Speed Bony Boat

Boat-build­ing is big busi­ness in Bordeaux and the nearby Bassin d’ar­ca­chon. The re­gion is a hub for the in­dus­try, with 170 com­pa­nies based here, em­ploy­ing more than 1600 peo­ple

Bordeaux J'Adore - - Contents - CLARE O’HA­GAN

since the year 300 Bc, Bordeaux has Been an im­por­tant Out­post Of trade along europe’s at­lantic

coast. Dur­ing the 18th and early 19th cen­tury, the city came to promi­nence as the sec­ond largest port in the world, grow­ing rich on the prof­its of her trade in slaves, ce­re­als, sugar and wine. Some of the best ex­am­ples of ships of the pe­riod to set sail on the At­lantic were crafted in the city’s ship­yards. By the late 18th cen­tury, France was at war with Bri­tain, and her navy de­manded the very fastest and light­est sail­ing boats avail­able. The Borde­lais, built in 1798, was a mil­i­tary ves­sel which fought in three cam­paigns against the Bri­tish, un­til her cap­ture in the open At­lantic.

In the mid 19th cen­tury, Lu­cien Ar­man, an il­lus­tri­ous Borde­lais ship-builder, pi­o­neered the con­struc­tion of the French clip­per – a lighter, smaller ver­sion of the clip­per in­vented in Amer­ica in the 1840s. He also in­vented the com­pos­ite hull, made from a mix­ture of wood and iron, ren­der­ing large steam­ers lighter and more aqua-dy­namic. He was made com­man­der of the Le­gion of Hon­our by Napoleon III for his con­tri­bu­tion to the Sec­ond Em­pire.

Dubour­dieu: Small is Beau­ti­ful

Gu­jan Mes­tras is a quiet oys­ter port on the Bassin d’ar­ca­chon. It is home to one of the old­est boat-yards in the re­gion, the Chantier Dubour­dieu. The com­pany’s 218 year-evo­lu­tion is a tale of one fam­ily’s cre­ative and flex­i­ble think­ing. In 1800 a young car­pen­ter called Louis Dubour­dieu be­gan spe­cial­is­ing in tilloles, small fish­ing boats. He and his sons, grand­sons and great-grand­sons af­ter him, pro­duced 12-16 cus­tom-built fish­ing ves­sels a year un­til 1909, when Emile Dubour­dieu turned out the first petrol-pow­ered pinasse, or mo­tor-boat. This model, and later a gaso­line-fuelled ver­sion quickly be­came a hit with lo­cal fish­er­men. Ar­ca­chon’s Ville d’hiver then sud­denly be­came the play­ground of a rich in­ter­na­tional co­terie who came to take the sea air to clear their lungs of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. The pres­ence of the jet­set in­spired Emile to pro­duce a lux­ury ver­sion of the pinasse us­ing ex­pen­sive var­nished woods, cop­per and pol­ished brass.

This mo­tor­boat was up­dated in 1990 by Jean-pierre Dubour­dieu. The Clas­sic Ex­press, a sleek, mod­ern de­sign em­ploy­ing strat­i­fied wood, which was snapped up by the likes of Philippe Starck. In 2000 the com­pany was bought by Em­manuel and Béa­trice Martin who now sup­ply the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket with the be­spoke lux­ury mo­tor­boats made from cashew and teak. In ad­di­tion, Dubor­dieu make plea­sure yachts and were re­cently awarded the con­tract to make a shut­tle boat, the Batcub 3, a new form of pub­lic trans­port on the Garonne River in Bordeaux. Their slo­gan is ‘moder­nity is tra­di­tion on the go’.

CNB: Big is Beau­ti­ful

Bordeaux’s ship-build­ing in­dus­try was vig­or­ous for cen­turies, but started to spi­ral into de­cline in 1986 when a vast ship­yard, the Chantiers du Sud-ouest was closed down. The fol­low­ing year, a young, di­shev­elled Ger­man ad­dressed the Con­seil Général of the Gironde with a bid to buy the ship­yard on the Quai de Brazza. He may not have looked the part, but the for­mer pro­fes­sional foot­ball player wasn’t short of a penny. Nor was he short on ideas.

