Billionaires basking on their mega-yachts off St Tropez this summer beware: if your luxury vessel catches fire or founders, don’t expect the local lifeboat to come to the rescue.
That is the message from French Riviera port’s marine rescue officials after their plea for financial help for a rescue craft went unanswered from the captains of luxury yachts that ply the waters off the famously glitzy town.
The St Tropez branch of the Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer (SNSM), the national lifeboat association, wrote this year to wealthy individuals and companies owning such yachts, asking them to help out.
They urged them to help stump up the remaining €200,000 needed to pay for a new €1.4 million (£1.25m) lifeboat.
However, they said their SOS appeal for funds sunk almost without trace, causing delays and meaning they cannot afford crucial electronic devices on board.
With the new lifeboat only due to be delivered next spring from the shipyard in Brittany, their old craft, the Bailli de Suffren II, is currently out of action for two weeks, awaiting a spare part from Italy.
As a result, rescue calls risk going unanswered. The broken lifeboat is the only one in the area able to weather all conditions to pull in bigger vessels.
Pierre-Yves Barasc, the president of the Saint-Tropez lifeboat station, said that while the highest donation of €10,000 came from the owner of a relatively small boat, penny-pinching tycoons failed to hand over a centime.
“If 30 people had done the same we could have had our new lifeboat quicker. They said it wasn’t their problem,” he told the local edition of the news outlet Var-Martin.
“That’s not true. On the larger boats last year we saved an eight-month-old baby. We also saved three youngsters caught on rocks – not a word of thanks, even from their father. Nothing! It’s almost as if it’s their right. It’s great to shower the young ladies with a bottle of €50,000 Cristal champagne, but they could be a little more restrained and help us a little more."
He said he hoped that his angry outburst would spur the super rich yacht owners to finally cough up.
“We have wasted two years to change the lifeboat because we didn’t have the money and the result is our old boat broke down and is out of action for seven weeks. It’s distressing,” he said.
Last year, the port’s lifeboat went out 87 times, and 78 of the rescues occurred between 15 June and 15 September, high season for the French Riviera.
Luxury yacht owners aside, Mr Barasc said he hoped that the French would learn to be more generous with their lifeboat services. While in the UK around 85 per cent of boat owners donated something, only three per cent did so in France, he said.