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Jonque de Plaisance

"The unstayed, flexible masts allow ample room to move around the deck, and result in substantial savings with regard to deck equipment."

Modern junk rig sailboat, strip-planking construction, timber decking
12,5M JDP
La Rochelle

La jonque de l'Ile de Ré
PA YENG, Ars en Ré, Ile de Ré
For Hire: daily excursions between May
and September. Photo: Grassineau

How the Jonques de Plaisance®
were born

We go back to the late seventies/early eighties: after the cutters, sloops, schooners, which I did like, otherwise I wouldn't have designed them, but which did not contribute much to my research in naval architecture. Additionally, the necessity to reduce building costs made me realise that the deck hardware and fittings were a financial bottomless pit.

My visits in the East led me to reconsider the Chinese junks which are the most beautiful (in comparison with Japanese or Thai junks for example). We also had the privilege to sail on board a 37M junk from Hong Kong to Formosa, a commerce junk with a load of cotton bales and concrete. Not to mention the bad weather encountered half way through the trip, we were won over, five knots on average, amazing stability and performance.

A modern interpretation of the traditional Chinese sailing junk

If we wish to respect an ancient boat form which we love for its beauty and its marine qualities, we could of course, build one identical. The problem in this case is huge, both from the points of view of the enormous work involved and the budget required. By definition, an ancient boat has a large displacement and is therefore heavy, and it is known that the cost of a boat is directly proportional to its weight. Only large organisations with big budgets and subsidies can undertake such projects. It may be a case of salvaging a country's heritage or reconstructing it, for example 'La Recouvrance' or 'L'Hermione', or may be even an old trawler. When this is accomplished, such a boat needs many strong hands to sail and maintain it, as well as an ongoing budget. It was therefore necessary to reinvent the junk to make it accessible to those who wish to build one.

The wonderful thing is the junk is not likely to become outmoded... These marvellous boats needed to be 'westernised' without betrayal... And so, I designed a boat which preserves the proven atttributes of the traditional junk, whilst adapting it to modern building techniques. The first Jonque de Plaisance 12.50M was born, to be built in polyester. It didn't take much to convince me to develop a second timber version. For me, timber is a fantastic material with unique properties. There is always a richness, somewhat more than psychological, to be found in natural materials. No matter how clever our inventors are, plastic and various fibres will never replace leather, silk, wool or timber. The intellect refuses to accept them as such. There is something sensual in the contact with living materials. And so, the second Jonque de Plaisance 12.50M was born (strip planking). Since then, sometimes at the request of clients, the Jonque de Plaisance family has grown and now includes the 9M, 10.50M, 12.50M, 14M, and 16.50M.

The Jonques de Plaisance retain the principal characteristics of the traditional sea-going junk: low displacement, centerboard, stability in the main forms, rear 'castle' which elegantly replaces the cockpit and gives substantial space below deck for comfortable living quarters (there is no such thing as feeling cramped on board a Jonque de Plaisance). On the rear deck, six or seven people can stretch out on benches protected from the wind. The unstayed masts are souple and walking on the deck is unhindered. Every aspect of the junk is designed to maximise the enjoyment and comfort of passengers; afterall, it is their home at sea.

My Jonques de Plaisance have similar displacements to those proposed by large shipyards for sailboats equivalent to the 38', 40', 47' and 54' JDPs; and it is strip planking which makes this possible. The method not only results in lighter and stronger boats, it is also well within the reach of the motivated amateur builder.

Dimitri Le Forestier.

Chinese symbols Ancient Chinese junks

Ancient Chinese texts tell us that around 2700 BC, junks were built with a double hull: catamarans, stability and performance improved in the high seas. Paintings in Cro-Magnon caves along the coast of Indochina confirm this.

The Chinese junks have established a construction standard unequalled in Europe until towards the end of the sixteenth century.

Sakoku: ancienne jonque chinoise
A Chinese junk in Japan
around 1644.
Source: Wikipedia