Tourism - Recreational boatingTourism - Recreational boating
Recreational yachting (2009-2012)
Author: Frédérique Turbout
Translation: Louis Shurmer-Smith

Number of leisure boats (2009)

Number of marinas (2012)

Channel area: 1 326 765

French side: 339 862

English side: 986 903

Channel area: 126

French side: 80

English side: 43

Channel Islands: 3


Yachting first came about in Cowes in 1815, and then in Le Havre in 1838, in this Channel area which is the birthplace of modern seaside tourism. It was above all the reserve of a well-off clientele, an elite. As it developed and democratised, the activity gradually "colonised" the coast, initially making use of existing port infrastructures before creating its own specific zones over time.

There are now some 126 marinas with fixed mooring facilities along the Channel coastlines, as well as myriad free moorings using the natural shelters of the coast – rias and estuaries. And yet the number of moorings is inadequate given the increasing number of registered boats, even if many boats only head out a few days a year on average.


 Figure n° 1: Recreational yachting in the Channel (2012)



There are thus more than 1.3 million boats registered in the zone, three-quarters of which on the English side. But while there are more boats on the English side, France has more ports – particularly in Basse-Normandie and Bretagne. These are major tourist attractions for countless coastal municipalities. The Channel is therefore one of the world's top yacht basins.


 Figure n° 2: Total number of yachtsmen (2009)




This pleasure boating activity – whether involving sailing boats or motorboats – generates, alongside conventional jobs, specialist jobs, ever more innovative activities using the most cutting-edge technologies for developing materials that can withstand extreme sailing conditions, and new increasingly resistant hulls, designed for the major ocean races... For the Channel area is also the starting point of prestigious, world-famous races.

19 major solo or crew regattas or races set off from the Channel ports: the Tall Ships Race, the Route du Rhum, the Transat Jacques Vabre or La Solitaire du Figaro are all events bringing the public into contact with this world of sailing. When the great racing boats cross the imaginary line connecting Lizard Point to Créac'h lighthouse on the island of Ushant after several weeks at sea, they are welcomed by an enormous crowd of fans who never miss their arrival.

The Solent – and more generally the whole of the Channel – has become famous because of these races and regattas, thus becoming part of a longstanding history of great sailors.


 Figure n° 3: Modelling the Solent / Central Channel leisure sailing basin