the Caribbean. In 1914, the Duke of Westminster bought her and turned her into an elegant cruising yacht before selling her to brewer Arthur Ernest Guinness. After the Second World War, Belem was run under the Italian flag for the Cini Foundation, which transformed her to a school ship under the name Giorgio Cini. In 1979, the Caisse d’Epargne bought her and a year later created the Belem Foundation.
There were a hundred different boats seen during the parade from Saint-Nazaire to the home port: heritage boats, fishing and sailing vessels, rowing boats and pneumatic tugs of the Loire. Among them was the Bantry boat called Fille de Loire, one of the oldest French vessels dating back to the 18th century. There was also the replica of Jules Verne’s boat Saint Michel II, which was built in 1876. Of course, rowing clubs took part in the event, including Aviron Loire Océan.
Many visitors gathered to visit Belem – which was in London for the 2012 Olympic Games and took part in Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee – making it a good opportunity to learn more of the history of the maritime port. The festival continues until Sunday 12 June, whereupon Belem continues her route towards Spain in early July and Morocco in August.
For the next Débord de Loire Festival, rendez-vous en 2019! In Nantes!
For more information about the Belem:
Foundation Belem website
Débords de Loire website
Photos © Hélène Rémond