Aquabelle and Les Voiles d’Antibes
In the Spring of 2018 Alain, French co-owner of Aquabelle received an invitation to take her to the prestigious classic yacht event “Les Voiles d’Antibes, held each year in June. She would have a specific role to carry VIPs to sea each of the 4 days of the event to give them a close view of the racing whilst enjoying the experience of being on board a historic motor yacht. Having recently created much interest at another maritime festival, L’Escale à Sète in early April, it would seem that Aquabelle’s special story was spreading around the Mediterranean.
Alain and friends started preparing Aquabelle for the voyage, which would take her from her base port of Palavas Les Flots, close to Montpellier in Languedoc, to Antibes - some 160 Nautical Miles east along the French Mediterranean coast. When checking her venerable, and probably unique, engines Alain discovered to his horror that one of the 4 fuel injection pumps was seized internally and had suffered extensive corrosion. With less than 3 weeks before sailing and no spares of substitutes (designed in 1930’s) Alain dismantled the pump and with copious application of WD40 plus patient manipulation of the pistons over the course of several days the pump was declared fit for service, a nervous two weeks before the event.
In contrast, the 5-day voyage was incident–free. Alain and his crew of Christian and Jean-Michel from Les Amis de L’Aquabelle enjoyed a pleasant and calm journey apart for some large waves off Cape Sicié, close to Toulon, which Alain described as being better than on a Ferris wheel! En route they spent two nights at St Tropez where Aquabelle’s beautiful and unusual presence created much interest, particularly attracting the media, both newspaper and television.
Reaching Antibes, Aquabelle and crew received a warm welcome from the organisers and they were allocated a prime berth in the old harbour close to the gathering of classic racing yachts of all sizes and ages.
Unfortunately, post-voyage checks revealed a weeping oil pipe on the starboard engine, which needed speedy temporary repair, made much more difficult by imperial dimensions in a metric world!
At the beginning of the event Aquabelle and crew were joined by co-owner Colin plus wife Sue and eldest son Stephen, who had flown in from the UK to enjoy this special occasion.
On each of the 4 days of the event, Aquabelle followed the flotilla of yachts to sea and gave a grandstand view of the glorious sight of around 30 yachts in 4 classes racing sequentially over the same course. Beautiful weather, sparkling seas with just enough wind to allow good racing with the yachts heeling under full sail and powering downwind with spinnakers adding to the colour of the scene. On return, the guests were treated to a long lunch seated in Aquabelle’s roomy wheelhouse lubricated by much wine and spirits.
Aquabelle enjoyed a constant stream of visitors during the event. Of special significance was being able to welcome Sally, the daughter of a previous owner, Roy Simon, who took Aquabelle to Dunkirk for the first Commemorative Crossing in 1965. This was a visit full of strong emotions and memories. Sally had spent many happy hours aboard Aquabelle when she was based in Poole, Dorset and experienced several channel crossings including a cruise to Paris.
A four-day voyage by Alain and crew Jean-Michel saw Aquabelle back at her summer mooring at the mouth of the River Lez at Palavas-les Flots, contemplating an invitation to return to Antibes for next year’s event!