The vast ocean was dotted with nearly 74 sailboats as the three-day ‘Sailing the East Coast’ – an Indo-French regatta kick-started on Thursday.
Chief Minister V.Narayanasamy and Ambassador of France to India Alexandre Ziegler flagged off the international competition.
Nearly 74 participants from Chennai, Hyderabad, Bhopal and Puducherry in India and France, the US and Reunion Island took part in the competition.
There were five classes of sailboats — the Optimist class sailboats for the children aged 8, 9 and 10 years, followed by a fleet of Laser 4.7 and Laser Radical and then by International 420. The largest sailboats were the Sea Birds.
Mr.Naryanasamy said that this initiative taken up in collaboration with the Tourism Department brought the memory of the French in Puducherry back.
“We have always cherished the Indo-French cultural collaboration and the hospitality of French,” he said.
He added that nearly 20% of tourists coming to Puducherry are foreigners and events like sailing regatta would help in bonding.
One of the flagship programmes of Bonjour India 2017, ‘Sailing the East Coast’ will be held from January 25 till 28. Mr. Ziegler said they would aim at hosting this event every year in Puducherry, inviting sailors from world over to participate. “This will become a world class event. Sailors from France and India can meet and compete,” he said.
He added that the event received immediate support and sponsorship once it was announced. “This is an event to highlight cooperation of sports, technology and tourism,” he said.
Organised by the Pondicherry Sailing Association, a regatta consists of 10 individual races in a fleet racing format. The sailor who excels in all the series of races will be declared the overall winner. Competitors are expected to go around a course that is trapezoidal in shape for a distance of 3 km, with each race lasting about an hour.
Olympic champion Felix Pruvot along with five to six national champions from France coached Indian sailors and Puducherry children from January 18 to 24.