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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)

Footnote added 13\03\2020


A comment on this post by “floridafred” suggests that Lacombe’s original transatlantic race boat might be in dry storage in St. Augustine, Florida, USA.  This boat may have been renamed YAVASH at some time.  

A French journalist and yachting historian, Eric Vibart, who writes for VOILES ET VOILIERS magazine, has assembled a great deal of archive material on the life and voyages of Jean Lacombe and would dearly like to discover the whereabouts of this historic boat.  If you have any information that might be helpful, or if you know how to contact “floridafred” please get in touch with Eric Vibart.  

Any information could be send to Eric Vibart : evibart@club-internet.fr

Thursday 25 August 2011

Love-Love, by Julien Berthier

French artist Julien Berthier created this boat. According to him, "Love love is the permanent and mobile image of a wrecked ship that has become a functional and safe leisure object".

I'm not sure the Health and Safety Executive would agree with him about the last part.

Here's what the gallery that displayed it said.

"For this piece he adapted an abandoned 6.5 meter yacht so that it appears to be perpetually sinking. To create this, the vessel was split and a new keel was constructed allowing it to be sailed by Berthier at a 45 degree angle off the coast of Normandy. Love-Love, like much of his oeuvre, is impressive, poetic and humorous.

In this project, the artist invests his energies and resources into creating an art of fiasco, aiming in his words to “fix an object at the moment of its deregulation.” The image, and metaphor of the sinking ship is an iconic one – it signifies death, lost hope and sinking dreams. Berthier’s Love-Love freezes those sentiments permanently both celebrating and overturning them. On display in the gallery will be the boat itself as well as a series of accompanying photographs and documentary video showing the performance in Normandy."

Mr Berthier knows something most of us don't, though - how to make money out of old boats. He is reported to have sold this one for £50,000.

Love Love from julien berthier on Vimeo.

Saturday 20 August 2011

La Recouvrance of Brest

La Recouvrance is named after the historic port area of the naval city of Brest. I'm not sure if the word derives from the French verb recouvrir which might imply the place of safe return of sailors to their families, or recouvrer which can mean to lap planks, as in shiplap boarded houses or in clinker boat building. Either way, the name of this ship tells of its roots in the city to which it literally belongs, and its connection to the seagoing people of the town.

The project was first proposed in 1991 and enthusiastically taken up by the people of the city, who contributed from their own pockets a large part of the cost of building the ship. The rest came from the city council, the Département, the Regional council and from business sponsorship.

In 1991 Chantier du Guip set up a special building yard in Brest, making it as accessible to the public as possible, so that citizens could visit and watch the construction of their ship. The Mayor of Brest symbolically laid the keel on a specially declared “Jour de Fete”. Throughout the build the people of Brest took a keen interest, hundreds visiting the yard to watch the skeleton of timber grow and her 15m long oak planks nailed into place. La Recouvrance was launched, during Brest 92, the city's annual maritime festival week, with great ceremony, a cacophony of ship's foghorns and sirens, cannon fire, and the cheers and whoops of a huge audience of thousands of spectators.

La Recouvrance is a replica “Aviso-goelette”, a fast topsail schooner designed to carry despatches and orders from the mainland to the French fleet.

(photo: Figurehead of La Recouvrance by Hervé Cozanet)

The Avisos, of which 5 were originally built to the designs of Ingénieur Jean-Baptiste Hubert (1781- 1845), also carried out escort and protection duties for commercial shipping along the coasts of West Africa and in the West Indies. Each vessel had a crew of 50 to 60 men and was armed with 6 or 8 carronades as well as a number of swivel guns.

Rigging and exterior fitting-out was completed in 1993, and the interior finished in the spring of 1996.

La Recouvrance is Brest's own ambassador ship, testifying both to the maritime tradition and to the present-day dynamism of Brest as centre of modern seafaring know-how. She participates in major maritime events on the Biscay and Channel coasts of France, and as far away from home as the North Sea.

Although La Recouvrance is a Brest ship through and through, and will always belong to the people of Brest, you don't have to be a “Brestois” to enjoy the experience. Anyone can ship aboard La Recouvrance and take part as volunteer crew on one of her voyages. There is a full annual program of cruises and events, even day-sailing opportunities, that are open to applicants who want to learn how these historic ships were sailed and manouevred by the muscle power of their crew.

Better know your drisses from your écoutes before you set foot on the deck, though, or it'll mean a flogging, for sure!

