Cannes & the Régates Royales

In the honor of King Christian X of Denmark, skipper of his own yacht, the 6MJI “Dana” racing in Cannes’ Bay, the Société des Régates cannoises and the International Yacht Club took the decision in 1929, to transform their traditional spring regatta into the Régates Royales.
A prestigious name that confirms the interest of the City of Cannes for the best sailors in the World but unfortunately, this tendency overturned and the regatta had been totally abandoned during the Sixties.
By chance, it won’t last. In 1978, Cannes’ Nautical advisor, Jean-Pierre Odéro, bring back the Régates Royales concept up to date in order to see those 8 and 6 MJI racing once again. Nowadays, sailing princes had replaced the crowns but the Régates Royales’ story keeps going with the universal success we all know about.
In order to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this wonderful revival in 2008, it’s important to remember that Cannes’ Yachting story is strongly linked to Cannes’ Legend.

Cannes 1857: The first Yacht

Retired from an engineer activity as well as a very good yachtsman, Parisian Léopold Bucquet came in Cannes in order to heal his fragile health. Pretty quickly, the nostalgia of the sailing hours on “La Seine” (The river crossing by Paris City Centre) is bothering him. Fascinated by the blue color of the Mediterranean Sea, he decided to adapt the rivers boats he used to sail on and drew his first boat called L’Alma. With the contribution of the local manufacturer Honoré Arluc, they gave birth to the first boat ever sailing in Cannes in 1857. The first one is French!
Thanks to the yachtsman’s enthusiasm, some pationate people ordered to Honoré Arluc some boats built according to Léopold Bucquet’s plans. Therefore, just in few months, they launched Léro (1858) owned by Alphonse Gioan, then Olga to Mr. Eugène Tripet-Skrypitzine, retired Consul of France in Saint Petersburg. From 1859, Touriste had replaced the Alma, considered as too slow by his owner and designer. Later on, still according to Bucquet’s plans, Arluc built Fantasie for the Duke of Villambrosa. By the way, those pioneers are welcoming Mr. Turcat’s cotter Jeannette. Few more years and the first Régates Royales appeared.

Cannes 1859-1864 : From the Société des Régates to the Cercle Nautique

How can you imagine the Régates Royales without a Yacht Club support? A history of tradition… With the support of Mr. Bucquet, Tripet Skypitzine, Béchart and Colquhoum, the Société des Régates de Cannes was founded in 1859. In order to celebrate it duly, on April 25th, Touriste, Olga, Jeannette, Léro joined by other crafts raced the first regatta ever organized in Cannes.
During the following winters, the Duke of Vallombrosa will change the Société des Régates’ destiny. By his strong and dynamic presence, the Duke brought the prestige aspect that still attracts today the best sailors worldwide.  In 1863, he organized the first Mediterrannean races for sailing yachts. 4 competitors answered to his invitation: Queen of Island owned by Mr. Dupont de la Thuillerie, Cutler owned by the President of Monte Carlo’s Société des Régates the Count De Gerbel, an English Yachtsman’s “Gleam” and Mr. Moos’ Homet, member of the Royal Yacht Squadron and winner of this edition.
October 1st, 1864, the Mediterranean Nautical Circle opens its doors on the famous “Croisette”. Cannes’ yachting foundations had been established.

Cannes 1894 -1895: the first royal yachts…

The loss of the Duke of Vallombrosa in 1883 is a bit dulling the splendor of the regattas. A new breath arises in 1891 with the creation of Cannes’ Yachtsmen Union in an office located on a floating deck called the Noah’Ark… The sailors enthusiasm worked! In 1894, the Prince of Wales participated into the regatta with his legendary cotter Britannia, built the year before.
The following edition, the “Grande classe” is growing with the arrival of Aisla owned by Barclay Walker. This yacht was built in order to beat the Prince’s and the Régates de Cannes were from now a story of challenges. An event that “attracts people from the early morning on the Boulevard de la Croisette. The Lighthouse alley is full of spectators, the Saint Pierre’s quay was packed and on the boulevard, from the Islands Place to the Réserve, the crowd was that important that it was impossible to move” was recording the journalist from Le Yacht Newspaper.
After a passionate fight in which Britannia resist very well to its new rival attacks, Aisla is finally winning.

