Readers of the No Frills magazine know that I am a big fan of the Cigale sailing yacht concept: Invented by Jean-Marie Finot back in the end of the Nineties, the Cigale was a performance-oriented, fast and light yacht boasting some reminiscences to Maxi racing yachts whilst offering a whole new approach to an interior layout of a yacht: All cabins had been places in the fore section of the boat whilst the aft section underneath the cockpit has been freed of bulkheads and dividing walls to house one single giant saloon. I just love this! S do many people around the world too: The Cigale in the meantime is a yacht-classic and a very popular boat on the used boat sector (read here an article of an American Cigale 14 owner).

This is how it begins: The cradle of a Cigale´s hull

Offering the Cigale in 14 and 16 metres, Alubat yard had been redesigning the Cigale back in 2010. The job was done by naval architect Marc Lombard of whom I am a big fan too (read my articles of past conversations with Marc here, here and here). When I happened to visit the Alubat yard some weeks ago – here´s the article – I was so happy not just to see one finished hull or a brand new Cigale 16 being put on jacks but also another one in the paint shop. This was the ignition to talk to Marc again on the redesign of the Finot-concept to create the New Cigale. I am also happy that the CEO of Alubat yard, Christian Picard, joined our discussion Here´s what we talked about.

The story of the Cigale redesign of 2010

Lars Reisberg | NO FRILLS “Marc, Christian, first of all thanks again for sharing your precious time with me. My first question, Marc, would be: When and why had you been approached by Alubat to re-design the Cigale-Series? Why have you been chosen to be the principal architect of these new boats?”

Christian Picard: “As a matter of fact we have been consulting both architects. But it finally was Marc Lombard who brought an interesting solution to the new Cigale. He came up with the stability chine in the hull which allow better stability while suppressing the ballasts of the original Cigale-series. This was a feature which was not much appreciated while cruising. So our decision was to ask Mr. Lombard to do the redesign.”

A finished hull is ready to be fitted & waiting for her owner

Marc Lombard: “The Cigale project began in the year 2009. In the first step Alubat asked me to do a redesign of the Cigale 16 because this was the first they wanted to bring to the market. The main target of the project was first of all to improve the cockpit depth and the comfort of the boat. One main issue was to create space to allow a full size dinghy. Another important thing was an overall consideration to simplify the construction of the yacht. The first version of the Cigale was considered too heavy and too difficult to build.” “The Cigale is – from my point of view – one of the most interesting sailboat concepts for the huge aft-saloon which is unique in the whole yachting business. What did you like about the original Cigale-boats most?”

Marc Lombard: “You mention exactly the main aspect of this yacht: Back then and up until now the idea of making a very fast cruiser with the whole saloon being put aft was not and still is not present on the boat market. The Cigale is simply the only boat that was offering this combination. And of course the fact that the Cigale is made of aluminium makes it suitable for sailing in the extreme northern and southern Lattitudes with hard seas and cold temperatures: This is where life inside is most important. So in a way the Cigale is offering a very different approach to interior layout and design and a nice mix of comfort and power.” “Christian, what would you say about this? And besides, why did Alubat decide to phase out the small entry level Cigale 14?”

Christian Picard: “Good question. First of all I must say that the aft saloon-concept has been a great success since 1994. It is hard to imagine the Cigale without it. In the lifting keel version, we had to place the saloon onto the daggerboard case which is unfortunately not the best option. To be honest, we decided to stop building the Cigale 14 for profitability reasons. On the other hand we are still building Cigale 18 or 22 upon customers’ orders.”

The aft section with the big dinghy platform “What was the briefing by the yard to change from the original to the successor-boats within the range? What was your personal intention of development of the Cigale-series?”

Marc Lombard: “As I just said, the idea was to make the boat more ergonomic in terms of sailing it. The comfort for the helmsman and the crew was top priority. Secondly we wanted to ease the construction for the yard a bit. Not in terms of making the boat cheaper to produce but to make it easier to build from a craftsman´s standpoint. Considering the Cigale-range itself, it was me who proposed an idea to Alubat in 2012 to develop a Cigale version of 18 metres based on a One-off that my beareau was designing right at this moment with the same layout. We also introduced an idea to offer the Cigale with a conventional layout with the saloon being put “Back” to the mid-section of the hull and having two classic aft cabins. Also, later on we made a proposal for a large 22 metre-Cigale boat based on the same principles.”

Lots of openings in the hull and superstructure

Christian Picard: “Well, I wasn’t managing the yard at that time. From what I am thinking my point of view is that the multihull market had penalized this range. I mean the fast monohull vessels. Catamarans are offering more comfort and a reduced draught. Indeed, the draft of the fin keel Cigale could be a disadvantage on shore. But in blue water sailing it brings higher performances than a multihull.”

The new Cigale – a true Lombard-design “What makes from your point of view the re-designed Cigale yachts superior to the original ones by Finot? What is in general the character of the CIGALE and to whom should this boat appeal most in terms of sailing characteristics?”

Marc Lombard: “Well, it is very hard to compare the two versions of the Cigale. First of all, there are some 10 years in between both designs – and 10 years is a long time in yacht design. I would say that our new Cigale is a completely different boat when you compare both. Our cockpit is different, also the aft part of the boat has been redesigned completely. The whole hull structure in terms of construction as well as the appendages like the keel. I try to avoid a direct comparison. Let’s say that the new boat is slightly lighter and is a little bit more stable with increased keel weight. But of course, both models are more than suitable for a customer with the “hard sea program”. Both are making a fantastic sailing speed and offer large comfort inside.”

