History

Jolie Brise
French gaff rigged Pilot Cutter

Jolie brise painting by Rodney Charman
Rounding the Fastnet lighthouse by Rodney Charman

Designed by Alexandre Paris and built by M Paumelle in Le Havre 1913

The French Port Pilot Service was setup in 1806 with pilot boats based in Calais, Brest and Le Havre. The French government was concerned that too many boats were being wrecked. The waters around the north–west tip of France are extremely dangerous with high tides, strong currents and rocky shores.
 
Incoming ships had to pay for the pilot service and the pilots had to find and pay for their own pilot boats. They had to wait out at sea trying to find incoming ships needing a pilot. The design of Bristol pilot cutters look similar for very much the same reasons.
 
This was the seed that culminated in the fine lines of the Jolie Brise developed over the next hundred years of refinement.
 
Monsieur Paumelle was an old man when he built the Jolie Brise in 1913, his largest and finest pilot cutter. She was built for speed and ease of sailing with Le Patron, a matelot and a mousse (cabin boy). Unusual for this time, she was built to plans.
 
Jolie Brise was really too late to show her worth as a pilot boat, by this time, the number of ships needing pilots was reducing as the size of ships rapidly increased and radio was being used to locate them.
In 1910 Dr Crippin was arrested on the liner Montrose by radio when trying to escape to America.
 
In 1916 Le Havre pilots bought their first steamship. Only two cutters were kept, the remainder including Jolie Brise were paid off, many left to rot.
Jolie Brise’s fate was to become a Tuna fishing boat in 1917. She was fast, had a wide flat deck and as good as the existing Tuna boats, line fishing out in the Atlantic for up to 10 days at a time.
 
The turning point in Jolie Brise’s life was in 1923 when she was bought by George Martin and sailed to England and refitted her for yachting. George was a founder member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and in 1925 he organized the first long distance ocean race in the UK.
The "Fastnet Race" left the Solent, went round the Fastnet rock then returned back to Plymouth. Jolie Brise won the first Fastnet race and again in 1929 and 30.
In 1926 Jolie Brise sailed across the Atlantic for the first time to take part in the Bermuda race. On the return to the UK, Jolie Brise was proberly the last sailing boat to carry Royal Mail.
 
Jolie Brise had four more owners until she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy during WW2 and laid up in the mud in Shoreham. 1946 saw an aborted attempt to sail to New Zealand. The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club offered to buy her if she could be sailed there.
She ended up in a sorry state in Lisbon were she was saved from being scrapped by Luis Lobato and seven friends. 1955 saw Luis using her as a family boat. In 1975 there was a revolution in Portugal and fortunately the Royal Ocean Yacht Club invited Luis to take part in the fiftieth anniversary of the Fastnet Race. She sailed to England and docked in the Port of London.
 
Jolie Brise now had a second lease of life in 1977 when she became a sail training boat. She had been bought by the International Sailing Craft Association and the Science Museum and leased by Dauntsey's School. In 1979 she was finally sailed from London and for the next four years she underwent an extensive refit at The Exeter Maritime Museum.
1980 saw the first of her many class and overall wins for the school's students in the Tall Ship's and other international races.
In 2003 Dauntsey's School bought Jolie Brise.
 
Monsieur Paumelle must be looking down and smiling to see so many young people learning and sailing in the creation of his hands and heart.

Anthony Bell 2009


 
 
French pilot cutter 1910

Le Havre pilot cutter, circa 1910, designed and built by M Paumelle.

"The French pilot boats of Le Havre and Trouville were similar to the Bristol Channel skiffs, but were generally of superior form and speed. M Paumelle was a noted builder of the type and seems to have designed by drafting. His fast craft had exceptional fine runs and elegant counters and general appearance.
His famous creation was the cutter rigged Jolie Brise built in 1913. On dimensions of 56ft 2in x 48ft x 15ft 9in x 10ft 2in draft she set 2400square feet of working canvas; commonly sailing at 8 knots and making 9-10 knots without appreciable wake. Her mast stepped 18ft 6in aft of the stem and her beautifully formed, heavy displacement hull had a long straight keel, plum stem and short counter.
When hove-to on station the Havre boats set trysail gear, peculiar in the use of a light boom to extend the clew, which was stretched by an outhaul and secured by a grommet. The illustration above shows the final development of the Havre pilot boats before 1914"

John Leather from "The Gaff Rig Handbook: History, Design, Techniques, Developments" 2001

Google the first line "The French .... Trouville" and search "books:google.com ..."


 

Sources

Jolie Brise — More history, photos and details.
 
Absolute Astronomy
Everything
Jolie Brise
Jolie Brise by Robin Bryer. 1982 (Secker & Warburg ISBN 0-436-07181-9 623.828)