Before being held in Brest, the first festivals had their origins in the depths of the roadstead. It all began in 1980, in Pors Beac'h, a peaceful cove near the mouth of the Daoulas river. A handful of old rigger enthusiasts gave a new lease of life to a small fleet of traditional sailing boats and met up in the summer to joyfully celebrate these witnesses to maritime culture.

1982, then 1984: the gathering became a major event with over 10,000 visitors and attracted more and more boats. Two years later, 400 sailboats met up and set sail for Douarnenez, which organised a major maritime and cultural festival in 1986 and again in 1988 - the first of its kind in France.

It was then that the magazine Chasse-Marée launched the "Bateaux des Côtes de France" (France’s coastal boats) competition. It was the dawn of an exceptional event, a unique phenomenon. More than 100 maritime heritage craft were rebuilt or restored by shipyards.

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98.76% satisfaction rate

boats present
new visitors

Brest 1992

Unprecedented, joyful, solemn, the first edition of Brest’s Maritime Festival gave pride of place to emotions and memories. For the first time, the Penfeld river, reserved for the French Navy, was open to the public. The highlight of the Festival was the baptism of the Recouvrance, a faithful replica of a 19th century schooner aviso built by the Guip shipyard. To the delight of visitors, brass bands, artists and marine craftsmen mingled on the quaysides. The Festival closed with a grand finale: hundreds of boats sailed abreast to Douarnenez in a gigantic parade. An amazing spectacle never before seen by either seafarers or landlubbers!

Brest 96

Four years passed and Brest – also known as the Cité de Ponant – prepared for some even more spectacular experiences. Sailors from all walks of life and all trades came together to celebrate the sea in every form: tall ships, workboats, warships, pleasure yachts, dinghies… 2,500 boats, 17,000 sailors docked in Brest to the delight of the one million visitors who came to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a well-known three-masted barque, the Belem, and the rebirth of Notre-Dame-de-Rumengol, which has since been listed as a historic monument.

Brest 2020, 2004 et 2008

Edition after edition, the magic continues. Boats, sailors, musicians, spectators, young and old, experienced and novice alike, all have a passion for the celebrations that never fail to produce surprises and wonderment.

In 2000, the Sedov, the world’s largest training sailing ship, and the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle – along with junks and other dragon boats – demonstrated the immense diversity of the world’s maritime heritage and the Brest roadstead was illuminated by thousands of lights as a night maritime parade passed by.

The 2004 event resonated with Brazilian rhythms and, despite the capricious sun, everyone admired the prowess of an armada as joyful as it was cosmopolitan. The spectacle continued in 2008. New to some visitors, a repeat experience for others. On land and at sea, lovers of the sea and maritime traditions flocked from the four corners of the globe with the same spirit of sharing and pride.

Brest 2012

When celebrating its 20th anniversary, Brest’s International Maritime Festival reached new heights, making the event the biggest maritime festival ever organised – a real Universal Maritime Exhibition. The roadstead saw the world’s largest sailing ships, the fastest racing boats and ships never before seen on the French coast, such as the St Petersburg, the Russian icebreaker and a colourful multitude of small Indonesian boats.

On land, exhibitions and events covered 90 hectares with a Terre & Mer village, a Science village, marquees hosting more than 3,800 musicians and artists. The quaysides resounded with the sounds of the bagadoù and brass bands, not to mention sea shanties sung by sailors from all over the world… The huge parade between Brest and Douarnenez brought 3,000 boats together and the images of this enthusiastically celebrated anniversary travelled across the world.

Brest 2016

The maritime cluster teams managed to preserve a range of exceptional boats (including the unforgettable Hermione) while balancing the site between Penfeld and the Brittany region catchment area. Contests and parades, as always, offered a unique spectacle visible both at sea and on the quayside.

On land the cultural and musical entertainment teams provided an eclectic programme to create a unique atmosphere combining tradition and novelties.

The success of the 2016 edition proves that, in all these aspects, the organisation – in its broadest sense – found the resources to offer the public, businesses and the media all the ingredients for a wonderful festival.

This would not have been possible without the efforts of numerous players generating an exceptional territorial dynamic that brought together local and regional authorities, government departments, associations and the economy around the event, in addition to the organisation itself.

The exit survey carried out by Confidences revealed a record satisfaction rate with an average of 98.76% and 4 days slightly over 99%. These figures are not straightforward to announce because they look as if they are an organiser’s fantasy – but in fact they are very real and proof, if any were needed, that the public found exactly what they were looking for.