THE MAKING OF A SAILING ICON
Built by Albert Paumelle, Jolie Brise started life as a Le Havre pilot cutter and was launched in December 1913, only to be laid up throughout WWI. Peacetime brought three years as a tunny fisher before the famous yachtsman E G Martin, winner of the One Ton Cup and twice winner of the Royal Cruising Club’s Challenge trophy, discovered her languishing at Concarneau near Brest and brought her back to England. She was converted into a cruising yacht at Teignmouth by her owner and his new skipper Sid Briggs, with some help from
Martin’s friend Frank
Morgan Giles, who ran his yard from that town.
In 1923, the Americans had held their sixth 635-mile offshore Newport to
Bermuda Race and Martin, who was a yachting journalist at the time, was excited by the idea of such a challenge.
With a small group of influential sailing friends, he began to organise a similar race off the south British coast, ignoring vocal opposition from more conventional yachtsmen who felt it might be dangerous (or even ungentlemanly) to race for days and nights at a time. The first Fastnet race was run in 1925, with Jolie Brise victorious. Since that moment, she has continued to make headlines across the globe.
In 1926, Martin took her over the Atlantic to take part in the Bermuda Race, for which she gained the Blue Water Medal. Then, under the new ownership of dashing Bobby Somerset, she returned in 1932 to contest the race again, only this time she stopped to save the crew of her fellow competitor Adriana, which had caught fire. A second Blue Water Medal followed. Somerset also raced Jolie Brise to two more Fastnet victories
– in 1929 and 1930 – a tally of wins that have never yet been matched.
Nowadays, Jolie Brise is a legend. She has won the Tall Ships Races outright three times and as a modern youth training ship, has few equals.