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Les Sables-d'Olonne (Municipality, Vendée, France)

Last modified: 2020-06-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: sables-d'olonne (les) |
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Flag of Les Sables-d'Olonne - Image by Ivan Sache, 26 March 2020

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Presentation of Les Sables-d'Olonne

The new municipality of Les Sables-d'Olonne (43,219 inhabitants in 2016; 8,607 ha; municipal website) was established on 1 January 2019 as the merger of the former municipalities of Les Sables-d'Olonne (14,233 inh.; 870 ha), Château-d'Olonne (14,030 inh.; 3,129 ha) and Olonne-sur-Mer (14,956 inh.; 4,608 ha).

In 1218, Savary I of Mauléon founded a new town near the villages of La Chaume and Olonne; lord of Olonne, Savary was also lord of Talmont, whose port was silted up, and therefore needed a new port. Set up south of Olonne on the northern side of the coastal dunes, the new town, called Les Sables (lit., The Sands) attracted several traders and shipowners.
In 1472, King of France Louis XI decided that Les Sables-d'Olonne should be the main port of the kingdom; at the end of the 15th century, some 80-100 ships moored at Les Sables each year. From the 16th to the 18th century, the main activity of the port was whaling and cod fishing. In 1602, Les Sables-d'Olonne was made the seat of one of the eight élections (administrative divisions) of Lower-Poitou.
Louis XIV's wars seriously hampered trade and fishing in Les Sables; in 1690, the town was bombed by an Anglo-Dutch fleet, with limited damage, though. In the 18th century, the funders of the port activity withdrew to Nantes and the port started to silt up. From 1750 onwards, the entrance of the port was revamped and the town was protected from floods by a system of wharfs and quays.
During the French Revolution, Les Sables-d'Olonne remained loyal to the Republic and was threatened from sea by the English fleet and from land by the Catholic Royal Army, that attacked the town on 24 and 29 March 1793, to no avail. The situation of the town did not improve during the First Empire because of the Continental System set up by Napoléon I and the persistent English threat.

The town reemerged in the first quarter of the 19th century; sea bathing was regulated for the first time in 1816, while the first sea resorts and "bathing machines" appeared in 1825. Published in 1854, the Guide historique et pittoresque du baigneur aux Sables- d'Olonne (The Historical and Picturesque Guide of the Swimmer in Les Sables-d'Olonne) contributed to the fame of the resort in Paris and the main western towns. From 1854 to 1863, the port was modernized for pilchard and tuna fishing; the famous canning factories Amieux and Maingourd date from that time. Several shipyards were set up on the quays. The maritime life of Les Sables has been depicted by the local painter Paul-Émile Pajot (1870-1930), a former fisher highly estimated by Cocteau, Marquet and Foujita. Until the 1990s, Les Sables-d'Olonne ranked as the 5th biggest fishing port in France.
Tourism really started in Les Sables-d'Olonne in 1866 with the inauguration of the railway line (known as trains de plaisir, pleasure trains) linking Paris to la plus belle plage d'Europe (The nicest beach in Europe). Two casinos were founded in 1876 and 1886, respectively.

The marina of Port Olona, built in the 1970s, is the home of the single-handed sailing race around the world Vendée Globe (website), ran for the first time in 1989, as Vendée Globe Challenge. Known as "the Everest of the Seas", the race was won by Titouan Lamazou (1989-1990; 109 days and 8 hours), Alain Gautier (1992-1993; 110 days and 2 hours), Christophe Auguin (1996-1997; 105 days and 20 hours), Michel Desjoyaux (2000-2001; 93 days and 4 hours - 2008-2009; 84 days and 4 hours) and Vincent Riou (2004-2005; 87 days and 11 hours).
In 1997, Catherine Chabaud (140 days and 4 hours) was the first woman to finish the race; in 2002, Ellen Mac Arthur (94 days and 4 hours) ranked 2nd. In 2005, the two participating women finished the race, Anne Liardet (119 days and 9 hours) and Karen Leibovici (126 days and 8 hours, as did Samantha Davies (95 days and 4 hours) and Dee Caffari (99 days and 1 hour) in 2009.
The race has its legend made of wreckages and epic rescue operations; Nigel Burgess (1992) and Gerry Roufs (1996) died during the race.

