The Belem Foundation was set up by the Caisses d’Epargne in 1980 following the purchase of the Belem three-master to enable the ship to continue sailing. Recognized as being in the general public interest, the Foundation’s purpose is to promote France’s maritime history and to keep the last-remaining major 19th-century French sailing ship – recognized as an historic monument in 1984 – among the nation’s cultural assets.
IIn 2019, the Belem set off on a seven-month voyage from Port-Vendres on the shores of the Mediterranean to Nantes, the former capital of Brittany, combining trips along the French Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts with more exotic and longer cruises in the Baltic Sea (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) and around the British Isles.
In 2019, the ship welcomed 1,043 novice or experienced mariners on 24 sailing trips totaling 108 days at sea. 52,000 visitors were able to visit the ship at the quayside during 39 days of harbor visits. In 2019, the ship took part in four key events: the Débords de Loire festival in Nantes, the Gulf of Morbihan week in May, the Rouen Armada in June and, finally, two legs of the Tall Ships Regatta in June and July between Le Havre (France), The Hague (Netherlands) and Aalborg (Denmark).
2020, the year of the planetary pandemic, was the year when everything stopped for the Belem, preventing 1,200 seafarers and 40 professional sailors from sharing the unique adventure of the 26 sailings scheduled over the course of the season.
In 2021, after 17 months of waiting, the Belem will finally meet its public in Cannes in June, followed by La Rochelle in the month of July, before setting out to sea once again on July 28 for a series of 16 ocean cruises.
The Caisse d'Epargne, a long-standing sponsor of the Belem Foundation, finances one half of the institution’s patronage budget.