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Friday 30 September 2011

Fowey River Class

The Fowey River Class is a 14 foot traditional dinghy which is actively sailed in the Cornish harbour town.

Based on a knockabout day boat by Reg Freeman in the late 1940’s, the design of which was published in Yachting World. In the early 1950’s a local dentist commissioned a boat to be built by Hunkins Boatyard across the river at Polruan, after that the fleet quickly grew and by the mid 1960’s had reached 36 boats.

Inevitably with the introduction of modern plastic boats the class declined throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, but there has been a resurgence of interest in the class and several new boats have been built including those by local wooden boat builder Marcus Lewis.

Racing on a evening in the summer, the Fowey River Class make a wonderful sight, their distinctive coloured sails and bright finished hulls look spectacular sailing in the steep wooded estuary. The current popularity of the Fowey River Class can be seen all along the town’s water front where well kept examples swing to their moorings when not sailing.

This boat was interesting, it seems to be a FR and certainly the coloured sails and sail number reflect that, but the boat is painted rather than varnished. The planking is also different to other examples, having fewer and broader topside planks and a more pronounced sheer. Whatever her origin she’s certainly a pretty boat.

Monday 26 September 2011

Maïca and her sisters - a classic Illingworth design

There are not many ocean racing characters whose exploits and achievements rival those of Captain John Illingworth. He was already a well-known and successful yacht racer before the war, but it was in the 1940s and '50s that he virtually dominated the British ocean racing scene, as well as being hugely influential in the development of the sport in other countries, especially France and Australia. (photo: Mandragore, a transom stern Maïca class)
His most famous yacht, Myth of Malham, was nominally designed by Laurent Giles, but it is no secret that Illingworth himself conceived the general outline of the boat, with its abruptly short ends, relatively light displacement and, above all, its groundbreaking rig with big masthead foretriangle and high aspect ratio mainsail. Jack Laurent Giles begged to be allowed to draw longer overhangs, but was firmly overruled. He complained that the proposed mainsail was too short on the foot and looked more like a flag than a sail, but Illingworth insisted, and Myth of Malham went on to be one of the most successful ocean racing boats of all time.
In 1958 Illingworth opened his own yacht design business, in partnership with Angus Primrose. Together they created some of the most attractive and weatherly boats of the era. Illingworth's role was to conceive the design in general, the rig, and the details of deck and interior layouts, while Primrose gave the hulls their sweet and efficient lines for speed, good seakeeping and beauty. (photo: Saba, a superb example of a counter stern Maïca)
Many of the firm's early clients were French. Illingworth spoke fluent French and loved the country. He encouraged and assisted in the founding of the enormously influential Glenans sailing school, where hundreds of young Frenchmen learned to sail – and to become instructors themselves. He was commissioned to design a yacht for the Glenans school, the building of which was put under the supervision of Philippe Harle who worked at the Glenans at the time. This experience so stimulated Harle that he immediately gave up his job at the school and set up as a yacht designer himself.
The first of what became known as the Maïca class was commissioned by French yachtsman Henri Rouault who had admired Illingworth's earlier successful racer “Belmore” and asked for a smaller version. She was built by Burnes of Bosham and launched at Easter 1960. At the suggestion of Rouault's sister, a nun, the boat was named after her convent's former Mother Superior, a decorated heroine of the wartime resistance, who was known by the nickname “Maïca”. (image: drawings for the transom stern Maïca)
The original Maïca, like the Belmore design, had a transom stern. She was so admired and so successful, winning the RORC Class III championship in 1962 that soon further examples were built in Britain and in France, but when Illingworth sold the plans for the Maïca to Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie at Cherbourg, Felix Amiot, the owner of the yard, insisted that the design should be modified with a counter stem. Apparently this was because M. Amiot wanted a Maïca for his own personal use and he preferred the elegant look of a counter stern.
So Illingworth and Primrose produced plans for a “Maïca à voûte” (counter stern) and in 1963 CMN started to build this version employing a novel method of construction that made series production viable - cold moulded mahogany. (image: drawings for the counter stern Maïca class) A first lightweight layer of 1cm planks was laid longitudinally over formers, then two diagonal layers of planks, each 4cm wide, at right angles to each other. When the glue had cured the hull was simply lifted off the formers and turned right way up for decking and fitting out.
CMN built 38 Maïca class yachts, about half of which are known to be still sailing and in superb condition. (photo: Maïcas awaiting delivery at the CMN yard in Cherbourg) The CMN Maïcas were mostly sold to French clients, (one was ordered by the Greek ambassasor to Paris), but many went to customers from Britain and other countries. Some of these boats were among the most famous offshore racers of their day - and many were scoring notable wins even ten years after the introduction of the class
With so many international racing successes and long voyages, the class also made a name for itself in Mediterranean waters and it was not long before a couple of Italian yards obtained licences to build slightly modified versions. One Italian version, of which I believe over a hundred examples were built, was in GRP with a modified fin keel and skeg underwater profile.