La Recouvrance

LOA 41.60 m

LOD 24.90 m

Beam 6.40 m

Draft 3.22 m

Sail Area 430 m2

(photo: Stern of La Recouvrance by Hervé Cozanet)


La Recouvrance Official Website

La Recouvrance Drawings 1 (.pdf file)

La Recouvrance Drawings 2 (.pdf file)

La Recouvrance Drawings 3 (.pdf file)

Saturday 13 August 2011

Sgoth Niseach

The Dutch three-masted schooner Oosterschelde on a visit to Stornoway for Sail Hebrides. She is being escorted out of the harbour by two traditional Hebridean fishing vessels, Jubilee in front and An Sulaire behind. These two boats were participating in a race as part of the Sail Hebrides Maritime Festival.

courtesy Donald Macleod

Jubilee arrives at the Old School site in Lionel, Ness where she remained until repairs were carried out in 2005

courtesy Falmadair

Jubilee makes a welcome return to Port of Ness, where she was originally launched in 1935

courtesy Falmadair

Align Center
Stressful sailing. Onboard Jubilee

courtesy Franzi Richter

An Sulaire

courtesy sulaire

An Sulaire and crew in the inner harbour.

courtesy Donald Macleod

Aboard An Sulaire

courtesy Franzi Richter

An Sulaire

courtesy Franzi Richter

The crew hauling Mayflower up the slipway at Skigersta pier in the early 1950s. Read more about Mayflower here.

courtesy Falmadair

The 20 foot keel length Pride of Lionel was owned by Norman Campbell (Tabaidh), 6 Lionel, and registered as SY 455 on 25 May 1918.

courtesy Falmadair

Mairi MacLeod's Runag...

courtesy Mairi MacLeod

build underway...

courtesy Mairi MacLeod

at the Lyme Regis Boat Building Academy in 2009.

courtesy Mairi MacLeod

Mairi chose to build a half-size Sgoth Niseach. Full size boats were just over 30', the boat that Mairi built is 16' 6". The translation of Sgoth Niseach is 'Ness-type skiff', Ness being the northernmost part of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides where the boats were used for fishing. 'Runag', Gaelic for 'little sweetheart', was planked in Alaskan yellow cedar on oak, the planks and ribs fastened with traditional rose head copper nails.

courtesy Mairi MacLeod

Sgoth Niseach translates into English as Ness Skiff, at type of small fishing vessels which evolved in the region of Ness, northernmost part of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. They are double ended like their Norwegian ... but have a distinctive large dipping lug rig which some have likened to a lateen sail. I asked Iain Oughtred about his view of the evolution of this boat type and especially that big sail. Iain's reply:

"I think the evolutionary process went from the faerings etc, with short horizontal yards, to some later Nordlandsboats, which exended the luff far forward, still with a short yard. Up to about 10-oared boats. Then the Shetland Sixareens and Yoals, which peaked up the yard – though still calling it a square sail, but by now very asymmetric. Very efficient sail, especially in the racing yoals. In Lewis, the yard got even longer, and the sail as large as could be contained within the length of the boat, which was different in being big, beamy, heavy. That yard was really a handful. They must have been giants."

These boats had nearly died out completely by mid 20th century, but some worthy restorations and new builds are keeping their heritage alive.

Jubilee was built in 1935 by John F. Macleod. By 1978 she was in need of restoration, was purchased by a group on behalf of the Ness community, funds were secured and work begun. She was re- launched in1980 at Ness Harbour. Further repairs were undertaken in 1995 to coincide with the building of a new Sgoth, An Sulaire. The 28' Jubilee is currently the ward of Falmadair, the North Lewis Maritime Society.

An Sulaire is a 'new' 30ft. sgoth, commissiond by the An Sulaire Trust, built by John Murdo Macleod, assisted by Angus Smith. Macleod is the son of John F. who built Jubilee. He is regarded as a master boatbuilder and the BBC produced a documentary of the build. She is currently in Ullapool on the Scottish mainland for some repair work.

In 2009 Mairi Macleod of Stonaway was completing her course at the Lyme Regis Boatbuilding Academy. She chose to build a half size sgoth as her final project and was helped by John Murdo Macleod. It's a beautiful boat as you can see in the above photos. After graduating other concerns intervened and the boat is still unfinished, but it back in Stornaway, awaiting Mairi's finishing touches, planned for next summer.

There's a Facebook page for these boats here.

Finally, here's a link to some closely related boats I've written about previously.

A big thanks to Iain Oughtred for his insight.

Original post Thomas Armstrong @ 70.8%

Sylphe – by André Mauric - Sunk before Launching!