Ivan Sache, 6 January 2019

Flag of Les Sables-d'Olonne

The flag of Les Sables-d'Olonne (photo, photo) is white with the new municipal logo.
The flag is also used with a dark blue background (photos).

Ivan Sache, 26 March 2020

Former flag of Les Sables-d'Olonne

[Flag]         [Flag]

Former flag of Les Sables-d'Olonne, horizontal and vertical versions - Images by Ivan Sache, 26 March 2020

The former flag of Les Sables-d'Olonne, used before 2017 and the municipal merger, either horizontally (photo, photo, photo) or vertically (photo, photo, photo), was white with the former municipal logo.
The municipal logo was a white rectangle bordered in blue with a blue sea charged with the name of the town in white letters, a yellow circular sun and a red sail with two white stripes.

A light blue flag with the municipal coat of arms on the middle, is hoisted near the Arundel Tower, together with the flags of France and of Poitou., as represented on a painting of Arundel Tower by Raphaël Toussaint (b. 1937). Arundel Tower was the square donjon of the St. Clair castle, built at the entrance of the port in the 14th century by the lords of Talmont. The tower was transformed into a lighthouse in the 18th century. Revamped in 1855, the lighthouse was brought electricity in 1932.

The arms of Les Sables d'Olonne are "Azure a vessel with sails and masts argent sailing on a sea vert issuant from the base ensigned by a Virgin of the second the armed crossed on the breast and a veil moving to sinister placed on a cloud of the same flanked by two cherubs argent with displayed wings cantoned in dexter and sinister.
The arms, granted in 1765, recall the maritime history of the town, placed under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, as said in its Latin motto, Advocata nostra, ora pro nobis (Our mediator, intercede on our behalf).
According to Amédée Odin, the religious elements seem to have been removed from the arms during the French Revolution, of which remained only the ship and the sea on a background azure, with the writing "LES SABLES DOLONNE"; the shield was surrounded by weapons, flags etc. The original arms were subsequently restored.

Ivan Sache, 26 March 2020



Flag of Château-d'Olonne - Image by Ivan Sache, 26 March 2020

The flag of Château-d'Olonne (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo) is celestial blue with the town's logo.

Ivan Sache, 26 March 2020


The flag of Olonne-sur-Mer (photo, ,photo, photo, photo) is derived from the municipal logo.

Ivan Sache, 26 March 2020

Sports Nautiques Sablais

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Burgee and flag of SNS - Images by Ivan Sache, 26 March 2020

Sports Nautiques Sablais (SNS; website) was established on 3 November 1907, as Sport Nautique Sablais. In the 1930s, the club went in touch with two other noted yacht clubs of the time, Sport Nautique de l'Ouest and Sport Nautique de la Gironde. In 1932, the Royan-La Baule cruise-race stepped at Les Sables-d'Olonne; a few boats registered with SNS took part to the race in the next years.
In 1937, the club's burgee was flown by the 18-meter Julnar, then one of the most famous French yachts, owned by the movie director Louis Aubert.

Re-established after the Second World War, SNS organized in 1948 in partnership with the Société des Régates Rochelaises a three-day competition (cruise-race La Rochelle - Les Sables - bay regatta in Les Sables; cruise-race Les Sables - La Rochelle).
The club is based in the Port Olona marina, established in 1977 and increased in 1988 and 2005. In 1985, the SNS was renamed to Sports Nautiques Sablais to reflect the new, multi-sports orientation of the club (cruise yachting, light yachting, windsurfing and model yachting).

The burgee of SNS (photo) is purple with the club's emblem, made of a pink disk charged with a white stylized sailboat and the writing "SNSablais" in white italic letters.
The flag of SNS (photo) is white with the sailboat from the club's emblem, in pink, and the writing "SNSablais", in black. The SNS also uses a pink flag (photo, photo) with the white sailboat and writing, and, in base, the white writing "Le club des passionnés de voile" (The club of sailing's fans)


Former burgee of SNS - Image by Ivan Sache, 26 March 2020

The former burgee of the SNS (photo) was blue with three white, red, and white chevrons and the white letters "SNS" placed diagonally along the hoist.

Ivan Sache, 26 March 2020