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Arcachon (Municipality, Gironde, France)

Last modified: 2018-06-23 by ivan sache
Keywords: arcachon |
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Flag, ceremonial flag and banner of Arcachon - Images by Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache (banner), 25 October 2011

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Presentation of Arcachon

The municipality of Arcachon (11,789 inhabitants in 2008; 756 ha) is located on the southern shore of the Arcachon Bay, 75 km south-west of Bordeaux.

Arcachon, today a main center of summer tourism, yachting, fishing and oyster farming, was until the middle of the 19th century a desert place, administratively belonging to the neighboring municipality of La Teste. The place was settled by a few fishers and pine resin tappers' hut built near a chapel dedicated to the Virgin. Florimond de Raemond, Councillor at the Bordeaux Parliament, in his book Histoire de La Naissance, progrez et décadence de l'Hérésie de ce siècle, published in 1605, reports that St. Thomas Illyricus (the Dalmatian Franciscan monk Tommaso de Osimo, 1484-1528) found around 1520 a statue of the Virgin that had ran ashore and built a shrine on the dune at the statue's landing place (text). Raemond gives in his book a convenient etymology of Arcachon, then called Arcaixon, as "located in the middle of the arc pointing at Ushant and Cape Finisterre". Anyway, the story is considered as the founding event of the town, and "the" statue is still kept in the Notre-Dame basilica of Arcachon, famous for the Seamen's Chapel decorated with ex-votos.

Nothing significant happened in Arcachon until 1823 when the ship captain François Legallais opened the first hotel dedicated to sea bath in the area. The fad of sea bathing quickly attracted in Arcachon royalties and other celebrities of the time. Arcachon was still a hamlet depending of La Teste, where a railway station had been inaugurated in 1841. The early tourists had to be shipped from La Teste to Arcachon on pinasses; fares were fiercely discussed and safety on board was inexistent. The duration of the journey from Bordeaux, however, was reduced by the trains de plaisir (pleasure trains) from 18 to 2 hours.
Arcachon was made an independent municipality by Imperial Decree of 2 May 1857, with a municipal territory (still) enclaved within La Teste.

The emergence of Arcachon was boosted by two influential, rival men, Alphonse Lamarque de Plaisance and Adalbert Deganne who struggled by any means (this was nicknamed "The Two A's War"; their pamphlets, while often outrageous and defamatory, represent a vivid description of the early decades of the resort).
Alphonse Lamarque de Plaisance, then Mayor of La Teste, was appointed in 1857 the first Mayor of Arcachon, a tenure he hold until 1865. The same year, the Bordeaux-La Teste railway line was increased to Arcachon. The line had been owned since 1852 by the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer du Midi, owned by the wealthy bankers Émile (1800-1875) and Isaac (1806-1880) Pereire. The two brothers were the main funders of the industrial development of the Second Empire, with a visionary interest in transportation, owning the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique shipping company and 17 railways companies all over Europe. Their envoy in Arcachon was the engineer Adalbert Deganne, soon the biggest land owners in the town, therefore its conflict with the Mayor. The Pereire realized that the trains of the Compagnie du Midi should be profitable all the year round, beyond the summer season. Accordingly, they purchased 400 ha of of forests on the hill dominating the shore and built from scratch the "Winter Town", as a counterpart of the seashore's "Summer Town". Originally advertized as a sanitarium to heal tuberculosis (with little medical evidence, indeed, but the expected air-cleaning effect of the neighboring pines), the Winter Town was designed in 1862. Posh villas surrounded by parks planted with exotic plants are separated by narrow alleys; the emblematic place of the Winter Town is the Moorish Park designed around the Moorish Casino. With the exception of the Casino, unfortunately destroyed in 1977 in a blaze, most of the villas of the Winter Town have been preserved until now. Napoléon III made a short stay in Arcachon in 1863, which dramatically increased the fame of the resort. The "Two A's War" ended with Lamarque's retirement, while Deganne was eventually appointed Mayor in 1870-1871 and 1876-1880. The Pereire brothers bankrupted in 1870, which stopped the development of Arcachon.

