Voiles et Voiliers n° 640— Rosewest Shipyard— Hedonistic Day-sailers

June 2024

Voiles et Voiliers – Rosewest Shipyard – Hedonistic Day-sailers - Rosewest
Voiles et Voiliers – Rosewest Shipyard – Hedonistic Day-sailers - Rosewest

Chantier Rosewest

On ne naît ne naît pas nécessairement constructeur de bateau mais on peut décider de lancer un chantier, de choisir sa vie en quelque sorte, comme nous One is not necessarily born a boat builder, but one can decide to start a shipyard, to choose one’s life in a way, as Hervé Nollet explains: “I had my midlife crisis: I was making boats for myself.” Until then, the industrial designer, who in another life had tracked teak in Burma (to make boat decks and boats), has always been a lover of style. Tackling the design and then the construction of a boat required him to solve engineering problems and find the right balance between elegant design and a boat that performs well on the water.

Launched in Lorient, the shipyard quickly relocated (in 2007) to Bordeaux, where it enjoys an ideal location on the floating basins of the marina. The chic style of the first boat quickly won over sailors in the Arcachon basin. Indeed, the elegant lines of the first Cape Cod, its high-end finish, and its planked deck are quite impressive. And the fact that it is a very easy-to-ground centerboard is a significant asset for a dayboat with which you can enjoy the Banc d’Arguin or the Île aux Oiseaux.
The Cape Cod 896, with its ultra-comfortable cockpit, quickly became associated with the Arcachon basin, even though its marine qualities can be expressed elsewhere. Especially since its main characteristic is its very classic look. The idea was not to compete with large shipyards but to target a niche market. To appeal to lovers of beautiful sailing but to offer them a composite sailboat with modern fittings and minimal constraints.

As the head of Rosewest says: “It’s not a purist’s boat; it’s beautiful sailing without the hassles that come with it.”

Voiles et Voiliers – Rosewest Shipyard – Hedonistic Day-sailers - Rosewest

Hervé Nollet

Before launching the Cape Cod, Hervé had built one-off boats, both motor and sail, but always with a hedonistic tendency: “I have never made steel or aluminum boats for world tours, rather pleasure boats where the bottle of rosé is always within reach of the helmsman.” Boats entirely made of teak by Burmese craftsmen. He sold some in England, others remained in Asia, where they sail near Singapore. He still has a few stored in his Bordeaux shipyard, built from incredibly high-quality wood. Today, only one in three Cape Cods features a teak deck, as sourcing has become problematic.
When the Cape Cod was released, the first visitors quickly embraced the philosophy of this boat and understood that it was a French product. For Americans, it is necessarily an American sailboat, even though only three copies have crossed the Atlantic, due to the lack of dealers there. In the same spirit as the Cape Cod but on the motorboat side, the Long Bay had a short life: production stopped in 2018 after two years and a few units sold. “We are a small structure; we are not meant to grow, and we prefer to make sailboats. Building motorboats took too much time,” Hervé Nollet explains.
Back to sailing, then, for another dayboat, both smaller and with more modern lines. This will be the Cape Cod 767, a sailboat that fits within road regulations and aims to be more efficient. This new boat has found customers in the Arcachon basin like its big brother, but also in Brittany, Spain, and the Côte d’Azur. A more varied start than that of the Cape Cod 896, which is now more than 50% destined for export. “It doesn’t tire; when people discover it, it’s a new boat,” assures Hervé.

But the real novelty to come is a “speed” version of the 767, which should soon come out to show that an integral centerboard can rival keelboats.



Voiles et Voiliers: Can one improvise as a boat builder?
Hervé Nollet: One doesn’t improvise, it’s a long journey. I’ve been making boats for 35 years. I used to make them only for myself and then for friends, and about ten years ago, out of greed, I started full-time on what I liked the most. My job as an industrial designer taught me to design products that aren’t too ugly and that work! It was just that at the beginning, really a hobby.

V&V: How did you define this first boat, the Cape Cod, which is very particular (dayboat, integral centerboard, very marked camber) and contrary to modern criteria?
H.N.: It was born when we settled in Bordeaux. The initial principle was to make an integral centerboard. I split my time between Southern Brittany and Bordeaux, and the tidal range limits the playground of a keelboat. I had a good knowledge of New England boats, hence the name Cape Cod, with a bit of that chic Kennedy style. The boat easily found its place in the Arcachon basin. I mainly prioritized the cockpit by setting the focus 80% on it, versus 20% on the cabin. For me, the cabin is useless; my clients don’t sleep in their car and don’t sleep in their boat either. Occasionally, you can spend a night there, but it mainly serves as a storage space.

V&V: What was your approach for the 767: was the idea to make a cheaper boat?
H.N.: There was no pricing objective but to revisit this epicurean dayboat concept on a smaller boat to gain autonomy, be able to launch and mast it alone, and tow it behind a car. We especially didn’t want to make a smaller Cape Cod; we would have lost the DNA. The 767 has the same specifications but with a more modern signature and a higher performance level. It’s not the same clientele, as it’s a fast sailboat as well as an integral centerboard, without being a one-design racing boat. And it’s a boat with volume; we offer many tips to enjoy life on board.