Cannes 1929: The Régates Royales’ birth.

The Roaring twenties are a big party and the French Riviera attracts every spring yachtswomen and yachtsmen from everywhere in Europe. In 1927, Jean Savage explained:
“[Cannes] is that harbor in France where you can find more that 200 boats, where 80 racing yachts come successively on the starting line. Therefore you can find in Cannes the European Yachting world: the oldest English yachtsmen, the General Paget talking with Edmond Vidal, officer for the Société des Régates du Havre with  the Maquis Pallavicini the Regio-Club italiano President, the two yacht ladies Pringle-Anthony and Virginie Heriot(…), Mr. Patsey of Cowes long silhouette, goatee-in-the-wind William Fife of Fairlie, Arbaut from Le Havre and Camatte of Cannes, in order to see their protégé…”
The following year, the King of Denmark, his majesty Christian X asked to Cannes’ yachtsmen to organize a 6MJI race, in remembers of the tradition. In order to honor the King, the Société des Régates Cannoises and the International Yacht Club of Cannes decided to organize a special week of race from 1929 to which they give the name of Régates Royales…

Cannes 1929-1939: The Régates Royales Golden age.

The Régates Royales became as they used to be when the Britannia, helmed by the Prince of Wales, was crossing around Cannes’ Bay. Every year, the King of Denmark is honoring by his presence and participation into this “Royal” regatta in which he won many victories with no favors of indulgence from his competitors. The king is racing onboard of Dana, Mrs Y.G.Graaes’ 6MJI yacht against ten other boats. During the 1st Régates Royales, Christian X won two races in very windy conditions, with another very nice second place out of the six races ran.  
Until 1939, the King will be in Cannes – City he appreciated- every year except 1937 and 1938. Therefore he will order four 6MJI to race in the Régates Royales: Dan (1932), Dan II (1935), Dania (1936) and Dan III (1939). In 1939, the first 8MJI Gaulois is built, according to the brand new plans of Cannes’ Architect François Camatte won. This is the last time the Danish King came to Cannes…

Cannes 1946-1960: Resumption and decline

In remembers of the events organized before the World Wars and according to the tradition guidelines, the Société des Régates relaunched the Régates Royales from February 28th until March 3rd 1946. Three 8MJI and eight 6MJI are doing the show won by the Baron de Fenoyle with Eole. The following year, some Star boats are joining them. A Swiss crew travelled to Cannes in order to participate.
At the beginning of 1948, after a memorial for the recent death of King Christian X of Denmark, the President of the Société des Régates is welcoming his widow, Queen Alexandrine who opened the Régates Royales.
The growth of the smaller yachting market and long-distance yacht races, the disaffection of sailors from MJI yachts considered as too expensive to build and to take care of, sounded the knell of the Régates Royales. Even if they’re welcoming 5M50, Requin and Dragon yachts, they’re not interesting neither public nor competitors anymore. From the beginning of the 60s, the Régates Royales had been forgotten.