André Mauric was the most prolific and best known of France's 20th century yacht designers. His career started in the 1920s with radical designs for racing yachts to the International Metre Rule in the days when the bermudan rig was still considered new-fangled and fragile, and carried on well into the 1980s when, among other winners he designed the the highly successful Atlantic crossing record breaker Kriter VIII. In between he designed dozens of great boats, including Pen Duick VI for Eric Tabarly, the 1972 Half Ton Cup winner Impensable, the popular and successful First 30, and Sylphe, a classic yacht hidden for 5 years underwater.

(photos: Sylphe racing at St Tropez: www.sail-in-style.com)

Sylphe (originally Ariel) was commissioned by Paul Blanchet, an owner who wanted a yacht to win races under the British RORC rating rule. His timing was not good – it was 1939 when Mauric started designing the boat, and she was still unfinished on the slipway at Chantier Pharo, her builders in Marseille, when the Germans invaded France. In the days of uncertainty and chaos after France's surrender, believing that the Germans would steal the yacht's ballast keel – a 13 ton lead casting (imagine the price of that today!) - Mauric ordered the yard to sink the unfinished hull in a deep part of the harbour.

So it was that Sylphe spent 5 years in hiding under water before she was even launched. Many of the Marseilles shipyard and dock workers knew the secret, but no-one breathed a word, and Sylphe remained safely concealed with all her ballast until the war was over.

After the war Sylphe was recovered and completed. Her long submersion had done no harm – indeed it may have further improved the seasoning of her timbers and made them less liable to distort, crack, or split in later age. She was finally launched in 1947, and though Mauric had designed her with one of his trademark tall bermudan cutter rigs supported on a slender mast, her sailplan was modified in 1953 to give her a larger and taller foretriangle, its foot extended by a short bowsprit. These modifications were no doubt intended to keep her competitive with the latest offshore racing boats which, encouraged by the allowances in the old RORC rating rule, had begun to sport big overlapping genoas and high aspect mainsails.

During the next 50 years or so Sylphe was sailed and raced in the Mediterranean. It seems she was well maintained, with Mauric himself advising on a number of alterations and small repairs. Her original mast was replaced with a new hollow wood mast in the 1980s, and an engine was fitted at some time (she had been designed and launched without one). The teak deck was also renewed during this period. So when she came up for sale in the south of France in 1999 her new owners found her to be in reasonably good structural order, but scruffy, dated, and in need of a lot of attention.

Her new Dutch owners sailed her to Turkey and set about a 7-month total overhaul to make her more suitable for Mediterranean charter use. Although the interior had mostly to be stripped out and rebuilt to provide more comfortable charter accommodation, the original hull timbers and planking, having endured such a long submersion so many years ago, were found to be in excellent order. Only a couple of rot-infected frames had to be replaced. Her owners are proud to claim that Sylphe still has none of the steel bracing and reinforcement that many other yachts of her day now need to keep them in sailing order. They are equally proud that she retains her original mast winches and her unique, custom made, cockpit sheet winches.

Now equipped with all the modern trappings of a top-quality charter yacht, including satnav, full B&G sailing instrumentation, water-maker, autopilot, etc., Sylphe is currently believed to be available for charter in the Mediterranean. She is also occasionally to be seen taking part in classic yacht regattas at St Tropez, Cannes, and at other glamorous yacht harbours.

Sylphe - a classic Andre Mauric design:

LOA: 18.50m
LOD: 17.25m
LWL: 12.68m
Beam: 3.95m
Draft: 2.50m
Air draft: about 23m, masthead 21m above deck
Sail area: Main 84 m2, Yankee 29 m2, Genoa 78 m2, Spinnaker 205 m2, Reacher 105 m2

Link to Sylphe Charter site

Thursday 11 August 2011

Opera Class

To the south west of Liverpool, the Wirral peninsular forms the northern shore of the estuary to the River Dee. The unique geography created a deep water sea-lake, the Hoyle Lake around which were established fishing communities and safe havens in the protected waters was far back as Roman times.

The Hoylake Sailing Club was established in 1887, in response to the silting up of the river and channel at the turn of the twentieth century the members decided to adopt a shallow draft boat which was suitable for the area. The boat they chose became the Opera Class, a 16 foot gaff rigged clinker boat, based on a design by club member Captain Winchester and built locally by another club member and boat builder Alex Latta.

