The Other French Boats
If you’re in search of a boat that stands out in a crowd, try visiting the La Rochelle show
If you’re looking for a boat show that’s a little different from the standard offerings, few can compete with the magnificent Grand Pavois held in La Rochelle, France, every September.
The rugged Atlantic coastline of western France is an outstanding cruising ground, scattered with craggy estuaries, mostly navigable rivers and down-to-earth harbors. The inhabitants of this rugged coastal region have the sea and sailing in their blood.
Most of France’s most famous sailing celebrities were born and bred in this area and were brought up messing about on the water with their parents.
Every sailor is familiar with brands like Beneteau, Jeanneau and Dufour, but there are many smaller builders as well whose approach is distinctly out of the mainstream. Boats that are designed, built and sailed around this area tend to be distinctive and quirky, reflecting the locals’ adventurous outlook on sailing, and many of them are proudly displayed each year at the Grand Pavois.
Wooden-boat specialist Chantier des Ileaux exhibited its latest, sporty open-deck dayboat at this year’s show. The Troll 26 is hand-built using plywood frames and topsides, but mahogany strip-planking is used below the waterline. The hull is sheathed with an epoxy glass laminate coating, making it waterproof and extremely strong. With her powerful rig and bowsprit chute, the Troll should really fly.
Another racy-looking carbon-epoxy offering on show from Black Pepper Yachts was the latest Bay Sailer from its Code Vintage range. The 27ft Bay Sailer at the show came with a compact, stripped-out cabin for storing sails below and a couple of rather token quarterberths as standard. She looked stunning, with flush teak decks, carbon rig and bowsprit, wide-open cockpit and beautiful sleek lines and a quiet 10hp inboard diesel rather than a noisy outboard.
One of the very few Spanish offerings at the show, the Sarch 7, is another ultra-modern design with an aggressive bow, shallow underwater sections, and a wide-open transom. It is, however, designed to be easily towed, rigged and launched singlehanded in minutes. Weighing just 2,640lb, her hull is a vacuum-infused epoxy/foam sandwich, and she has a lifting keel with lead bulb, twin rudders, a rotating wing mast and a bowsprit.
The French Django, Malango and RM ranges all appear to have been conceived with performance uppermost in their brief, pushing cruising comfort down to second place. That said, if you’re a fan of colorful, easy-clean, functional flat-pack style furnishings, then these boats will suit you perfectly.
The six-berth Django 12.70 is the most recent launch in the 18-42ft Django (mareehaute.fr) series. This 42-footer looks racy with its open transom, chines and shallow sections, but its fixed doghouse gives it more of an ocean-cruiser feel, and features like an optional machinery cabin and plentiful stowage make it bluewater-friendly. The boat is set up for solo sailing, and the lift keel option allows you to take the ground or anchor within a few yards of the beach.
In a similar vein, the new RM 1270 is lightweight and fast, with an open, bright and roomy interior. As with most modern chined-hull performance cruisers, RM hulls are built of an epoxy sandwich, but instead of the more common foam core, RM uses waterproof marine ply in its vacuum-infused hull composite.
Keel options include a fixed fin, a centerboard, or twin keels, which allow the boats to be safely run up on the beach.
IDB Marine, based in Brittany on the northwest coast of France, produces some of the most eye-catching sports cruising yachts anywhere in Europe. With its exciting Malango and Mojito ranges of fast, beamy, twin-ruddered open-transom sloops, IDB has successfully melded the inspiration of some of France’s top racing sailors and designers with an airy and bright open-plan cruising accommodation to produce an ideal compromise between a performance yacht and a luxurious cruising platform.
The smallest of the breed, the Mojito 888, sports a tall fractional rig, a double chine for increased form stability, a centerboard for creek crawling and beach parking, twin rudders for optimum steerage when heeled, extending beaching legs and a wide, open cockpit with easy water access when entertaining at anchor. The larger boats follow a similar line in performance terms but feature more accommodation space, and a higher comfort and equipment level for extended cruising.
The boats all feature a transom garage in which to stow an inflatable tender. Below, the Mojito 888 has ample accommodation for four to six people, a comprehensive galley and a spacious heads/shower compartment. Such a boat looks like an ideal Chesapeake or Keys cruiser, but since the domestic market snaps up most of the production, it’s not likely we’ll see one on this side of the pond.
Troll 26 chantierdesileaux.com
Bay Sailer blackpepper.fr
Mojito 888 idbmarine.com
Django 12.70 mareehaute.fr
Sarch 7 sarch.es