Maïca class by Illingworth and Primrose

LOA: 10.08m (transom), 11.06 (counter)
LWL: 7.32m
Beam: 2.74
Draft: 1.74
Displacement: 5300Kg (approx)

(photo: The elegant stern of one of the counter stern Maïcas, recently sold by Sandeman Yacht Co.)

Class Maïca (Acknowledgements to this French website for much of the history and most of the above photos)
Saba - a French owned Maïca.
If you want to sail a Maïca, see Saba's cruising and regatta programme

Monday 19 September 2011

Lacoste 42 - handsome yacht - but a marketing fiasco

I usually contribute posts about French boats to this blog, but when I heard last week that Sparkman and Stephens, the most illustrious yacht design firm of the 20th century, had moved, after more than 80 years on Madison Avenue, NY, to new premises on the Connecticut shore of Long Island Sound, I thought I would feature an S&S design in this post to mark the historic occasion. Cunningly, though, I managed to find an interesting S&S boat with a very French story.

The fashion brand Lacoste is so well known all over the world that it's easy to forget its French origins. Rene Lacoste was a French tennis champion, winner of 7 grand slam titles in the 1920s and '30s, whose nickname, "the alligator", was the inspiration for the logo on his tennis shirt - the first of many products marketed under the now famous Lacoste name. In 1985, the house of Lacoste, by then a global byword for sporty fashion goods, took the bold step of extending their brand into yachts - not just any yacht, of course - Lacoste yachts were to exemplify style, performance, and comfort, so naturally they went to the world's most respected yacht architects for the designs.

Sparkman and Stephens designed at least two boats for Lacoste. One, a motor yacht, never went into production. Another, the Lacoste 42, a fast cruiser/racer, was built and marketed for Lacoste by the Dufour yard at La Rochelle. Though a very handsome, stylish and capable vessel it was not a great success in sales terms - only 12 were ever built

Looking at the photographs and drawings of the Lacoste 42, I think I can guess why sales were disappointingly slow. The boat suffers from a seriously split personality. On the outside it is a very high performance racing yacht, with a tall, narrow, complicated rig, a race-crew oriented deck layout and an aggressively honed, IOR-rating-tweaked, short fin and vestigial skeg underwater profile; inside it's a de luxe holiday home with 3 double bedrooms, (each with ensuite facilities), a large galley and a spacious and comfortable saloon.

I imagine most of the marina posing types, who could have been attracted to the stylish and comfortable interior, would run a mile from the race-bred rig with its three-spreader mast, running backstays, hydraulically tensioned standing backstay and 2 inner forestays (one is detachable to ease tacking - the two guys on the foredeck in the publicity shot below are leaning against it).

Conversely, few of the hard-core racing crews capable of handling the big rig with its huge headsails and spinnakers would be likely to appreciate all the comforts of the double beds and triplicated shower and heads compartments.

Aside from that, the marketing and management suits at Lacoste probably knew little about the unglamorous wet, cold and bruising side of yacht racing, and the salt-stained welly-boot boat jockeys at Dufour equally little about fashion marketing - in short, a perfect recipe for a marketing flop. None were built after 1992, even though the Lacoste name was dropped and the yacht was rebranded as the Dufour 42.

