Loire 725, 2024 edition: adventure awaits! All the info with Alain Morvan

The Loire 725 is back! The 725km ultra-distance Loire adventure-competition is back for a second edition in 2024. The Loire 725 is a unique descent, a journey starting from the town of Roanne on June 16, all the way to the estuary at Paimbœuf, in five days for the best. Open to kayaks, stand-up paddles, canoes and pirogues, solo or in relays, the Loire 725 promises a unique experience, in search of your own resources and the ability to surpass yourself. But that’s not all! Nature in the Loire, with its flora and fauna, is extremely diverse, with numerous nature reserves dedicated to the preservation of species. Heritage-wise, it’s also quite something. When you think of the Loire, you think of the Châteaux de la Loire! But also villages and architectural bridges that punctuate the descent. In short, one of Europe’s most beautiful rivers, home to Europe’s longest race. Born during the Covid crisis, the Loire 725 was the brainchild of Alain Morvan, a canoeist from the Loire who was disappointed not to have been able to take part in the Yukon River Quest. Looking for an equivalent to this extreme 712km nautical competition, he found it in the Loire, the last European wild river offering even a few extra kilometers. After a successful test edition in 2021, the Loire 725 is officially launched in 2022, and returns in 2024. Then every two years? To find out more, and to inspire you to take the plunge, we put a few questions to the Race Director and instigator of the Loire 725 himself, Alain Morvan.

Loire 725 2022

Hello Alain, after a test edition and a great first edition last year in 2022, the Loire 725 is back in 2024! How would you sum up the previous edition?

It was an extraordinary adventure. A collective and personal adventure. How to go from a crazy idea to a sporting venture that was full of pitfalls, but viable.

Personal, because it took 6 months of work upstream to obtain the necessary authorizations, contact and sign contracts with the various parties involved, such as the SNSM (French national lifeboat service), caterers, local authorities, volunteers and subcontractors, the DDT (French Department of Transport), nature protection associations and so on.

Collectively, this adventure made me forget everything else when the first competitors arrived in Paimbœuf, and the people of Paimbœuf sounded their foghorns to celebrate the arrivals. It was a very emotional moment.

Sébastien Saulenc at the Loire 725 2022 – Photo : Padso

What’s on the program for this second edition?

The great thing about this type of race is that the route remains the same versus the Tour de France (laughs).

The main change is the compulsory stop at La Charité sur Loire, which has been replaced by Nevers. There are 3 compulsory stops, Nevers, Blois and Bouchemaine. Crossing the bridge over the Loire at Nevers is very tricky, as there is an “arrêté de protection de biotope” just downstream from this bridge, due to the presence of a nesting area for endangered species. This portage, which this time will be on the right bank, will also serve as an obligatory stopover.

Loire 725 2022 – Photo : Padso

And then the plan is to launch the Loire725 every 2 years?

We’ll see, it’s not set in stone. The DI 350/360 is every 4 years. Is this the right frequency? It’s too early to say.

The Loire 725 is an extraordinary competition: we’re talking about 725km! Can you tell us about the specific features of the course?

First of all, this race is open to all paddle sports: kayak, canoe, SUP, pirogue. But we had to limit it to single and two-seaters to limit the impact on the environment.

It’s impossible to know what the course will be like in advance, because the Loire does what it wants. 8 days after the 2021 test edition, when the water level was very low, it rose 2.5 m in no time at all. But the Loire is always navigable.

Photo : Padso

A wild river means preserving nature! Can you tell us about the flora and fauna of the Loire?

Indeed, the entire route is part of a Natura 2000 site, and passes through a number of strategic nature reserves for the preservation of endangered species. France Nature Environnement is one of our partners and will be giving an awareness-raising talk at the start briefing. Please note that attendance at this conference is compulsory and will be simultaneously translated into English and Spanish.

What does the Loire725 do, and what rules do competitors and followers have to respect, to protect nature around the Loire?

This is a competition, not a tourist run. It is therefore forbidden to bivouac on the banks. Only slipways, pontoons or quays are authorized for outings or launching. Competitors are not on their own, and each boat has a support team ashore.

Olivier Drut at theLoire 725 2022 – Photo : Padso

In terms of sport, could you briefly remind us of the rules of the Loire725?

Navigation is possible from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., which means 16 hours of paddling! However, for safety reasons, it is possible to exceed the maximum by 30 minutes, but this time is carried over to the next day. If a boat paddles until 10:20 p.m., it will not be able to leave before 6:20 a.m. the following day. We have also set up time barriers, because again for safety reasons, the caravan cannot be too long.

The long-awaited Paimbœuf lighthouse at the finish line

The rules state that a sports CV will be required. So, what are the “prerequisites” for taking part in the Loire 725?

It’s not a cop-out, but rather an awareness of the extreme difficulty of this race. Last year, we had a K2 team who were new to kayaking, but as they are ultratrailers, we accepted them. In fact, they finished very honorably.

Clovis Leroux at the Loire 725 2022 – Photo : Padso

And for the others, it’s possible to do it as a relay?

It is indeed possible to do the Loire 725 as a relay. However, a single-seater cannot have more than one relay runner, and a double-seater cannot have more than two. It is therefore possible for the relay team to be the shore support team. We have also limited the number of relay boats to 50, so as not to alter the nature of this 725 km race.

At the Loire 725, there are those who are on the water, and then there are those who accompany them! Can you tell us a little about them? What advice do you have for them?

Those who are on the water and those who accompany them form a team; one can’t exist without the other.

My advice can be summed up in one word: “anticipation”. It may not sound like it, but the race is moving fast, and you’d think you’d have peace of mind in a car. Tracking is a formidable weapon for this, but beware, the devil is in the detail. The Loire is wide and there aren’t many bridges. Waiting for your team on the right bank when it crosses to the left can be enough to lose precious places. Take along Jean-François Souchard’s guide “La Loire vue du fleuve” and communicate with each other.

Alain Morvan

And finally, a message for those who might be reluctant to take the plunge?

Almost all the participants arrived on time in 2022. So it’s not that bad 😉

Thank you Alain for these details!

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