Glénans sailing school celebrates its 75th anniversary

At the end of the 2 nd World War I, Hélène and Philippe Vianney, resistance fighters, go to the Glénans archipelago off the coast of Concarneau to visit friends. This sojourn will prove to be a journey of initiation. The magic of the place spawns an idea that will never leave them: to organize lodgings for all their resistant counterparts, bruised by the horrors of war. They have to learn to live again, find a place in society and for that, community life in such places seems like a good way to achieve this.

Thus, in 1947, the first residence on the island of Loc’h was organized with the agreement of the Bolloré family to which it belongs. It is about creating a ‘school of life’ where mutual aid and solidarity determine the rules of living together. The days are punctuated by leisure activities such as ball sports and theatre, but in rather spartan conditions of comfort. The practice of sailing is not yet current. It is the maritime transport between Concarneau and the archipelago, as well as the proximity of the islanders and in particular the fishermen, that bring the maritime dimension into the organization of the days, which proves to be an important vector of escape and personal reconstruction .

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At that time, the practice of sailing was reserved for a wealthy elite. In order to make sailing more accessible and popular, Philippe Vianney came up with the brilliant idea, together with the famous architect and navigator Jean-Jacques Herbulot, to design a nice dinghy whose purchase price should not exceed that of 2 bicycles: Le Vaurien, which from the summer of 1952 sailed in the school’s fleet. The Glénans School was built and developed on these foundations. Successfully.

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Today, the Glénans school is the largest sailing school in Europe, with several nautical bases in Brittany, the Mediterranean and the West Indies. It welcomes more than 15,000 interns and instructors per year, who come to learn or improve their skills in various light sail and cruising media.

“Sea school, sailing school, life school”

When you land on one of the islands of the school of the archipelago (Drénec, Penfret, Bananec or Fort Cigogne), you will be struck by an enchanting landscape, with crystal clear waters and white sand (due to the presence of maerl, accumulation of coralline algae rich of limestone, exploited for a long time to enrich the soil and today protected), crammed with an air of changing lights typical of Brittany.

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But you should not expect a comfortable stay in a 5-star hotel: here we sleep in tents, prepare meals together, are entitled to 10 liters of water per day for washing (and not the collecting) without washing hoping to get back 3 seals at once, it cannot be combined!), and above all, for the conveniences, you have at your disposal … “Les Cunégondes”, an institution! It’s also one of the first things of everyday life that you will be presented with when you arrive: dry toilets resting on holes, regularly moved with, ultimate luxury, an unobstructed view of the ocean!

These islands represent a protected space that absolutely must be protected. That’s why every effort is made to minimize the impact of visitors: the energy is solar and wind-sourced and reserved for essential needs (no need to charge your phone every day!), all waste is sorted and returned to the mainland, the water comes from various sources and is used very sparingly. Everyone is invited to wonder how it works and its impact, and to find practices that respect the environment, which, if applied universally, would give our planet a sigh of breathing room…

“Sea school, sailing school, life school” is the original slogan that has perfectly defined the Glénans school for 75 years. It has seen the biggest names in the sailing world: Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, Franck Cammas, Vincent Riou, Maud Fontenoy, Isabelle Joschke, Louis Burton and many other great sailors.

Every year thousands of trainees, instructors and volunteers meet there, the time of learning and privileged exchanges, and then everyone resumes their journey, on land, at sea, carrying in their luggage the indelible mark of an unforgettable experience.

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