1978: Story of a new birth…

It seems that Cannes’ Bay was created in order to offer a wonderful show: The Régates Royales. It required the extraordinary determination of a man such Jean-Pierre Odéro, Nautical Chief Advisor of Cannes in those times, to let the show play again.
In 1978, Jean-Pierre launched the genius idea of an international yachting show and blew away the dust of the Régates Royales’ folder in order to insure the social events of the week, with the spirit of tradition of course. The race was only open to the MJI as it used to be in the 30s’.
At the beginning of the story, Philippe Monnet (Ex-record man of the race around the world against the winds) bought a really old abandoned ship that the sailor decided to refresh. “This 8MJI was my first contact with the sea and the sailing world. I moved in from a French Alps area in 1975. Therefore, Mykonos was the first boat I ever sailed on, starting while I was 16. At that time, I was mainly horse riding. I learned how to sail, step by step, on my own and by night in order to avoid to be ashamed. My sailing maneuvers became better day by day and the racing spirit shown up pretty quickly.”
By talking with other 8MJI owners, the idea of a Régates Royales new birth was launched between Pierrot Lambert’s Folly, Gaston Schmaltz’ France, M. Latcha’s Ayana and the Dunant brothers’ Astree.
Only three 8MJI and a 6MJI were racing on that year, eleven yachts were on the starting line on 1979, including Chamatte’s plan boat, France. Swiss, Swedish and American boats are joining the event. This became such a success that people were running to built new vessels. Henceforth, The Régates Royales’ September appointment is taken by the best skippers in the world on board 6MJI, 8MJI and 12MJI with some other keelboats as the Requin’s, Star’s and Dragon’s series. What an honor!

From 1978: Extraordinary championships

Cannes became a “Royal” base for MJI yachts who are loyally participating every year. The 12MJI joined the 6 and 8MJI. Those new comers are henceforth a part of the America’s Cup Legend. Between 1958 and 1987, the 12MJI is the official boat for “The Cup”, the oldest Trophee of the modern world won in 1851 by “America”. They had been designed and built by the best architects for the best sailors in the world. In 2000, ten of them were racing for the Régates Royales. In 2007, the Régates Royales organized the 12MJI World Championship for the Centenial Tour with 18 of them. Frequently, the Royales are the base of prestigious races for MJI. In 1985, the 6MJI World Cup was competed by 39 yachts and won by Philippe Durr (SUI) with Junior, ex- Gitana. The world cup will be held in Cannes in 1993, 1997 and 2007.
Jean-Pierre Odéro convinced the International 8MJI Class to let him organize the 8MJI World Cup during the Régates Royales. He won a nice poker action by letting a rumor saying that the Baron Edmon de Rothschild was building a new 8MJI to win the Cup. When the Baron asked Jean-Pierre about it, he answered that “Durr was the winner of the 6MJI Cup and that it should be the same for the 8MJI Cup!” Convinced, the Baron Edmon was celebrating his 60th birthday by a victory in the 1986’s World Cup with Gitana Sixty, built according to a famous architect of Cannes’s plans, Jacques Fauroux. The boat was helmed by the Maestro Philippe Durr during an extraordinary battle against ten other competitors.

Cannes 1994: Régates “Royales” for Classic Yachts.

The venue of Elizabeth Meyer with Endeavour was a great source of inspiration for the Régates Royales. The following year, some other classic yachts showed their stem and followed the race. Their presence was perfectly matching with legendary context. In 1994, Classic yachts were officially participating, from a spectator status they became appreciated actors. The venue of the Classic yacht was a new youthfulness for the Régates Royales.
These yachts token away from other ages are changing dreams into reality. The list would be too long is we’re listing all of them but how can we not remember with emotion the return of the three-mast-yacht Adix, joining Créole (1926), Orion (1910). Some other survivors sailed in the Régates Royales as the 5m50 Lady Anne (1909) and her sistership Tuiga (1909) or the amazing Partridge built in 1885 by John Beavor-Webb who is the oldest yacht still afloat! Not to forget, the participation of Eric Tabarly’s Pen Duick (1898). The Régates Royales are therefore contributing to preserve the heritage of the ephemeral where beauty and know-how are vieing with passion and respect of the tradition.

2003: A great man loss

Since he launched this wonderful race, Jean-Pierre Odéro was helming it like a maestro, made the event growing and getting even more beautiful during 25 years. When he disappeared, the Yacht Club de Cannes chose his second to lead the Régates Royales’ destiny for three editions. Bruno Fauroux has spent his childhood sailing as he’s the son of the famous Cannes’ navy architect Jacques Fauroux, well-known thanks to his 12MJI plans while the boat was the America’s Cup official boat.
Jean-Pierre died in January 2003 while no one would have expected it. He handled 24 editions of the Régates Royales from their new birth in 1978 with 4 competitors, until the success the race knows today: the 6MJI World Cup in 1985 and the 8MJI one the year after, the first participation of the Dragon Class in 1987, the Classic Yachts in 1994, the 12MJI in 2000, taking part in the Prada Mediterranean Trophee the same year...