A pity, really, because according to the accounts of owners and crews that you can find on internet forums, the Lacoste 42 made an excellent, long-legged cruising yacht. Even now, it seems that when they do come on the market they tend to sell for very good prices.

Lacoste/Dufour 42

LOA: 42'-2"
LWL: 35'-9"
Beam: 13'-0"
Draft: 7'-6"
Displacement: 16,538 lbs
Ballast: 7,124 lbs
Sail Area: 748 sq ft

Colour image right: a very handsome Lacoste 42 recently sold by Ancasta International Boat Sales.

Plans and drawings: Sparkman and Stephens

Monday 12 September 2011

Golif - the first all-plastic sailing yacht?

The 23ft Golif was built from 1962 by the Jouët works at Sartrouville. Jouët claim she was the first production small offshore cruiser to be entirely built in GRP, and she caused a stir on her introduction at the first Paris Boatshow in January 1962.

The unusual name comes from a famously ruthless, daring, and reportedly amorous 17th century French pirate, Louis Adhémar Timothée Le Golif, also known as “Borgnefesse”. Since his nickname means something like "one-eyed-arse", you would probably have been wise to address him, at least until you got to know him well, as Captain Golif.

Golif was designed by Jouet with one eye on the American market, where the management believed they could sell a lot of boats. They had probably been helped considerably in their objective by the earlier successful transatlantic voyages of Jean Lacombe, in a plywood Jouet Cap-Horn. Apparently the company's market research suggested that the Americans favoured rather more interior comfort than the European market was used to, and that stiffness under sail and transportability by road would be important qualities for US buyers. Some of the Golif's characteristic features, such as its panoramic cabin window, shoal draft, relatively light displacement and high ballast ratio, stem directly from these market-related requirements.

Even today, Golif's looks seem rather quirky, though the underwater hull shape and the rig appear conventional. At the time, however, Golif's rig was considered rather tall and narrow, and the aluminium mast was in those days quite an innovation on a small cruising yacht. The odd pinched shape of the coach roof seems to have been intended to maximise the width of the side decks, but without sacrificing headroom in the places below where you might want to stand. Thus, with perfect French logic, there is low headroom over bunks and seats, where you sit or lie down, but there is plenty of headroom over the central passage and galley area, where you stand or walk. As the Jouët company said, this deck was designed from the inside!

Unusually for such a small boat, Golif had a decent chart table at which you could comfortably sit and work while facing the direction of travel, as you might in a much larger yacht. This was achieved by making the chart table swing down from the cabin deckhead right in the centre of the boat. Another innovation was a hinged and sliding hatch (visible in the colour photo of a Golif recently for sale in France)

Some versions of the Golif were delivered with an optional deeper keel for racing performance. These boats were excellent performers in offshore races and won many prizes, but it was a perfectly standard Golif that achieved the greatest fame for the class. In 1964, Jean Lacombe who had been France's sole entrant in the 1960 Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race (OSTAR), returned to repeat the feat in a Golif, once again the smallest boat in the competition. This was the year of Eric Tabarly's first triumph, so Lacombe's achievement was rather overshadowed by the acclaim and fanfares garnered by the winner. Nevertheless, Lacombe's Golif took joint pride of place, alongside Tabarly's Pen Duick II at the centre of the 1965 Paris Boat show. (see photo)

There are varying estimates of the total number of Golifs built by Jouet and also by the Dubigeon yard in Normandy. The total number certainly comes to over 1000.

Jouët Golif
LOA: 6.50m
LWL: 5.92m
Beam: 2.22m
Draft: 0.96m
Displacement: 1200Kg
Ballast: 480Kg (cast iron)
Sail area: 23.2sqm

Many thanks to the French Golif owners website for all the b&w images and much of the information used in preparing this post. Colour photo of a Golif recently for sale in France from an advertisement on www.leboncoin.fr

A scanned copy of the original 1963 Jouet Golif sales brochure is available in .pdf format from Yacht Brochures.co.uk

Monday 5 September 2011

Stone Horse 23

The Stone Horse 23, cutter-rigged pocket cruiser.
Sam Crocker designed the Stone Horse 23 in 1931 after the tradition of the small working vessels that evolved along the New England coast during the days of sail. In 1968, Edey & Duff adapted it to fiberglass but retained both the performance and beauty of the original with classic lines, a generous nature and quick response to a light touch.

