A cooperative that trialled a sailing yacht passenger ferry between Corsica and the French mainland in 2022 is returning for a second year – but plans for a similar service across the Channel have been delayed.
By mid-April, when the Corsica ferry started, half of the 20,000 places available for the 2023 season had been taken.
Aimed at holidaymakers who want to minimise their carbon footprint, Sailcoop operates yachts accommodating eight passengers and two crew.
Double price of ferry
Prices are roughly double that of an ordinary ferry to Corsica – €240 per person in a double cabin for a Sunday crossing (€216 reduced rate).
The journey can take much longer too, with estimates of between 16 and 24 hours, depending on wind and sea conditions.
The service operates between the mainland port of Saint-Raphaël, near Fréjus, and Calvi, Corsica, with one boat scheduled per day until the end of the season in September.
Sailcoop is also planning a cross-Atlantic voyage between Saint-Raphaël and the Caribbean island of Martinique, departing on November 5 with a return pencilled in for March 2024.
However, founder Maxime de Rostolan told The Connexion that he is not yet certain it will take place: “There was a lot of demand for the crossing and it seemed a good idea to use the boat. However, this year we found we could not sell enough tickets for the MartiniqueGuadeloupe service we wanted to run while we were there. Obviously, the yacht has to earn its keep, so we are considering our options.”
Other medium-distance routes the company is looking at are between France and Ireland and France and the Balearic Islands, but nothing has been confirmed.
For shorter distances, such as between the French mainland and the Breton and Vendée islands, Sailcoop has commissioned a new catamaran.
Work on it is due to start in June, with the expectation it will enter service in 2024.
The co-operative hopes to sell the construction plans for this craft to other operators around the world for similar shortferry work.
It will have an all-electric engine as back-up and for manoeuvres in port.
Battle with authorities
Sailcoop is currently locked in battle with French authorities over the rules and regulations of the service.
It has been opposed by other ferry companies, which say the law does not permit yachts to be used commercially on regular lines unless they are fully registered as passenger ships.
At the moment, Sailcoop is operating only after being given special dispensation to do so until 2024, because the initiative contributes to France’s goal of using less fossil fuel.
“By sailing on our boat, passengers cut their carbon footprint for the trip by 95%,” said Mr de Rostolan.
“We are a niche, and ferry boats take 2,500 passengers at a time, but we have to show that alternatives are available.
“Plus, travelling under sail is a wonderful experience for most of our passengers, 80% of whom have never been on a yacht before.”
It is selling shares in the co-operative for €10. In related news, the company that tested a sail crossing between Dover and Boulognesur-Mer last year also hopes to operate again this year, but admits there have been delays.
SailLink is in the process of buying a new boat capable of carrying up to 10 passengers and two crew, which should be faster than the catamaran used last year.
It expects to cross the Channel in three-and-a-half hours, for just over €100.
“Some of the crossings last year were longer than we would have liked,” said Andrew Simons, one of the firm’s founders.
“We realised we needed a bigger, faster boat but getting one, paying for it, and getting it up to scratch is all taking longer than hoped.
“We aim to start the service in the summer, but do not have a date yet.”