The famous site of the Glenan Archipelago
With its semi-closed stretch of water, its translucent waters and its preserved islands, the Glenan Archipelago is the ideal setting for trainees to hone their sailing skills in an authentic atmosphere close to nature. A colourful ballet of sails circles around the Fort Cigogne, Penfret, Drenec and Bananec islands every day, with a superimposition and intermingling of masts.
6000 participants trained each summer
There is a training programme for everyone, from beginners and seasoned sailors to instructors. Some 6,000 participants hence learn the basics of sailing at the four sites on the archipelago every year. Volunteers account for 80% of the personnel supervising the training programmes! Open to trainees between April and October, the Glenan archipelago site operates all year round and has a permanent workforce of 10 persons based on the mainland. The Glenans school building in the Concarneau Harbour welcomes trainees all through the year and serves as a departure point for cruises visiting the islands around Brittany, England, Ireland … or the Antilles. ‘We have some 450 trainees at the same time in the full swing of summer, which means that over 8 tons of food must be shipped from the mainland every week,’ explains Yann Le Lay, the Glenan archipelago site manager. A skipper and a liaison team ensure the provision of fresh supplies to the islands aboard ‘L’Archipel’, a 12.50m-long trawler-like vessel. Over 4½ tons of bottled water are also shipped to the islands every week.
A fleet of 135 boats
On an overall, the Glenans Sailing School has around 135 boats in the archipelago. The modern and diverse fleet of the school comprises inhabitable cruise boats, catamarans (62 Hobie Cats, 14 Hobie Twixxy, 3 Tricat 22), sailing dinghies (16 Laser Vago, 18 Laser Solo, 6 Laser 2000 and 3 Twenty-Niners), 80 windsurfing boards and 25 Glenans 5.7 type boats for an introduction to cruise sailing. The fleet is renewed every year and in recent years, greater emphasis has been laid on windsurfing boards with the acquisition of 12 Kona One (for more technical riding), 12 Exocet Match and 4 Bic Techno boards for an introduction to fun boarding.
A well-structured organisation
Trainees are sent to the different sites on the Glenan Archipelago according to their age and training programme.
Located in the middle of the Room, the Fort Cigogne site welcomes adults for an introduction to cruise sailing and offers training programmes for instructors. Trainees have the privilege of sharing the premises of this former fort dating back to the 18th century. It is an ideal place to adapt to life in a community and to learn the basics of navigation before trying open-sea cruising.
Young trainees who are interested in an introduction to cruise sailing are welcomed on the Bananec islet, which is connected to the island of Saint Nicolas by a tombolo. They sleep in the dormitories of a U-shaped stone building and in large tents during the summer season.
Dormitories and tents are also available on the Penfret Island for young sailing and gliding enthusiasts.
Facing the island of Saint Nicolas, the Drenec site is devoted to the training of adult gliding enthusiasts, with accommodation in a former farm, a most authentic place to enjoy life in a community.
All hands on deck
Whether they are volunteers or employees working on land or on sea, the training personnel always works in the same bonded team spirit. The site manager, Tom Daune ensures the overall supervision of this hierarchical organisation from Concarneau. Each site is managed under the authority of the site manager, who ensures the educational monitoring and the coordination of the teamwork of volunteer instructors. The person in charge of nautical activities looks after the equipment, the training aspect and the running of the site. He also manages the planning and technical aspects. The stewards look after the stocks, the provision of fresh supplies and hygiene. They are in direct contact with the hostesses or hosts, who organise the meals and supervise the teams helping with domestic chores. They are part of the training personnel and have an integral contribution in the organisation of training courses.
Volunteers, the strength of CNG
These volunteer positions were created to give the chance to sailing enthusiasts without the means to pay to receive training in sailing. The initiative of the Glenans school aims at giving access to sailing to all. But the strength of the school rests its instructors. Some 800 volunteers in all and 70 of them on the archipelago take turns every summer to supervise the training and help in organising stays. They have different profiles and occupations and come from different regions but they all spend their summer holidays supervising trainees to share their passion and the values learnt at the Glenans school. Antoine, who is a project manager for an accounting firm in Paris, has thus supervised various training courses during his summer holidays. Before becoming a sailing instructor, he was a computer engineer. He chucked up everything to live his passion for sailing and doesn’t show any regret for making such a drastic change. ‘I wouldn’t give up this new life in the open air with passionate people and in an island atmosphere.’
Making sailing training more accessible
Right from the outset, the school has contributed to make sailing more accessible to all, especially to youngsters and women. Its particular training style is based on situational exercises and on the sharing of lessons from common experiences. Trainees and instructors learn together and constantly work on developing greater autonomy. Gender mixity was as much of an evidence for Philippe and Helene Viannay, who founded the school, as it was in the time of the Resistance.
Enhancing women in the world of sailing
From the early day, women could thus have claims to positions of responsibility based on merit – as instructors and as skippers, amongst others. All the positions at the Glenans Sailing School are open to women in a sports environment which was perceived as not fitting their abilities. Clarence, who is in charge of the sea activities at Fort Cigogne since a year and a half, has been a volunteer for 10 years before taking up a paid position within the association. This young woman coming from Grenoble has always been fond of wide spaces and has a craving for the sea. She immediately adhered to the spirit of solidarity prevailing in the community of sea people and has made herself a place among them. Clarence, who is the first woman to hold such a position, is thankful to Helene Viannay and Helen Mac Arthur who, according to her, have furthered the cause of gender equality in the community of sea people. ‘The main aim of the association, beyond providing participants with sailing skills, is to enable their personal development through life in a community and to encourage them to take responsibilities.’
Advancing safety at sea
The Glenans school is well-known for its know-how in terms of safety at sea, in the development of equipment and particularly for its influence on the practice of leisure crafting. It favoured the emergence of the first life jackets, of security briefings prior to setting off on a cruise or even the introduction of the duty of keeping a watch. The school continues to innovate and has produced a guidebook on Glenans training courses (Cours des Glenans), now in its sixth edition, which comprises 1,312 pages.
Adapting the boats to ease learning
To facilitate the acquisition of sailing skills, a journalist, Philippe Viannay and his wife have ordered a sailboat named ‘Vaurien’ (after his dog) from the naval architect, Jean-Jacques Herbulot, which will be a happening in the world of yachting. Other famous vessels are ‘La Caravelle’ and an inhabitable sailboat made of marine plywood named ‘Le Corsaire’. ‘Le Folavoalh’ is a 9.80m-long schooner with two same-sized masts which is specially adapted for the development of crew coordination abilities when doing manoeuvres. It can accommodate up to 9 crew members for introduction sessions to cruise sailing and for the training of instructors in the Glenan Archipelago.