Many will be familiar with La Tranche sur Mer as one of France’s most popular windsurfing locations. Located on the west coast behind the Ile de Re (home of Antoine Albeau)and about 20 miles north of La Rochelle, it experiences a micro climate which seems to boost both temperature and sea breeze. One of the attractions of the area is that it is ideal for families and offers something for everyone whether a windsurfer or not. My son Rich and I have had some fantastic sailing there.
Despite La Tranche being a popular location many of the locals go to a spot around the corner to the north of the town known as Le Phare (look for the lighthouse). Le Phare is a more exposed and very beautiful beach which we sail at whenever possible on our annual trips to the area. In the right conditions it can produce pretty good wave sailing but generally is more suited to bump and jump sailing. This guide highlights Le Phare with a few notes about La Tranche.
|Windy Season||Sea breeze May to August|
|Water Temp In Summer||18 degrees May – August.|
|Air Temp In Summer||21 degrees (70 fahrenheit)|
|Wet Suit?||Summer suit is perfect|
|Flight Time (From UK)||90 minutes to La Rochelle.|
- How To Get There
There are a number of ways to get to La Tranche most of which we have tried over the years but currently Speed Ferries from Dover to Boulogne are the cheapest ferry (£102 return for a long wheel base van and 4 passengers on a Bank Holiday weekend). From Boulogne it’s 400miles of wide open auto route. Other options include:
- Longer day or overnight crossings from Portsmouth and Pool to Cherbourg or St Malo
- Ryanair fly to La Rochelle. Rich did this last year and ended up in Bergerac when La Rochelle was the only foggy place in all of Europe. Car hire is about £100 a week.
- How The Wind Works
Generally the prevailing wind is boosted by a sea breeze particularly when it comes from the West through to North-west and this kicks up the wind by another force or two. Typically the sea breeze kicks in from about 3pm when a 10-12 mph wind becomes 16-18mph. Le Phare can be sailed in any onshore breeze from South-South-west through to North but it is best in a North-west. The sea breeze works on most sunny days from mid May through to at least the end of August. At La Tranche the same wind directions apply but it does suffer from an inshore wind shadow when there is any north in the wind.
- The Sailing Spots
La Tranche Beach faces: South-west South-east Best wind direction: North-west through West South-west Not good: Any offshore direction. If it is South-west it is often better to sail in La Tranche from the Ecole de Voile (sailing school site.) Fees: No fees, even the car park is free which is typical of the area. Tide: Best sailed at mid to high tide. No rips or currents, just normal tidal flow evident. Any state of the tide is fine. What’s on the bottom: A lovely foot-ripping rocky platform. Lovely sand. Any hazards?: Non other than the above and a few lobster pot lines and some very large jelly fish! Other water users: Plenty of kite surfers most of whom are very competent. On a busy day there can be up to about 25 kite surfers and the same number of windsurfers. Upwind in a North-west there can also be a number of surfers at mid tide. Generally only French folk sail at Le Phare which is one of the great attractions. Le Tranche can be very busy with upwards of 50 beginners and intermediates all reaching back and forth. There will also be quite a number of catamaran teaching groups on the water. All in all it can get very busy. Suitability/levels: Intermediate to advanced Beginner upwards Wipeout factor: . No more than anywhere else. A kit failure will result in a swim as there are not generally any powerboats to help out. At La Tranche there are always powerboats around including the safety boats from the Ecole de Voile to give you a ride back in.
Over the years La Tranche has been host to many national and international events with one of the most spectacular being the annual ‘Raid’ when over 200 windsurfers race the 10 miles to the Isle de Re.
- Water State
Le Phare can offer pretty good wind driven waves which are created by a reef to the north of the launch area. To work well the wind needs to be in the West to North quadrant. La Tranche is generally a flat water or bump & jump location.
- Instruction And Kit Hire
Instruction: Not at Le Phare but there is in La Tranche at the Ecole de Voile by the main beach. Five sessions cost approximately 100 euro.
Camping is the name of the game! Most campsites have very good facilities including swimming pools which are great for non windsurfers.One of the best is Baie d’Aunis 100 yards from the beach behind the Ecole de Voile in La Tranche.
If you can read French, this is a good site:www.tranche.net but otherwise the Tourist Office speak English if you didn’t pay attention in French class.
[email protected] Tel. 02 51 30 33 96
There are numerous places to eat across a whole range of budgets. One of our favourites is Le Phare Ouest in the main street of La Tranche.
Eating out, street entertainers, a couple of nightclubs or just walking on the beach – something for everyone.
- Bored Of Windsurfing
Because of the sea breeze effect at Le Phare and the cleaner wind, it is often the case that folk in La Tranche will have had a pretty poor day whereas a day at Le Phare has been excellent.
Le Phare is frequented by the local French guys who are very friendly. Pierry, the owner of Funtoys, is the local kiteboard shaper and has a wealth of experience. Originally a windsurfer he spends the winters in Tarifa and the summer in La Tranche. Call into the shop for advice on the best spots to sail but you will need a bit of French language.
As a family we have been going to La Tranche for many years. The swimming pool is 50yds one way, the town centre 400yds another and the beach 100yds the other way, and Le Phare two miles round the corner – ideal!
Paul & Rich Hoey
Paul: I’m an education adviser for Norfolk County Council responsible for Outdoor Education and a number of community sport projects whilst Rich is a Sports Development Officer in Suffolk. We generally sail at Hunstanton or Wells but Rich will also sail other wave spots. I reckon he has a problem sailing in a straight line, he calls it freestyle but in reality it’s his way of not acknowledging I’m faster. Truth is I’m rubbish but it’s all about having a great time!