Fete des Yoles

2-8-16 Fete Des Yoles visits Anse D’Arlets.

Wonderfully whilst we were there, the ‘Fete des Yules’came to our sleepy Anse D’Arlets. An annual festival of boats, (as far as we can gather) it starts over the weekend & moves around the island day by day. With a lot of preparation being undertaken while we were in Anse d”Arlets –  lots of colourful marquees on the promenade, and a hive of activity – we realised it was something big, but all we could understand was it was for ‘Les Bateaus’. It turns out this is an annual boat race with eighteen traditional wooden boats racing in a series. With everyone else who owns a boat on the whole island also present to watch, and the rest observing from land, it is an event to rival the feel of Cowes Week, but with sun & reggae. 😎

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We initially took the dinghy out into the mêlée of small boats as the racing Yoles made their way past Grande Anse. Nervous about our petrol capacity, plus the increasing size of waves in the churned up sea, we soon headed back to shore and walked the short distance round to the next bay, Anse D’Arlets, for the finish.

Martinique certainly knows how to put on a fete. With all the marquees put to use for street vendors and the band, it was jam packed with every gendarme on the island also present. The security surrounding the event was reassuring (or worrying depending on your perspective) with gendarme searching everyone entering and the festival area cordoned off.

There was a wonderful vibe on the street with a plethora of food stalls accompanied by a very loud all pervading reggae beat. Fighting our way to the beach with impeccable timing we were in the perfect position for the finish line. The leading Yoles ran to a close finish and the crews drove the boats straight into the beach to the delight of the awaiting crowds who flocked to their team.

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This is a physically demanding series, the crews race for hours on a boat where strength is key. Steering is by a lone man sat at the back with a large rudder/paddle that he steers by hand, the sail being balanced out by about 12 guys who all put out poles and hang off the ends as required. We saw more than one go belly up, taken out by the strong winds off island.

We were so lucky to have timed our visit to coincide with this festival, it was very memorable event. We timed ur departure from Martinique the next day so we could once again be part of the entourage of accompanying boats as the next race began & the Fete went on its way to the next destination.

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