The first race of the Opera Class took place in 1902 and boat numbers quickly grew to 17. The class celebrated it's centenary in 2002 with 14 of the original boats still racing at Holylake Sailing Club, another boat "La Poupee" is on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

In 1909 one of the class "Orchid" made a voyage to Ardrossan, in Ayrshire, Scotland and then acros the Irish sea to Ballycastle in Northern Ireland, a remarkable voyage for a 16 foot open boat.

All the photographs are kindly provided by John Hughes who sails his Opera Class Iolanthe, named after the operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Opera Class boats at Hoylake Sailing Club

1: Fidelio
2: Aida
4: Valkyrie
5: Country Girl
6: La Poupee
7: Princess Ida
8: Geisha
9: Carmen
10: Orchid
11: La Boheme
12: Betty
13: La Tosca
14: Silvana
16: Iolanthe
17: La Gioconda

Saturday 6 August 2011

Jean Marie Finot's "Ecume De Mer"

In 1967 Jean-Marie Finot, who had recently married, decided to give up the idea of becoming a yacht designer so that he could concentrate on earning a reasonable living. As he is now one of the top half-dozen yacht designers in the world, this was very nearly the biggest mistake of his life.

As a sailing instructor at the Iles de Glénan school - “the only place in France you could really learn to sail, at the time” according to Finot - he got to know Philippe Harlé, the chief instructor, who was leaving to set up a yacht design practice. Jean-Marie, too. wanted to learn about yacht design, so he took a lowly position as Harlé 's assistant in order to pick up some experience.

The apprentice Finot did actually design a couple of boats for the Harlé practice, but as a recently married man he wanted a career that would support a family, so he gave up his yacht design ambitions and left Harlé . However, as a favour to a friend, he agreed to design one last boat, Ecume De Mer, a small cruiser/racer of which it was intended only two would ever be built – one for the friend and one for Jean-Marie himself. This would be, he decided, his last design.

The pair looked around for a French yard to build the hard-chine plywood boats, but none seemed interested. Finally a Dutch builder, Walter Huisman, heard of their project and, impressed by the young designer, offered to build one boat at a reasonable price, provided they would campaign it in a number of races, including the International Quarter Ton Cup competition. Although this entailed modifying the plans to create a slightly larger boat, agreement was reached.

In the Spring of 1968 Huisman delivered a bare painted hull. Finot and his friend went to Holland, and spent some time fitting her out with deck gear and rigging, before launching just in time to enter, as agreed, the Quarter Ton Cup. (photo: Huisman prototype Ecume De Mer in hard chine plywood) With such a lack of preparation and tuning they couldn't hope to win there, but later, with a fully sorted boat, they won the important Delta Race. Their success attracted an Australian, Eric Bradley, who took home modified designs for the boat with slightly reduced freeboard and a coachroof, retaining however the plywood hard chine hull. Several were built in Australia to this specification.

The following season, back in France the prototype boat won race after race, and even returned briefly to Holland to win the Delta race again. Soon this phenomenon caught the attention of the French boatbuilder, Mallard, who contracted to build a series of boats to the design, in GRP. Once again the drawings were modified. Away went the chines to be replaced by a rounded hull shape. The stepped sheerline and flush deck were replaced by a conventional sheer and a short coachroof. Though the efficient racing deck layout was retained, with halyards and controls led aft to the cockpit, on the inside the accomodation was re-designed for comfort in harbour rather than racing. There would now be standing headroom, a dinette, a toilet, and a separate forecabin.

The production Ecume De Mer (colour photo from Mallard 1969 brochure) was a sales success from the start and remained in production, unchanged until 1975 . A 100% standard production boat won the Quarter Ton Cup in 1970 against strong international competition, and a modified, but nevertheless series-produced regatta version with a flush deck won again in 1972. Hundreds of owners had countless successes in offshore and club racing, while hundreds more enjoyed family cruising in a robust and capable boat.

Further modifications were made to re-style accommodation and coachroof, giving more headroom in the heads in 1975. This version won the 1977 Boat of the Year title and was chosen for the 1978 "Tour De France" race. It continued in production until 1980.

Eventually 1385 boats were built to the Ecume De Mer design. Examples of this fine boat, that was supposed to be Finot's farewell to yacht design and of which there should only ever have been two, can still be seen in almost any marina in France as well as in many other parts of the world. This great boat - that launched a lasting career for its designer - has itself lasted pretty well.

Ecume De Mer (Mallard, 1969 version)

LOA: 7.90 m
Beam: 2.65 m
Draft: 1.25 m
Ballast: 720 kg
Displacement: 1.800 kg
Max Headroom 1.72 m