Saturday June 22 2019… Audierne and the big races

Audierne turns out to be delightful with a brilliant Saturday market. we are even serenaded in a very traditional French style as we walk ashore.

We half expected it to be full of the same stalls as in Concarneau, but while there are some similar, none appeared to be the same and Audierne was very much its own character.

One of the highlights was another of the stalls selling a range of hot food…pommes de terre au gratin, ratatouille, veggies, roast meats and lasagne. We decide that since we are likely to be late into L’Aber Wrac’h we will buy some dinner for later and then all we have to do is heat it in the oven.

We have all been enchanted by Audierne and will surely return sometime…

Our plan today is to head for L’Aber Wrac’h via the two big tide gates of Raz du Seine and Chenal du Four. It is slightly less easy than going south as due to vagaries of tides, there is slightly less north going time available in the Chenal than in the Raz. We need to be fairly precise about our timings as we don’t want to end up with a night-time entrance to L’Aber Wrac’h.  The other complication means that we will be leaving Audierne at low water. This is not to be recommended as the channel is very shallow in places and prone to silting according to the pilot books. We ease our way out of the berth and slide past the moored fishing boats as close as we dare.

We can see breaking water ahead near the entrance and can feel Heydays nudge the bottom…we hold our breath, but she shakes herself free and we are through and out into clear open water.

With a full main and a couple of rolls in the genoa, Heydays is nicely balanced for the SE breeze off the land and we head out past beaches and small villages towards the Pointe du Seine and our first rendezvous with some fast water.

Bang on schedule we make the turn for the Raz and once more it does not live up to its reputation (thankfully) and with wind and tide in harmony, we don’t even experience the swirls and eddies that we would expect on a routine passage through Hurst Narrows.

We head out across the bay towards the next headland and the Chenal du Four with a steadily easing wind now dead astern. Reluctantly we make the decision to run the engine to maintain our boat speed and a daylight entrance to L’Aber Wrac’h. The purists and Joshua Slocum himself will be turning in their graves…what’s the rush why not just put into a convenient anchorage and wait for another favourable tide and wind…sadly the modern world is not quite like that and some commitments back home later in the month suggest that we need to be well on our way towards St Malo for ferries etc. Anyway, we are lugging this chunk of iron around the high seas, so it may as well earn its keep…a bit defensive I know but…

Lunch, coffees and the last of the sweeties come and go and then we are starting to feel the strength of the tidal stream once more. We pick off buoys one by one and once again, the combination of wind and tide together mean that we don’t even get our slippers wet.

The oven goes on and by the time we are round the final headland and heading broadly east, we each have platefuls of steaming nosh bought earlier in Audierne. OK, foil trays are not exactly fine dining but this is brilliant.

We reach the entrance to L’Aber Wrac’h right on schedule and motor up river in the evening light…to find a jam packed marina with boats rafted up over 3 deep. This is not quite what we had in mind, as the sound of a disco and very loud voices pierces the evening across the water. We avoid the revellers rafted up and try to find a local’s berth which we hope they won’t be using this late at night. We finally squeeze in (fitting where it touches as they used to say) to a berth slightly too short for us and with our stern provocatively sticking out from the row of little fishing and day sailers. Still, we are in and will happily move if anyone wants their berth…we’ll be away early in the morning anyway.

We ask some passing sailor types what the codes for the toilets and showers are and what is going on with all the boats. Apparently it is the 60th anniversary race from Helston River to L’Aber Wrac’h…and then she says “if you have facilities on board, use them…the toilets are …” she waves her hand in front of her nose. We decide that there is nothing ashore we want and settle down with some booze of our own, wondering when the music will stop. By 11.30 it is still going and we decide that with an early start we may as well try to sleep. They finally turn off the music around 1am. On our way down, we had a nice time in L’Aber Wrac’h and were looking forward to the return visit with Chris and Yee Tak…perhaps another time.

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