The Jolie Brise is a 54 foot Pilot Cutter that was built in 1913 in Le Havre, France. The Jolie Brise is the best example of a pilot cutter ever built. She was one of the fastest and most beautiful boats of her day. Although her working career was short lived, because of the trend towards steam powered pilot boats.
The Jolie Brise is made out of oak, lots of oak. Her hull is made out of 2 inch thick Carvel planked oak planks and her ribs are made from 5 inch thick grown oak. This might be a little thin sounding but you have to take into account the fact that Jolie Brise has a rib about every 10 inches. Her lines are characteristic of her type, a deep forefoot and a nice fine stern. This design and her heavy hull make her a very comfortable ship in all weather; in rough weather she is a very wet ship though, because of that fine, deep forefoot. Her plumb stem has no reserve buoyancy, which means it pitches into the next wave, and picks up the whole load of water directing it on deck towards the crew.
She was built by M. Paumelle in 1912 and served as a pilot boat until World War I. In 1917 she was bought by interests in Concarneau and sailed in the tuna fisheries for three years before being laid up. Evelyn George Martin saved the Jolie Brise ’s life in 1924, Martin bought the derelict ship and converted her into a pleasure craft. The very next year saw the Jolie Brise sailing again, this time not as a working boat but as a racer, sailing in the first Fastnet Race; a race that Martin helped found. After winning the first Fastnet, Martin sailed her to Newport, Rhode Island for the start of the Bermuda race. The Jolie Brise proceeded to give another spectacular performance giving her the win in her class. Immediately after winning the Bermuda race, she sailed back to England to participate in the second Fastnet, which she finished first with an even better record than in the first race. Martin then sold Jolie Brise to Robert "Bobby" Somerset, under whose command she won the 1929 Fastnet Race and the first race to Santander, Spain. In 1930 she raced in the Fastnet again, this time however her performance was less than spectacular. Somerset took her to the US and raced her in the 1932 Bermuda race, this race was marked by the fire onboard the Adriana. Jolie Brise was involved in this incident, sailing alongside and allowing the crew of the burning ship to jump to safety. This was to be her last race for almost sixty years. After the Bermuda race Jolie Brise was used to cruise between Britain and the Mediterranean until the Royal Navy requisitioned her; she saw no service during World War II.
After World War II she was sold to a company that planned to sail her to New Zealand
under the name of Pleasant Breeze1. Thankfully it didn’t pan out and she was sold to Luis Lobato, who sailed her in Portugal
and the Mediterranean
for two decades. During her years as a cruiser, her life was very uneventful. In 1976 after Portugal's socialist revolution in 1975, Lobato sold Jolie Brise
to the International Sailing Craft Association at the Exeter Maritime Museum, under whose auspices she continues to cruise, and occasionally race, throughout northern Europe.
The Jolie Brise is an excellent example of turn of the century sailing technology and style. I think that there are no ships more beautiful than those from the turn of the century, and the last great days of sail. Jolie Brise has lasted 90 years and with luck she will last 90 more. One of the last ships to carry the torch of a bygone era.
1. Jolie Brise is the French term for a moderate breeze, Beaufort 4 or equivalent.
Bryer, Jolie Brise
Rolt, Eighty Years a Gaff Cutter