A sloop with two headsails, the Stone Horse, with its large mainsail, moves in the merest whisper of a breeze while the long keel holds it on course and facilitates self-steering. The boat is safe, responsive and a sheer delight even in high-wind conditions that leave other boats at their moorings. The 8-foot cockpit welcomes guests and stays dry.

The mahogany-trimmed cabin has sitting headroom and enough space for an afternoon nap, or for several days of cruising.

There are no winches, various blocks and purchases provide mechanical advantage.
Her classic lines, wooden spars, bowsprit, and boomkin are fittingly eye-catching.

I had the pleasure of sailing in company with the two Stone Horse pictured here, in the Salish Sea this summer.

Impressive vessels indeed.

Saturday 3 September 2011

"A" ~ the spectacular mega yacht designed by Philippe Starck

The French designer, Philippe Starck is best known for his furniture and kitchen gadget designs, including his iconic lemon juicer. He is not, as far as I know, a naval architect, yet the most exciting and, to my mind, most beautiful of the world's billionaire mega-yachts has its origin on Starck's drawing board.

Starck, whose work ranges from designing boutique hotels, the Virgin Galactic “spaceport” as well as that stylish juicer, claims to have come up with the idea for “A”, as the yacht is called, in 3½ hours. Naval architects, including Britain’s Martin Francis, and Blohm and Voss, the German shipbuilders, then took over and adapted the design project.

Starck always insists that form must follow function – in other words the purpose for which an object is designed should dictate its shape. This 5,900 ton, 390 ft. yacht's shape is reminiscent of a battleship crossed with a submarine. Evidently Starck appreciated that a yacht is, in essence, a big boy's toy, and that for this big boy, Russian billionaire owner Andrey Melnichenko, 36, only the biggest, “baddest” looking toy battleship on the boating pond would do.

Apart from sheer stylish looks, the clean lines of the exterior answer another function – that of security. The lack of any external features such as rails, handholds, or openings makes it very difficult for pirates or other undesired visitors to board the ship. For the same reason, the helicopter pad on the bow is easily rendered unusable by extending a telescopic mast through the deck. Clamshell doors hide all the access points, including the garage for the 2 launches, extending harbour gangways and even the anchor cable fairleads.

The yachts twin engines deliver 24,000 hp for a 24 knot cruising speed and a 6,500 mile range. Accommodation includes a palatial (quite literally) owners suite, 6 luxurious double guest cabins, and quarters for 37 crew plus 5 of the owners personal staff, secretaries, assistants, etc.

The yacht is variously said to have cost $200 to $300 million. Crew salaries, maintenance and running costs are unlikely to be less than another 5 to 10 million a year. So, it's not enough to be very rich indeed - Wayne Rooney rich, for instance - to own this yacht. You need to be able to spend twice Wayne's annual salary, every year, just to run it. Fortunately for Mr. Melnichenko, whose wealth is conservatively estimated at $2-3 billion, he can.

Obviously the interior décor is super palatial. I won't even try to describe it. You can find more details in the Wall Street Journal video and on the sites to which I have linked below. But the accessory I really like, and which makes me warm greatly to the scarily rich Mr. Melnichenko, is the uncompromising design of the yacht's twin 30 ft. motor-launch tenders. He could easily have bought a couple of off-the-shelf plastic speedboats, and in spite of the fact that each one of these beauties probably cost as much as a very nice house in Torremolinos, he clearly would have nothing that was not rare and spectacular for his yacht. This, for Mr Melnichenko was probably no more of an extravagance than my purchase of a pair of shiny bronze rowlocks, instead of perfectly serviceable plain galvanised, for my 10 ft rowing dinghy.

As another great designer once said, “God is in the detail”.


Italian saint-andres blog story

Sunday Times Article