On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the inhabitants of La Rochelle, turned out in force to watch the fleet of Volvo Ocean 60s arrive in the Basin des Chalutiers, adjacent to the Volvo Ocean Race village.
This tidal basin is protected by lock gates and tidal restrictions prevented the fleet arriving at the race village any sooner than today.
After an extremely fast, 3,400 nautical mile race across the Atlantic from Annapolis, USA, which saw leg winner illbruck breaking the world 24-hour speed record and the fleet arriving two days earlier than expected, the boats were berthed at La Pallice service port, some 15 minutes drive from the centre of La Rochelle, where the podium awards were presented to the first three boats immediately after arrival.
Today at the Basin des Chalutiers, a crowd of 5,000 people thronged the quay wall, three deep, and gathered en masse either side of the lock gates. The arrival pontoon was packed with supporters and shore crew waiting to throw lines and hovering, fenders in hand. In typical French style loud rock music from Anastasia, which is fast becoming established as the music of the La Rochelle stopover, was played, signifying the imminent arrival of the fleet, which paraded individually into the Basin in reverse leg finishing order. Each boat motored quietly through the lock gates, battle flags flying, turned a circle and reversed into their berths stern to, whilst each team's theme music was played to an applauding and enthusiastic crowd.
Each racing team has been allotted a business club to look after their every need during their stay in La Rochelle, and business club members from La Pallice Club, the Lagord Club, the Minimes Club, the Aytre Club and the Perigny Club were waiting on the dock with champagne to celebrate the arrivals.
The race village, which opened today, has seen 9,000 people pass through the gates. It is situated on three sides of the Basin des Chalutiers which is located immediately next to the Old Port of La Rochelle.
The atmosphere was set for a fun-packed stopover in this charming French port.