La Grand Halte, 12.5M Ocean-Going Sailing Junk, La Rochelle

The Architect of Modern Sailing Junks

La Grand Halte, 12.5M Ocean-Going Sailing Junk, La Rochelle

Dimitri Le Forestier (Naval Architect IFAN) has sailed around the world for 12 years and has designed sailboats most his life: Cutters, sloops, schooners and others. It is towards the end of the ’70s that he revisited the Chinese junks, on board of which he had sailed during his stays in the East. Impressed by the Chinese junks’ performance, their stability, manoeuvrability and economy; he reinvented them beginning with the 12.5m Jonque de Plaisance.

A modern interpretation of traditional Chinese junks

The wonderful thing is that the sailing junks are not likely to go out of fashion.

If we wish to respect an ancient boat form which we love for its beauty and its marine qualities, we could of course, build a reproduction. The problem in this instance 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 we 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.

These marvellous junks needed to be ‘occidentalised’ without betraying them, to bring them within the reach of those who wish to build one.

Hence, I designed a junk which preserves the proven attributes of the traditional Chinese junk, whilst adapting it to modern building techniques. And so the first Jonque de Plaisance was born, a 12.5m to be built in polyester. It didn’t take much to convince me to develop a second version in timber, as timber for me is a one of the most amazing 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 synthetic 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 what I consider to be living material. And so, the second Jonque de Plaisance 12.50M was born (for strip-planking construction). Since then, at clients’ requests, the 12.5m has had big sisters and little sisters.

The Jonque de Plaisance family includes the 10.50M, 12.50M, 14M, and 16.50M Jonques de Plaisance.

Dimitri Le Forestier.

Video taken at La Rochelle at the launch of La Grand Halte

The jonque Pa Yeng at Ars en Ré today