the deliciously chic and vintage exhibition to see in Cognac

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he Olympic flame will shine on Friday May 24, 2024 in Cognac. The relay will start at 10:23 a.m. in front of the X’Eau aquatic center and end at 11:13 a.m. at Place de la Salle-verte, near the banks of the Charente. Our advice: prepare for or extend the event by visiting the temporary exhibition at the nearby Museum of Cognac Know-how (M’CO). This chic and vintage exhibition is called “There’s going to be sport”.

Inaugurated last month, it deserves more than a glance. She tells how the practice of sport in Cognac owes a lot to the involvement of traders. For a long time, all the big names in cognac were involved in rowing, tennis and fencing, horse riding, rugby and shooting. Nothing but British disciplines!


Medals and trophies won by members of the Cognac Shooting Club, in a window of the exhibition “There will be sport”, at the Museum of Cognac Know-how (M’CO) on view until August 18 2024.

Olivier Sarazin / SO

It was before the Evin law

Without rich families and their “customary generosity”, so many clubs would never have been created! The newspaper “L’Equipe” would never have proclaimed Cognac “the most sporting city in France” in 1965 and in 1991. This was just before the Evin law (relating to the fight against alcoholism and smoking) and the end of a certain paternalism changes the rules of the game. But that’s another story…


“Windmills near the port of Cognac”, 19th century oil on canvas, by L. Brard. Interesting detail in the foreground: the presence of a rowing boat.

Cognac Museums

Ours begins in the middle of the 19th centurye, with the fashion for canoeing on the Charente. In 1864, the Martells chaired the creation of the Cognac Rowing Club. In 1877, the Hennessys imitated them and supported the Cognac Yacht Club, almost opposite, on the other bank of the river. The two associations would not merge until much later, in the 1960s.

An old poster of the Cognac Rowing Club.


An old poster of the Cognac Rowing Club.

Private collection/CYRC

On the walls of the M’CO, paintings, old posters and sepia-colored photographs show how the local gentry fell in love with leisure activities in the open air. A photo bears witness to this. It is June 1899 near the grassy tennis courts on rue Lomeyer. A garden party brings together all the elite. We recognize René Firino (house Martell), Henri de Saint-Louvent (house Renault), Baron Otard de La Grange (house Otard) and James Hennessy (house Hennessy). They abandoned the top hat for the boater hat. MShe Hennessy and the Marquise de La Falaise accompany them.

Participants and guests of a tournament of the Cercle de l'Épée (fencing club in Cognac), in the spring of 1928.


Participants and guests of a tournament of the Cercle de l’Épée (fencing club in Cognac), in the spring of 1928.

Private collection/Circle of the Sword

At the point of the foil

Walking around the exhibition, reading the prize lists, always the same names. Who chaired the Cercle de l’Épée (fencing) in 1911? Hennessy and Firino, one of whom is honorary! Who among the active members? Camus, Filloux, Hardy and Otard de La Grange… We said to ourselves, smiling, that it was better not to tickle these gentlemen and provoke them to a duel! Did they settle their commercial disputes at the point of foil?

By mixing some beautiful pieces from the city’s museums (notably the “Portrait of Paul Gouineau playing tennis”, oil on canvas by Gaston Balande) with the unpublished archives of clubs and merchants, the exhibition “There’s going to be sport” brings many epics to life. Special mention to the mention of USC (rugby) and to the windows dedicated to Jean-Guy Gautier (1875-1938), Cognac athlete and accomplished sportsman, Olympic medalist in Paris in 1900 (read below).

  • Jean-Guy Gautier (1875-1938), Cognac athlete and accomplished sportsman, Olympic medalist in Paris in 1900 in the emerging discipline of rugby union.


    Jean-Guy Gautier (1875-1938), Cognac athlete and accomplished sportsman, Olympic medalist in Paris in 1900 in the emerging discipline of rugby union.

    Municipal archives of Cognac

  • The “Kildin”, boat of the Cognac sportsman Jean-Guy Gautier (1875-1938), Grand Prix of the Yacht Club de France in 1930 and 1931.


    The “Kildin”, boat of the Cognac sportsman Jean-Guy Gautier (1875-1938), Grand Prix of the Yacht Club de France in 1930 and 1931.

    Municipal archives of Cognac

Entrance, 6 euros. To see before August 18.

He was nicknamed the “Human Locomotive”: Charentais Jean-Guy Gautier, champion in all categories

A force of nature! As good at running as at rugby, at rowing or at the bar! Jean-Guy Gautier, born in 1875 in Jarnac and died in 1938 in Cognac, was “the first French athlete worthy of the name”, according to an article in “Mirroir des sports” in 1924. The exhibition “There will be some sport” (on view until August 18, 2024 in Cognac) pays tribute to him.
We learn that this son of a merchant was triple champion of France (100 m, 400 m and long jump) on the same day in 1893. His record for the 100 m (11 seconds) was not broken until 1921 in ‘a tenth of a second! His speed led him to the emerging discipline of rugby union, where he distinguished himself at the Paris Olympic Games in 1900 (gold medal). An accomplished sportsman, he also practiced rowing and represented France at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912.
Nicknamed the “Human Locomotive”, Gautier was for a long time president of the Cognac rugby club (USC). He ended his career as a navigator, at the helm of his schooner the “Kildir” with which he won the Grand Prix du Yacht Club de France in 1930 and 1931.
In the article from the 1924 “Mirroir des sports” cited above, the journalist of the time indicates that Gautier, “a true champion, is still with us”. He writes: “a notable merchant in Cognac, he remained, at the age of 46, a very fervent sportsman. His weight is currently 80 kilos – 9 kilos more than at the height of his success – his chest circumference is 103 centimeters and his waist is 75 centimeters. Great example to give to most men his age! […] Another curious detail: Guy Gautier is, in Cognac, an alcohol merchant. He spends half his life in the smell of this poison, certainly very slow for him, and regularly tastes it for two hours a day. If this is not an example to give to young athletes, it is at least another proof of the astonishing athletic value of the old record holder. »

The page that “Le Miroir des sports” devotes to the “first French athletics champions” (including the Charente athlete Jean-Guy Gautier) in March 1921.


The page that “Le Miroir des sports” devotes to the “first French athletics champions” (including the Charente athlete Jean-Guy Gautier) in March 1921.

BNF/Gallica

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