The Cigale 16 offers great internal volumes

Christian Picard: “The Lombard-Cigale is much more modern of course than that of the Finot boat. That´s the hull shape, the deck layout with all flush openings, halyards leading back under the roof, access to the bathing platform and so many things more …” “In detail, Marc, what do you think where is “pure Marc Lombard” in the Cigale 16? Where is your style most visible and where are the spots on the boat?”

Marc Lombard: “You would instantly notice the chined hull and the slim superstructure. I am particularly fond of the treatment of the stern section of the boat with the dinghy platform being definitely our signature. I still like the boat. It is simply an elegant appearance.” “What does the Cigale 16 do best? Is it still a very fast cruiser bristling with all the advantages of aluminium? Is it a performance cruiser? Luxury cruiser? What kind of class would you put her?”

Christian Picard: “The Cigale 16 is indeed our best seller because she has the best length for great performances and still being an easy boat to handle with a small crew. This hull shape needs length at the waterline to sail well upwind in heavy seas: And the Cigale 16 truly does!”

One can imagine how big the aft saloon will be

Marc Lombard: “She is definitely a very fast boat first of all. On the other hand, she is very comfortable for both the sailing party and guests offering lots of space both on deck and below in the saloon and the cabins. Third, the Cigale is a seaworthy cruiser made for serious offshore sailing. It is a special boat, a special concept but she offers a very attractive combination for sailors who expect something special for sure.”

On Alubat ranges Ovni and Cigale “Where is the principle difference between Alubat´s OVNI and CIGALE-Range?”

Christian Picard: “The answer is quite simple: The Ovni range is for customers who are first looking for comfort and the possibility to sail absolutely everywhere. These boats have a wide hull for maximum load and their centerboard allows a minimum draft to beach anywhere. The Cigale-range on the other hand is for customers who are first looking for performance. They also seek comfort at sea and the possibility to travel on all oceans of the world. Of course, they are accepting the high draft.”

Marc Lombard: “As Christian said, the Ovni yacht is completely different. She is dedicated in a very low draft configuration. These boats need a relatively high ballast-ratio, very much more as the Cigale. The Cigale is a keel boat with much higher performance. But still, the Ovni is as well designed to be a “round the world”-yacht for sure. On the Cigale the emphasis is on performance and speed.”

One Cigale 16 in Alubat´s paint shop “The Cigale has been re-designed by your office in 2010 as you told me, the original concept was done in 1997 by Jean-Marie Finot. Not too many of those boats had been built since then: What do you think make the Cigale-concept so special that it does not appeal to very many owners – in times when “performance cruisers” in GRP are sold like nothing?

Marc Lombard: “Well, I think that first of all a sailing yacht made of aluminium that can go around the world – like the Cigale – comes with a certain price tag. Much more indeed if you compare it to GRP-boats. Also, the program and the characteristics of the Cigale are more oriented towards “real sailors” I would say. And that is for sure limiting the sales because most of today’s customers are looking more at space and to the price-space ratio.”

Christian Picard: “I would agree and complement that it actually began sooner if we take into consideration the LEVRIERS DES MERS built by Le Gwen Hemidy back in the Eighties which have the same hulls. I would add that the market of blue water monohull boats is now rivaled by the multihulls. Interestingly with quite equivalent prices. This is why we decided to launch the Ovnicat 48, which offers comfort, performance and the safety of an aluminium hull. The concept of our catamaran has nothing to do with the charter catamarans. The architect really focused on centering the weights, on a lowered sail center to reduce pitching and on wide enough hulls to carry the load.”

Nice big & safe cockpit. Notice the slanted benches. “Marc, if you would being ask now, some 8 years after the project, to make another Cigale right now, today in 2018 – what would be different? Where was boatbuilding and yacht design going in the last 8 years and what would the 2018 Cigale look like now if you were to decide?”

Marc Lombard: “For sure she would have a not much different appearance. Maybe I would integrate some minor changes on the hull design. For sure I would integrate a lifting keel to offer a lower draft. Being a bit more radical if you will in this manner. Also, a future Cigale 16 would be fitted with two helming stations as well. This is what we suggested but at first was refused by the yard on the original design. But to be honest, the Cigale isn´t a boat for the main market stream. She never was.” “What is your current project you are working on in terms of production yachts and are there any small things which may be influencing your work today that you might have been developed during the Cigale-project back then?”

Marc Lombard: “We ‘re designing a lot of production boats right now. I must say that each and every boat done by myself and my office is a valuable experience in itself. So is the Cigale. I guess, the aft dinghy platform is a very nice idea that came out of the program.”

What a pleasure it must be to sail on her the world´s oceans!

Christian Picard: “ALUBAT is a small shipyard and the creation of a new model is a really time consuming effort for the design office. A year ago, we launched the Ovnicat 48 and the new Ovni 45 which both met already a great success with six orders. The first unit will be launched soon in May. So, for the next new products, you will have to wait a little bit.”

Thanks Marc Lombard again and thank you Christian Picard for sharing these insights to the new Cigale 16. It was a pleasure!


You may also like to read these articles on aluminium yachts:

The Cigale 14 as seen by her owner in the USA

Visiting the Alubat yard

Aluminium marvel in the making: The Berckemeyer BM49