Following the atrocity that occurred in Nice on Bastille day, the trepidation of terrorism has reached fever pitch on the French Riviera. On 15 August a fire cracker, thrown from a car window near a popular seaside resort on the Riviera, sent crowds into a panicked stampede, 40 people were injured, although none seriously harmed. Popular superyachting destinations, revered for their beauty and relaxed atmospheres, are now shrouded in suspense.
Since France’s spate of terrorist attacks, the burkini has been banned, the Riviera is being patrolled by heavily armed police and holiday goers in Cannes are no longer allowed to carry bags large enough to conceal explosives or weapons on the beach. The golden sands, that have traditionally attracted so many for so many reason, have become a frontier for anxiety.
“When we came into Cannes we noted that there weren’t many yachts in the anchorage, the marina wasn’t full and along the bays seemed much quieter than usual,” explains Guy Booth, captain of 37.3m M/Y Aurelia. “When we were in Cannes we noticed armed army personnel in small jeeps or walking around wearing bullet proof vests and carrying large weapons.”
Booth describes being stopped by the soldiers in accordance with the recent ruling on large bags. Having been stopped, “politely, but forcefully”, Booth was asked to reveal the contents of his bag, which happened to be clothes, a towel and a bottle of wine.
“Once I had showed them what was in the bag they smiled, said thank you and moved on,” continues Booth. “Personally I had nothing to hide and I did not feel like I was being affronted or that my privacy was being invaded or anything like that. To know that other people that are wandering around with backpacks large enough to conceal weapons are being stopped, gives me reassurance.”
The lack of vessels in the area clearly highlights the effect that fear can have. While the increased security presence is hopefully having a positive influence by dissuading other would-be assailants, the threat that it seeks to mitigate is strong enough that it has kept many from visiting certain shores along the Riviera.
“This year was our first that we have spent primarily in the Balearics, thanks in large to the amendments made to the matriculation tax,” says Booth. “All around Mallorca there are big yachts and lots of them. Once you get to Formentera there are 10 times as many. There is no doubt in my mind that the Balearics have had an upturn in business, mostly because of the matriculation update but partially because of the situation along certain parts of the Riviera.”