2005: Map road has changed

As no one wished to take Jean-Pierre suite, the company called “Cannes Régates Internationales” closed. The Yacht Club de Cannes, preferring to write a new page, founded the “Société des Régates de Cannes” which is in charge of the organization of the business part while the Yacht Club leads the sports’ aspects. Together, they’ll give a new breath to the Régates Royales: new main sponsor, new management, new press agency, new website…
Panerai replaced Prada as the official Classic Yacht Challenge sponsor. Famous Italian company lead by Angelo Bonati, the historical Italian navy watches brand became famous thanks to its capacity to innovate while being sure. For example, Panerai’s engineer was the one to create the watches we wear today at the whistle during the wars while gentlemen used to have watches for fob.
Following the concept that a little team can’t have all the competencies required by such an event, Jean-Paul Ortelli, Société des Régates de Cannes’CEO, decided to reinforce the press services and village infrastructures’ quality. From then, journalists and photographs over a hundred are welcomed every year to follow the race.
Except the 83 classic yachts, 94 Dragon and 20 6-8-12 MJI, the Régates Royales also welcomed an…. Elephant! Pierre-Paul Heclky’s family wanted to wish his 72th birthday in an extraordinary way to the Yacht Club de France President, loyal Régates Royales racer…

2006: 230 yachts!

That is not to say that we just batted the participation rates, but what a quality of racers! Lulworth signed is return after 70 years away from the hundred yachts running after the Régates Royales’ podium. Thanks to Jacqueline Tabarly and Gérard Petipas headind the Eric Tabarly’s Association, the 5 Pen Duicks met all together in Cannes. The Metrics race is not less popular and 106 Dragon crews were sailing in Cannes this year.

2007-2008: Black Serie

The weather forecasts would have played us many jokes! The Régates Royales are occurring every year at the Equinox period, which is well-known by the navy spirits to influence a lot the weather conditions: rain, strong winds, black holes (no wind)… Even the four forecasts analysis wouldn’t have been enough to predict that Cannes’ bay will become the theater of different storms meeting. Two Dragon swank in the eastern bay while France’s mast would break and causes a collision with Adria and Nagaïna as it was that unpredictable and fast that they were missing time to put the sails down.  Even if the damages are important, it would be no more than materials.
The 12MJI world championship couldn’t be considered as valid as the competitors, even famous sailors as Paul Cayard, Lionel Péan or Marc Pajot needed more races to pretend to the world cup. The strong “mistral” (northwest winds) blew that strong at the beginning of the week that there were no more wind for the rest of the event.
The 30th birthday celebrated in 2008 had everything on its side to be a really big and nice anniversary. The Régates Royales are from now open to a new comer: the Tofinou 9.5, which deals efficiently with classic spirit and modern tools. Narrow and elegant hull with a very hurt rigging to improve the performances in light winds, the Tofinou has a teak deck, a discreet roof and long sides to protect the cockpit perfectly.
Due to a tragic collision between two loyal competitors, Wilfried Tolhurst died helming his 8MJI Safir, few minutes before the boat ended its road on the St Marguerite Island’s lighthouse rocks. According to the family wishes, the Régates Royales kept racing after a Memorial Day off and homage to the English captain.

Tomorrow: the Régates Royales’ future.

The Régates Royales have a great future. Awaken from the past, taken back to life by Jean-Pierre Odéro, who was able to give them back their splendor. All the Yachtsmen in the world, from the beginners to the champions have heard about the Régates Royales and are dreaming at least once in their life to be able to watch or even to participate to such an event.