Ile d'Yeu 46.44N 2.21W Vendee

Arrival at Port JoinvileeRace boats arrive in Ile d’yeuJ97. Pickwick WinnersPetain GraveClassic Citroen

We set sail from Lorient bound for the beautiful island of Ile d'Yeu in the Bay of Biscay on Friday 1st July. Initially the weather was grey and we could not help but notice black clouds ahead over La Belle Ile. The wind was supposed to go west but it stayed stubbornly on the nose as we punched tide past the Quiberon peninsula. However fortunately as we past Ile Hedic and left La Belle Ile behind the wind did turn west as forecast and we enjoyed a perfect reach in the sunshine all the way to Port Joinville on Ile d'Yeu. As we approached I had to change our courtesy flag as we had now left Britany and were in the Vendee. Upon arriving in Port I remarked to Rima that the only land to the West of us was the Caribbean to which she replied quoting Steven Spielberg, "We are going to need a bigger boat!"

Ile d'Yeu is little known to English tourists but popular with the French who have a lot of quaint white washed holiday cottages cottages on the island. The Island has strong fishing industry and has long been a sanctuary for artists who exhibit their work in small galleries dotted around the port. The island is remarkably unspoilt and under developed. The are no formal resorts or high rise buildings of any sort and hardly any shops or shops or bar etc outside the main port making the island a tranquil haven for wildlife.

While preparing supper on the boat in the marina the next evening we were surprised and delighted to see race boats starting to arrive, La Course Croisiere des Ports Vendeens was in town! We watched as 50 JPK's, Sun Fasts and racing Beneteaus expertly moored in close formation from the safe vantage point of our finger pontoon berth.

We waived to a fellow J97 named "Pickwick" who was amongst the early arrivals. We were honoured when the owners walked over to our pontoon to introduce themselves. We were invited back to their boat for a local Vendee aperitif. It was great to compare notes with a fellow J97 owner. When the race results came through it turned out that Pickwick was the winner of their class and we joined with them in celebrating!

Ile d'Yeu is also famous for being the place where Marshall Petain is buried. He made his name commanding the French army at the battle of Verdun in the First World War and was a very influential French politician before his fall from grace during World War Two.

During World War two while the Nazis occupied the north of France, Petain led so called Vichy government in the centre and south of the country. Despite having autonomy from German policies, Petain passed legislation that saw Jews subject to severe discrimination similar to that in the Nazi held north. Under Petain, the Vichy regime put to death up to 15,000 people and helped deport 80,000. He was sentenced to death for treason following a war crimes trial after the war but General de Gaulle commuted his death sentence to that of life imprisonment on Ile d'Yeu in view of his World War One record.

Petain died in a private home on Ile d'Yeu in 1951 aged 95. In February 1973 his coffin and remains were stolen from the Ile d'Yeu cemetery by extremists, who demanded that President Georges Pompidou consent to its re-internment at Douaumont cemetery among the war dead of the first world war dead of the Verdun battle in which he successfully commanded the French army. Local Police retrieved the coffin some days later under mysterious circumstances as no one was very charged for the offence, and it was ceremoniously reburied with a presidential wreath in the same Ile d'Yeu cemetery as before! However his grave continues to be vandalised from time to time to this current day.

On Ile d’yeu most people cycle, or if they drive, the most fashionable car is a vintage Citroen Mehari. We purchased a picture from a local artist who specialises in the Japanese art of Gyotaku which essentially involves covering a dead fish with ink and use it to print an image on paper. It looks better than it sounds! The artist delivered the picture to the marina for us and turned up in her bright yellow Mehari. Rima just could not resits sitting in it for a photo.

The weather has been lovely on the island. We are off to our favourite beach tomorrow on hired bikes. We leave the day after for Les Sables-d'Olonne home of the Vendee Globe race before start the long trip back north to Weymouth.

Mark and Rima Bugler. Saskia VII

Submitted on Monday, 4th July