James Veyrier Montagnères, Mayor from 1897 to 1922, is credited the rebirth of Arcachon; he promoted the building of the promenade, modeled on British sea resorts. The main building on the promenade is the Deganne Manor, built in 1853 by Adalbert Deganne as a copy of a manor located in Champagne, and transformed in 1903 in the Beach Casino, the counterpart of the Moorish Castle. The same year, the Thiers wharf, the biggest in Arcachon, was inaugurated.
Arcachon was officially registered as a sea resort (station balnéaire) in 1926, with five sand beaches (Eyrac, Arcachon, Pereire, Abatilles and Le Moulleau) spreading over 7 km. The first maps released in 1865 were deliberately set up upside down, so that the beaches appeared on the "sunny side" of the coast, that is the south. The creation of the Spring Town, around the Pereire Park, and of the Autumn Town, around the part, allowed Arcachon to appear as the "Four Seasons' Town".
The Abatilles source gushed forth in 1923 during a drilling made by engineer Louis Lemarié to find oil. A spa was inaugurated in 1926 near the source, increasing the fame of Arcachon. The spa closed long ago but the Abatilles water is still sold, mostly locally, by the Vittel group.
The St. Dominique Villa, located in Le Moulleau, which was (and still is) "the place to be", was inhabited from 1910 to 1915 by the Italian poet Gabriele d'Annunzio (1863-1938), who had to fled Italy because of his jealous (read, cheated) and his greedy (read, unpaid) creditors, and his jealous (red, cheated) lover, the famous Countess Gouloubeff. He wrote there his most famous play, The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, for which Claude Debussy composed the incidental music.

The port of Arcachon (website) has been famous since the creation of the town, both for fishing and yachting. It is today the only deep-water port in the Arcachon Bay and the second biggest port on the French Atlantic coast after La Rochelle. The port administration, the fishing port and the yachting port (2,600 moorings) are located adjacent to each other, covering 21 ha; compared to several other places, the yachting port was not created as a separated marina.
Arcachon, ranking today 19th on the list of French fishing ports, was once the second biggest fishing port in France, with three main shipping companies:
- Pêcheries de l'Océan;
- Pêcheries Cameleyre;
- Nouvelles Pêcheries à Vapeur
[Arcachon, by Noël Courtaigne]

Ivan Sache, 25 October 2011

Flag of Arcachon

The flag of Arcachon is vertically divided black-white-yellow. The flag is flown in several places of the town, including in front of the railway station and on the promenade. A "ceremonial" version with the coat of arms in the middle of the white stripe was reported by the municipal administration; this flag must be used only in specific events.

The colors of the flag are derived from the narrow chief of the municipal arms. They are the colored interpretation of the Latin motto engraved on the bell of the St. Ferdinand church, Nox hieri hodie aurora cras lux (Yesterday, the Night, Today the Dawn, Tomorrow the Light), which is also the origin of the town's motto (see below). The bend or represents the expected (and achieved!) wealth of the town.
In her blog Fatras en Bleu, a native from Arcachon proposes her own, poetic interpretation of the colors of the flag (while recognizing the historical one). Black would represent the shores and the beaches, through a pun on sable, which means "sand" in French, and also the deep forests, white would represent the sea's foam fringing the shore, and yellow would represent gorse bushes, brooms and mimosas.

The flag also exists as a vertical, forked banner, of which several copies are hung inside the fish hall (photos), located on the port.

The arms of Arcachon are "Per bend, 1. Gules a sailing ship or with sails argent floating on a sea azure ensigned in chief dexter by the Virgin issuant from a cloud holding a star in her right hand all argent, 2. Azure a pine tree proper on a terrace or ensigned in chief by a bee hive orled with six bees all or, all over, a bend or, a narrow chief tierced per pale sable argent and or".
The Virgin recalls the statue found by St. Thomas Illyricus and the remote foundation of the town.
The ship recalls the maritime activity of the town, while the bees and the pines represent its natural environment.
The narrow chief is the colored interpretation of the Latin motto engraved on the bell of the St. Ferdinand church Nox hieri hodie aurora cras lux (Yesterday, the Night, Today the Dawn, Tomorrow the Light). The bend or represents the expected (and achieved!) wealth of the town.

The motto shown on the present-day coat of arms is Heri solitudo hodie civitas (Yesterday a Desert Today a Town). This is a shortened, updated version of Arcachon's original motto, Heri solitudo, hodie vicus, cras civitas (Yesterday a Desert, Today a Village, Tomorrow a Town), credited to first Mayor Alphonse Lamarque de Plaisance. The Mayor derived the town's motto from the aforementioned writing engraved on the bell of the St. Ferdinand church.
Arcachon's early motto was "plagiarized" in 1930 by Édouard Lévêque, the founder of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, most probably to emphasize the creation of a northern counterpart of Arcachon. The official motto of Le Touquet is indeed Fiat lux, fiat urbs (Let There Ne light, Let There Ne a Town).

Ivan Sache, 25 October 2011

Sports clubs

Cercle de la Voile d'Arcachon


Burgee of CVA - Image by Ivan Sache, 25 October 2011

The Société des Régates d'Arcachon (SRA) was created in 1866 and renamed Yacht Club d'Arcachon in 1873. In 1882, the Yacht Club founded a branch called Société de la Voile d'Arcachon (SVA), which became independent in 1905, being renamed Société de la Voile et de l'Automobile d'Arcachon. In 1933, the SVA dropped all its motorized activities and took the name of Cercle de la Voile d'Arcachon (website).
In its early years, the SVA was already one of the top French yacht clubs, organizing international regattas on the Arcachon Bay and with members competing in famous races such as the Olympic Games (1928), the Emperor's Cup in Kiel (Germany), the French Cup, the Club Nautique de Nice's Cup and the Olympic Games (1928). During the interbellum, Arcachon was nicknamed "the French Cowes". The famous yachtswoman Virginie Hériot raced in Arcachon for the first time in 1923 and came back every year since then; on 27 August 1932, she died on board of her Petite Aile during the regatta celebrating the 50th anniversary of SVA.

