L’école des Glénans is a french sailing association, one of the biggest and most well known in Europe.
They operate mainly from the eponymous archipel des glénans, an archipelago located off the coast of Concarneau, south of Brittany. However, they have several other bases across the country: one near Vannes, one at Paimpol, and two at Marseillan and Bonifacio, in the Mediterranean sea.
They offer classes of usually one or two weeks, on various supports ranging from small dinghies and sailboards to actual keelboats and yachts.
An interesting part of the school is that it aims to be more than a sailing club: it tries to teach the people who joins it, not only about sail and boats, but about the sea, nature, and life.
The archipelago is small and isolated from the mainland, linked only by a few boats. Most of the day-to-day activities, such as food preparation and cleaning, are accomplished by the trainees themselves, who are expected to participate in those supervised activities a set number of days during their week.
The organization also tried, especially in later years, to develop environmental awareness, and a sense of responsibility toward the sea and ecology, through various studies and workshops.
But the big specificity of this school is its extreme reliance on volunteering.
Beyond a small group of around 100 employees, most of the activities are accomplished by volunteers. This include most of the teaching, fleet and site maintenance, cooking, opening and closing the bases for winter, supplying the isolated isles with food and material, animation, and much more. All in all, it’s more than a thousand volunteers from every age and background that comes every year to make the association run.
It’s the first place I volunteered in, and probably one of the big reasons why I am currently here. So, with the sea now far away and all activities cancelled because of the virus, I thought I might as well share a bit of illustrated nostalgia.