Gulf Week 2023. The major issue of safety on the water. Behind the scenes of the event

For a week, more than 1300 boats sail in the Gulf of Morbihan. Difficult waters, where there are many pitfalls. The safety of such an event is a major issue. How is it organised? What means are deployed? Diving into the heart of the device.

Bruno is a semi-rigid pilot. He is in charge of one of the 80 boats coordinated by the Gulf Week organization. Its mission is to transport journalists from one point to another or to allow them to film the flotillas. And Bruno is serious about safety: “Do you have all your vests?” “We remain seated during navigation!”. It must be said that since the arrival of the last Route du Rhum, and the accident which cost the lives of 2 people, the rules have become tougher on gatherings of boats.

From now on the organizers of maritime events require that the pilots of the boats which transport people have a particular diploma: the BACPN (Certificate of aptitude for the conduct of small ships). A diploma that has existed for 5 years, but which until the end of last year was not often required. Today it has become essential, which does not make life easier for organizers, who sometimes struggle to find candidates.

Bruno explains to us that this diploma “requires a course that lasts three weeks and is relatively expensive: 2,000 euros”. Not everyone is ready to take the leap.

Safety on the water is not just about transporting people, it’s also about being able to quickly provide assistance to boats that need it. For this, 80 boats are mobilized and crisscross the Gulf every day.
Kevin and Alexandre pilot one of them. During the opening parade, they made about ten interventions. “Essentially desalinations” says Kevin. And then navigation in the Gulf is full of pitfalls: “There is not much bottom and many sandbanks. Even for us, without a map it would be difficult”.

From the top of his control tower on the quays of Port Blanc, it is Philippe Carrère who coordinates all the boats in the organisation. He is responsible for the safety at sea of ​​the 1,300 registered vessels. A heavy mission:

“The major risk is overcrowding. Because while all the crews registered for Gulf Week are briefed every day, there are also a good third of boaters on the water. I’m not saying that they are not sailors, but they don’t necessarily know what they’re going to come across, and whether they’re going to find themselves in the middle of a flotilla of 200 boats, and so the biggest risk is that they don’t necessarily know where go, let them speed up and make waves on the little 3-meter boats.”

Philippe Carrère remembers a rather serious accident in 2013 where the Cross and Civil Security had to intervene. “But it’s quite rare. The most complicated thing to manage is the multiplicity of small incidents simultaneously on the body of water when 1,300 boats are sailing at the same time”.

And Philippe Carrère to recall the useful VHF channels for sailors during the week of the Gulf. Channel 77 is the event channel, for all the information. Each fleet also has its frequency. In case of great difficulty, channel 16, that of the Cross, takes over.

In addition, maritime affairs, the gendarmes of the sea, also ensure proper compliance with the rules on the water and will be able to carry out checks, including alcohol levels, throughout the event, so that the party remains a party.

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