Refounded after the Second World War, SVA resumed its contribution to the fame of French yachting, with Olympic competitors (1952, 1956, 1960, 2000). Its members have won several titles in local, French and international competitions. In 1978, Michel Malinowski (1941-2010), steering his (then) giant monohull Kriter lost the first Route du Rhum to Mike Birch's tiny yellow multihull Olympus Photo for 98 seconds. The first winner of a deep-see race on a multihull, Birch was able to overtake Malinowski in the last miles of the race; Malinowski remained famous, maybe more than the winner, for his philosophic sentence Seule la victoire est jolie! (Only the victory is nice). In 1990, Titouan Lamazou (b. 1955) won the first Vendée Globe and the fifth Route du Rhum. In 1994, Yves Parlier won the fifth Route du Rhum. CVA has also brilliant yachtswomen. In 2002, France dominated the ISAF World Sailing Games, Pascale Dentraygues, from CVA, winning one of the gold medals. Élodie Bertrand is a member of the "Mermaid Sailing Team", the crew that won the Match Racing World Championship in 2007 and 2008 and currently ranks world's No. 2.

The burgee of CVA is white with a red blue cross voided throughout. The intersection of the cross' arms is filled with a blue square charged with a motif made of a letter "V" above a letter "A", repeated twice.

Ivan Sache, 25 October 2011

Yacht Club du Bassin d'Arcachon


Burgee of YCBA - Image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 25 October 2011

YCBA (website), based in the port of Arcachon, is involved in sailing, fishing and motorboating.

The burgee of YCBA is horizontally divided red-blue by a thin white wavy line. Near the hoist is placed a yellow disk charged with the blue acronym "YCBA" placed above three thin white wavy line (including the one dividing the whole burgee).
The burgee can be seen in several photos available on the YCBA website, usually enclosed within a thin white border and a thicker blue border.

Ivan Sache, 25 October 2011

Aviron Arcachonnais


Burgee of Aviron Arcachonnais - Image by Ivan Sache, 23 April 2018

The rowing club Aviron Arcachonnais was established in 1896 by Dr. Festal. The club members Georges (1938-2004) and Jacques (b. 1935; Honorary President of the club) Morel, two brothers from the neighboring town of La Teste-de-Buch, won the silver medal in coxed fours at the 1960 Olympic Games (Roma) and a second silver medal in coxed pairs at the 1964 Olympic Games (Tokyo).
Four decades later, another club member, Pascal Touron (b. 1973 in Arcachon; trained by Jacques Morel when a child) won a bronze medal in lightweight double sculls at the 2000 Olympic Games (Sydney) and a silver medal in the same event at the 2004 Olympic Games (Athens), missing the gold medal for 0.53 seconds.
[Sud Ouest, 6 October 2014]
In 2000, facing an erosion in membership, the club abandoned freshwater rowing for sea rowing, more adapted to the Arcachon Basin, with two sections, rowing and kayak. Aviron Arcachonnais is now one of the best French clubs involved in sea rowing (6th in 2014, 4th in 2015, 7th in 2016, 5th in 2017). The club organized the 18th French Championships of Sea Rowing (3-4 October 2015).
[Arcachon en ligne]

The club's emblem features the original burgee of the club, which does not seem to be used now, white with a red horizontal stripe charged with the letters "A.A.".

Ivan Sache, 23 April 2018

Association des Pêcheurs Plaisianciers du Bassin d'Arcachon


Burgee of APPBA - Image by Ivan Sache, 25 October 2011

APPBA, based in Arcachon, is involved in leisure (non professional) fishing. APPBA was founded in 1977 by Colonel Soult.

The burgee of APPBA, as hoisted on several boats in the port of Arcachon, is white with the APPBA emblem in the middle and two black and yellow triangles at the end of the burgee.
The emblem of APPBA is a yellow disk charged with the black letters "APPBA", a yellow anchor outlined in black and a black fish. The disk is surrounded by a white ring charged with the name of the association in black capital letters.

Ivan Sache, 25 October 2011

Cercle Arcachonnais de Pêche Sportive


Burgee of CAPS - Image by Ivan Sache, 25 October 2011

CAPS was founded in 1989 in Arcachon.
The burgee of CAPS, hoisted on several boats moored in the port of Arcachon, is black with a yellow fish and hook and the yellow letters "caps" placed vertically along the hoist.
On the club's emblem, the colors are swapped (black fish and hook on a yellow background).

Ivan Sache, 25 October 2011

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