The first ships taking parts in this yearâ€™s Armanda Festival in Rouen are on their way up the River Seine and will dock tonight (Wednesday 05 June) for the start of the event on Thursday.
Some 45 boats, including some of the worldâ€™s most famous ships, will be in the city until the 16 June for the sixth edition of the Armada Festival that attracts millions of visitors to the quaysides of Rouen.
They include a mixture of modern warships and traditional sailing craft and the free event includes concerts, fireworks and visits aboard the ships.
There is also a grant processes ion along the Seine with the crews of the ships taking part in the sailorsâ€™ parade as part of the â‚¬10 million festival.
There has been some talk this year about the costs at a time when France is in its second recession of recent years and government cutbacks are affecting everyone, especially families but the organisers said that it has a feel good factor with the public being able to enjoy access to the 10 day long even for free and only part of the funding comes from the taxpayer.
The Upper Normandy Regional Council, the Seine-Maritime County Council, the Rouen-Elbeuf-Austreberthe Urban Authority (CREA) and the Municipality of Rouen fund the event jointly to the tune of â‚¬3.5 million. The rest comes from private sponsors and partnerships.
â€˜Funding is a delicate matter in the current economic context but the event is free and allows everyone to take part. It is Armada is a major tourist event, covered by media from throughout the world so it showcases the city and the region,â€™ said a spokesman.
â€˜Over the past 25 years the Armada has become one of the most important events in the nautical world. Along with the Tour de France it is an event that is free to the public and attracts a lot of people,â€™ the spokesman explained.
He pointed out that new this year is a new section along the quays in Hangar H2O that highlights the region’s assets.â€˜But most of all it offers an unique opportunity to visit the most beautiful and tallest sailing ships in the world as well as attend many free and entertaining activities,â€™ he added.
The Armada will be the first gathering of tall ships of the 2013 season. Most of the ships present during the Armada will then sail to the Netherlands before they start the Tall Shipâ€™s Race at the beginning of July that will go from Denmark to Finland, Latvia and Poland in less than a month.
â€˜The Armada is the most beautiful nautical gathering in the world. For 10 days, the tallest sailing ships and the most modern warships, coming from all over the world, will moor along the quays to offer free visits. Seeing the sailors perched on the masts and yard arms, singing their national anthems creates a lot of emotion,â€™ said Patrick Herr, president and founder of the association Armada de la LibertÃ©.
â€˜The whole region benefits from the impact on the tourism industry. Today, when we speak about Rouen, we speak about the Armada, it is a must see. Rouen and the Armada are from now on together on the same boat,â€™ he added.
This year the event includes the Kruzenshtern, the second largest sailing ship in the world, 114.5 meters, and the Monge, the largest ship that can presently moor along the quays in Rouen.
The event was created in 1989 and is the largest gathering of sailing ships in the world. The ships sail up the Seine covering 120 kilometres before reaching Rouen and passing under three bridges.