In the sun drizzled city of Cannes on the southern French shoreline, enjoy patio glasses of Provençal rosé with dishes of rich seafood. Even if you visit Provence primarily for wine, you’ll eventually be lured to the shoreline. Find a crêperie on Rue Meynadier in Cannes, or a restaurant off Rue Félix Faure and enjoy a long lunch as sea gusts slap the tablecloth. After eating, wander past yachts and wonder how such luxury not only floats, but zips across oceans.
Although spring in Cannes is known for the film festival, autumn is renowned for the Cannes Yachting Festival. Between September 10th and 15th, both the old port of Cannes (‘vieux port’) and Port Canto will host more than 50,000 visitors, 600 plus boats and over 500 exhibitors at this 42nd festival edition.
Diversity, the historical strength of this annual gathering, eventually transformed to a weakness. The Director of The Cannes Yachting Festival, Sylvie Ernoult, explained why.
We had over a hundred sailboats on the water during previous years, but they were mixed with motor boats. A lot were in a very tight space, so the visibility for visitors was not so good. For a lot of people, Cannes became a motor boat show, although it is not.
The strategic solution to this problem is expansion and division, which will be implemented at this festival. This year will include the opening of the Port Canto Sailing Area. This area is dedicated only to sail craft and will include more than 100 new boats and 80 plus exhibitors. Free shuttles across both land and water will ferry visitors between ports.
Ernoult explained the changes.
This year includes the expansion on the other side of La Croisette [promenade] with the creation of a newly dedicated sailing area. Having different sections according to types of boats will help visitors find what they want. That’s strategic in Cannes because it is one of the only boat shows which has such a huge range of products. Most other boat shows, worldwide, are dedicated to having one type of boat as 80% of their content. In Cannes, the 550 boats on the water include 50 catamarans, 70 monohulls, 150 boats over 20 meters [65 feet], and 250 boats less than 15 meters [49 feet]. So we have a lot of different families of products, a rich content. Come over and have a look at these big, gorgeous sailboats at berth in this brand new section. It’s going to be—Wow!
After becoming part of the Roman Empire, the coastal city now named Cannes was populated mostly by monks and fishermen. Fearing attack from the Saracens, the monks built a watch tower. Yet these pirates still came, conquered and looted. Today the city does not defend against outsiders, but embraces them. For example, one international craft attending the event will be the Energy Observer—an electrically powered ship running on renewable energy and hydrogen—that is traveling to 50 countries on a world tour.
The variety of events at the festival will also include the Concours d’Élégance, or ‘parade of motor boats’ on September 14th. Motorboats without cabins up to 39 feet (12 meters) long will be divided into two categories—those built before 1980 and those built after. The ‘winner’ of this spectacle will be voted on via smartphones belonging to onshore observers.
The latest press writings about the event are agog with all sorts of wonders to be unveiled at this festival: an asymmetric superyacht, hybrid propulsion systems, ‘ecological transition’ technologies, retractable photovoltaic systems, foam-core composites, spacious flybridges, double-width navigation seating and sandwich infusion construction.
Below are words written in 1987, not by a yachting enthusiast, but a renowned critic and writer from the U.S. named Robert Ebert. These words, taken from his book Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook, capture quieter attractions of the city.
I order café au lait and Perrier, and the waiter puts a basket of croissants on the table. Some mornings it is raining, and those mornings are the best, because if you can sit in an outdoor café, under the awning, just inches away from the rain, and drink café au lait, you can recapture, I am convinced, the ancient feeling of the cave, of being safe and warm while it is cold outside. Cats will sit for hours in a window and look complacently at the rain inches from their nose.
Such quieter moments still exist amid the bustle within Cannes, and amplify the city’s uniqueness (although September’s likelihood of rain is lower than for the two months that follow).
The festival opens at 10.00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 10th, and ends at 6.00 p.m. on Sunday September 15th. It is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings until 7.00 p.m., and on Friday until 10.00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online. Those showing up to the Port Canto Sailing Area between 10.00 and 11.00 a.m. will be allowed into that area for free.