Imagine more than 500 sailboats of all shapes and sizes lined up across the narrowest point of Lake Geneva. They are circling around, the tense skippers shouting ‘Tribord! Tribord! Laissez de la place! Priorité!”, as everyone jockeys to be as close to the starting line, but not over it when the gun fires. And when it does, everyone springs to action; sight and sound are transformed as the boats align to the wind, and the flapping sound of the luffing sails becomes the sound of all those hulls slicing through the water.
When we’re not up in the mountains, you’ll find us down by the lake. Lakes are Switzerland’s other gem, and if the Alps aren’t enough to draw you here, then the idea of sailing on a huge lake surrounded by mountains certainly should.
The Bol d’Or Mirabaud is a marathon of a regatta that draws over 500 amateur and professional boats to race from Geneva to the far end of the lake and back. The course is 123 kilometers (or 66.5 nautical miles) by the shortest distance, and takes most boats all day and most of the night to complete - if they do. This year’s edition takes place 14-16 June, 2013.
The race started in 1939 with 26 boats, and the winner crossing the finish line after a little more than 23 hours. The fastest record is now just over 5 hours, by a mostly-carbon fibre catamaran. The fastest monohull that has ever completed did it in just under 9 hours. The year I competed with my dad on his boat, we took 19 hours, but our reward for hours and hours of patiently not moving in the lightest of winds was a moonlit return to Geneva under spinnaker. I will never forget the sight of dozens of spinnakers on all sides of us, illuminated by moonlight and silently gliding home together at five in the morning.
Join us for a trip in Switzerland this summer and we’ll make sure you get out on the lake for a sail, a pedalo ride or some Stand Up Paddling right past the coolest castle around. If you are up for it, a place on a Bol d’Or boat can be arranged, or we can enjoy an apéro on the sailboat while we watch the sunset from the middle of the lake with mountain silhouettes on all sides.
- started 1939, with 26 boats, winner: 23h08’
- in 2011 512 boats (over 500 boats since 1987)
- bol d’or challenge = winning 3 times in 5 years
- america’s cup sailors
- 2010 first female skipper and mostly female crew to win
- catamarans and monohulls
- 123 km or 66.5nautical miles by the shortest course
- fastest ever was 5h01 in 1994 on a multihull
- slowest winner took 19.5 hours
- fastest single hull 8h45
- Europe’s biggest freshwater sailing race