1952 - 2002: 50 years of Vaurien
Written by Florence Herbulot in 2002
The Vaurien is fifty years old already! How did that happen?
For any sailing class, fifty is really quite a respectable age, an age at which it might take itself seriously. But does the Vaurien really want to act her age and be serious? You may find her somewhat outdated, overly simple, too rustic, too highly principled but those who knew her in her early years would tell you a quite different story.
Born in 1951, launched at the 1952 Paris Boat Show, the Vaurien was a revolutionary yacht: a shameless little rascal that made waves among the yachting fraternity. It must be said that it was a pretty strange idea to design a boat available to all those youngsters who, thanks to the Centre nautique des Glenan, were beginning to spend their holidays on islands around the French coast, acquiring a taste for sailing and the sea, a boat that would enable them to buy their very own boat. What a strange idea indeed! Why not continue to sail as a crewmember on dad's yacht? And how would dad find a crew if the kids all went off to sail on their own? That would be a problem! And then not all the dads had boats, so the sea and sailing was not really something that was open to those kids. It was J.J. Herbulot's wish to see as many as possible share his love of sailing. Something had to be done so they could all set sail. What was needed was something light, easy to handle, instructive and, above all, inexpensive.The material - plywood and glue - withstood the rigours of the boiling kettle and exposure to the elements on the balcony.
The prototype was built at Philippe Viannay's, but had to be carried out on its side because the door was too narrow. Named after a dog that Philippe had been very fond of, the No 0 sailed all summer of 1952 at Les Glénan, with a Firefly sail and an Argonaute jib. At her first Boat Show in 1952, on the banks of the Seine, the Vaurien No 1 was priced at FRF 55000, the equivalent in today's purchasing power of FRF 6000. It was only one quarter the cost of the cheapest dinghy, the 9 m² Sharpie (a solo yacht), and the price of two bicycles. She was a real livewire and she generated plenty of talk. The amazing price was made possible by her simplicity and rationality: the hull was just 4.08 metres long foe the best use of the sheets of ply, the flanks and flat bottom lent themselves to series production, the fittings were Spartan. The Costantini shipyard in La Trinite sur Mer started up production of 200 units, sailmaker Le Rose in Concarneau began series production of the sails, with pre-pared cloths and boltropes sewn by machine rather than by hand. For all of us it was a first: no one had ever before thought it possible to produce 200 boats of l the same model!
The darling of J.J. Herbulot, the Vaurien is still today one of the most inexpensive ways of putting people to water, and racing truly exciting regattas. The fact is that revolutionary children always attract a lot of love, and the Vaurien, it must be said, was a revolution!