Di­eter Gust had de­vel­oped a pas­sion for life on the ocean wave sail­ing char­ter yachts in the Caribbean. He re-opened the ship­yard with a hand­ful of ar­ti­sans, hell-bent on pro­duc­ing the finest sail boats in the world. CNB (Con­struc­tion Navale Bordeaux) was born. Within a year the small team were hard at work on the Ecureuil 2, built for skip­per Ti­touan La­ma­zou, who went on to win the Vendée Globe sin­gle-handed race around the world in it. Next, the com­pany be­gun a long-term col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ar­gen­tinian de­signer-ar­chi­tect Ger­man Fr­ers. Their lux­ury yachts started to fly off the shelves and CNB ex­panded to 50 em­ploy­ees in its first two years. Just four years af­ter it launched, 56% of

CNB’S shares were bought by Bénéteau, the world’s big­gest name in yacht con­struc­tion. The par­ent com­pany swiftly en­trusted the build­ing of its La­goon cata­ma­rans to CNB.

Dur­ing the 1990s, CNB di­ver­si­fied into mo­tor­boats, but still found time to ded­i­cate to world-class sport­ing yachts. Di­eter Gust still speaks with pride and de­light about the com­plete re­fur­bish­ment car­ried out by his com­pany of the yacht, La Poste, just be­fore it com­peted in The Whit­bread, a round-the-world sail­ing race.

From the mid-90s on­wards, CNB set its course firmly on break­ing records for the long­est or the fastest su­per-yacht the world had ever seen. In 1994, the Vic­to­ria T slipped onto the Garonne at the Quai de Brazza, mea­sur­ing a su­perb 33 me­tres. Why so long? Well, ap­par­ently her fu­ture owner wanted to ac­com­mo­date a salt-wa­ter hot tub on the aft-deck! In 1998, CNB col­lab­o­rated once again with Ger­man Fr­ers on a 29 me­tre-long beauty boast­ing three large cab­ins. Al­ways, ahead of the curve, in ’99 the com­pany turned out a 32 me­tre yacht, in­no­vat­ing the use of car­bon-com­pos­ite tech­nol­ogy. In 2007, the ‘Bordeaux 60’, a sporty, ro­bust fam­ily yacht de­signed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with naval ar­chi­tect, Phillipe Briand, hit the wa­ter.

Busi­ness has al­ways boomed at CNB, but who are their clients? Surely the James Bond vil­lains of the world? Well, CNB won’t let on, other than to let it be known that the kind of mil­lion­aires and world-class sports­men who buy their prod­ucts in­sist on com­plete dis­cre­tion!

Chantier Ni­co­las, a Labour of Love

In a pic­turesque set­ting on the treefringed right bank of the Garonne stands an el­e­gant tim­ber build­ing set within a spa­cious boat­yard. The Chantier Ni­co­las, es­tab­lished in 1982, spe­cialises in the re­pair of vin­tage mo­tor­boats dat­ing from the early 20th cen­tury, in­clud­ing Riva, Pe­drazz­ini, Hacker Craft and Chris Craft. The three spe­cial­ist ar­ti­sans in charge warn clients that restora­tion of their cher­ished boats is a lengthy pro­ce­dure; 3000 hours is the av­er­age time it takes to re­store a clas­sic mo­tor­boat to its true glory!

Clients from all over the world will pay what­ever it costs to trans­port their beloved boats to this Bordeaux ship­yard. And you don’t have to be a mo­tor­boat en­thu­si­ast to ap­pre­ci­ate a well-re­stored mo­tor­boat. It’s im­pos­si­ble not to drool over the sleek curves and gleam­ing ma­hogany or ch­est­nut sur­faces of one of these early-20th cen­tury beau­ties. Smooth leather-seats are re-up­hol­stered in the tra­di­tional colours - vi­brant red, racing green or tan. Typ­i­cally a lot of the wood will need to be re­placed, hulls and decks must be re-var­nished, hard­ware re-chromed, in­stru­ments on the dash­board taken apart, fixed and re-mounted, to say noth­ing of the ac­tual me­chan­ics of en­gine-re­pair.

When it comes to boat-build­ing, Bordeaux is truly open for busi­ness. In 2013, the city’s har­bour, the Bassins à Flot were ex­ten­sively over-hauled. There are now three types of dry dock which can ac­com­mo­date tall and large ves­sels. This has led to a jobs boost, as skilled work­ers have been re­cruited to main­tain the yachts an­chored here. At the nearby Port of Bordeaux, 1600 ships dock an­nu­ally, re­quir­ing the ser­vices of over 100 com­pa­nies.


Left page: ‘Grand Bleu Vin­tage’.


Above: CNB as seen by a drone. At left: Cata­ma­ran La­goon at CNB.


Con­struc­tion of a hull at CNB 2.

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