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Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Jouet "Cap-Horn", designed by Jean Jacques Herbulot

When stories are told about the early days of short and single-handed long distance ocean racing, the names of Chichester, Hasler and the French hero Eric Tabarly are the most easily remembered. It's often forgotten that only one Frenchman took part in the first Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic race - and it wasn't Tabarly.

The lone Frenchman, Jean Lacombe, sailing the smallest boat in the race, the tiny plywood “Cap-Horn,” was, in fact, probably already the most experienced single hander among the 5 men who took part in the first OSTAR. Although up against more famous adventurers like Francis Chichester and Blondie Hasler, by the time the race started Lacombe had already sailed the Atlantic single-handed from East to West and back again, as well as cruising a great deal of the Eastern seaboard of the USA. He had done all this in his simple 21 ft centreboarder, Cap-Horn, designed by J-J. Herbulot as a low cost weekend cruiser.

(photo: Jean Lacombe's Cap-Horn after the 1960 OSTAR - still with race number - Jouet Cap Horn brochure)

Lacombe had actually been in New York with his boat when he heard of the race. He entered late and set sail for for the start line 3000 miles away at Plymouth to arrive 4 days after the others had departed. His participation went, therefore, almost unnoticed by the British and foreign press who had been in Plymouth covering the race preparations but had already left the scene.

Staying only long enough to fill his water tanks and buy a few provisions for the return voyage, Lacombe calmly set sail into the prevailing wind for another 3000 mile Atlantic crossing.

Lacombe's “Cap-Horn” was a compact weekend family cruiser of 21ft overall, built by Jouet, a well established boat building firm in Sartrouville, on the River Seine. It was a design that, though simple, was rather more sophisticated than the type of basic small cruising boat that was becoming popular in France in the 1950s, when the influential Glenans Sailing School began to turn out a few dozen enthusiastic young sailors every summer.

The yacht's designer, Jean Jacques Herbulot, had designed most of the Glenans school boats, so this new breed of French sailor was already programmed by training and experience to appreciate the simple rather “boxy” plywood hulls he had produced previously. The Cap-Horn, however, was not hard-chine ply-over-frame construction like most of his earlier boats. It had a nicely rounded cold moulded hull, though it retained the typically Herbulot wide, clear decks and minimal raised coachroof. The Cap-Horn is now quite a rare boat, and it's difficult to find much information about it, but, at the time it must have seemed a more sophisticated design than most others in its class.

The plywood Herbulot designs of the day, simple, compact, practical and inexpensive, were emblematic of French sailing in the '50s and early '60s. Just a year after the first OSTAR, however, France's first all-GRP production cruising boat emerged from the Jouet factory, and Cap-Horn's strong and lightweight cold moulded construction suddenly seemed old fashioned and labour intensive compared with the new high-tech material. (colour photo: the varnished hull of this 1964 Cap-Horn, recently for sale in France, has been well maintained and preserved.)

Jean Lacombe did complete that first OSTAR, finishing in last position after 74 days. He went on to take part again in the 1964 race (Tabarly's first win) in another Jouet-built boat, the Golif, a landmark (seamark?) design in French yachting history which I'll write about in another post soon

Cap-Horn built by P. Jouet & Cie, designed J. J. Herbulot

LOA 6.50m - (20.90 ft)

LWL 6.00m - (19.67 ft)

Beam 2.16m - (7.08 ft)

Draft (max) 1.20m - (3.94 ft)

Draft (min) 0.70m - (2.30 ft)

Displacement 907kg - (2000 lbs)


  1. This design seems to be ahead of its time. I love it!

  2. So do I! I like it so much I'm tempted to put in an offer for the boat in the photo that's for sale.

  3. Can we come for a sail if you buy it!!

    It's interesting just how good a design has stood the test of time, compared with modern yachts and the focus on accommodation, this is a boat for sailing and it looks just as right for that purpose today

  4. My father owned one of these, and we sailed it for several years on the Shrewsbury River in NJ, and occasionally out to Raritan Bay, Sandy Hook, etc. In fact there were three or four of them at one point. My Dad's, William (Bill) Wye, Carl Houser, and I think, Lea Peacock. They were all members of the Shrewsbury Sailing and Yacht Club in Oceanport, NJ, and the fact that the boat drew just over two feet with the board up was key to it's being able to sail on that river.

    This was my Dad's second Jouet boat, the first being an 18 foot compact cruiser named the Corsair. They both featured the then unusual reverse shear that Farnham Butler was introducing to American in the Amphibicon and Amphibi-ette.

    1. Lovely boat. I bought mine in 1971 in Pert Amboy. Needed some work but my young family and I enjoyed sailing her on the Delaware and then Lake Ontario Very comfortable, seaworthy and fast.

  5. I have a half model of this boat that belonged to my father, who passed away a year ago at the ripe old age of 93. He loved sailing and this model, mounted on a board, was among his belongings. The plaque says, "Mouette [which was the name of his boat], Cap Horn Sloop, Overall length 21 ft 4 in, built 1963 by Jouet in Sartrouville, France." The model was covered in dust but will clean up nicely, I think. I know that he would like it to be passed down through the family.

  6. Another Smart post from you Admin :)

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  8. I had a cap horn years a go and wood sail it to catlina island loved it built like a brick shit house 1/2 hull thay don't makem like that aney moor

  9. I had a Cap Horn on the River Humber in England. Instead of a centreboard, Tigga had a long deep keel, making the boat more stable (drew about 4'6". The boat was built with the drop keel but was later converted to the deep long keel.(during the conversion, the new cast iron keel slipped and crushed the big toe of the shipwright. She was a fantastic boat to sail, cutter rigged on a spruce mast (which I cracked in Wells harbour but I still managed to sail home without a complete collapse of the rig). Four Cap Horns were built on the Humber, Tigga, Wol and Itldo and Woozle. Itldo was lost off Iceland, Tigga is still on the Humber Estuary, but I do not know where the others are. I have had many Yachts, but Tigga was always my favourite.

  10. I have a Cap Horn anchored at Slapy lake in Czech Republic. It was built in-house back in 1986 with use of some technical drawings, which were smuggled accross the Iron Curtain, probably. Now I plan some changes of the inner dispositions to make the boat more comfortable. But the technical drawings are missing. Do you happen to have any?

    1. Mandami qualche foto del tuo Cap Horn...
      Io ho copia dei disegni originali che ho ridotto in formato A3

  11. Petr, interesting story sorry I don't have any drawings

  12. I had a cap horn back in the 80s and I used to sail it from Marina Del Rey to Catalina all the time it was an awesome boat I got it from an old man who had it in his backyard and I spent the whole winter rebuilding it and putting it back together it was my first boat

  13. Does anyone know where 'cap horn' from the OSTAR in 1960 is now?