G'day all!

It's long been held that the concept of the 'raid' began as a French concept, and the term has some currency in 20thC French military and later sporting activities. I understand the Paris-Dakar began as a 'raid' on Morocco and Nth Africa.

Subsequently, the term has morphed into a descriptor for 'small boat events', often of an endurance nature, but not necessarily.

My question - for the global (but especially French) boating universe is this: what is the history of the usage of the term, from a French perspective?

Anyone care to comment?

Seeking enlightenment, not argument.... :)

1 Answer 1


This is actually an extremely specific request, which I'm not sure holds a definite answer.

Regarding your first assumption, "raid" seemingly did not begin as a French concept at all, instead coming from Scottish attacks on the English. The ATILF states:

1.1864 « incursion rapide en territoire ennemi » ici, aux États-Unis (L'Illustration, 13 août, 102a ds HÖFLER Anglic.);

  1. 1886 sports (La Revue vélocipédique, 1er oct., 149b ds HÖFLER Anglic.). Empr. à l'angl. raid « expédition militaire à cheval » (1425 ds NED) d'où « incursion, charge » (surtout des Écossais en Angleterre), empr. à la forme écossaise du vieil angl. rád d'où est issu l'angl. road « chevauchée, voyage à cheval » puis « route ».

Now, for a boat-centric perspective, you'd need the help of a French leisure/sport-boat historian, if there is such a thing. But in any case it is safe to assume that it is a derivation from the "sports raid" that you mentioned, which is already quite old itself, and usually conveys the meaning of "endurance" (of both men and hardware). If the boat raid often has this meaning, then it's very likely that it's just taken from the sports raids of old.

The "small boat raid" notion is not very publicized in France (unless you're talking about kayaks), and even famous bigger-boat raids are not necessarily known as "raids" but rather "courses", "transats" or "routes" (eg. Route du Rhum, Transat Jacques-Vabre, Vendée-Globe, etc). Nowadays, to a Frenchman, a "raid" can either marginally mean a car race like the Paris-Dakar or the 4L Trophy, or more commonly refer to non-motorized sport activities (hikes, the aforementioned canoes-kayaks, running trails, swimming, etc.)

I'm not sure I've been very helpful but hopefully you got some clues out of this :)

  • Thansk, you, that is very helpful, and cofirms my intial thoughts, that the origin was more of an English/British nature, applied to French events, marques and activities, that was also adopted by some segments of the sports market in France.
    – Curious1m
    Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 23:52

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