As a sailor, a trip to France is always a special occasion and definitely worth the efforts. France, in my opinion, is the Mecca of the sailing world with most of the inventions and pushing of boundaries taking place here as well as most shipyards for sailing pleasure craft are situated here. In France, sailing is a part of the culture, deeply rooting in the DNA of this proud, wonderful country. Whereas the Cote d´Azur is the glamour side of boating, the center focus of sailing is definitely the Atlantic coast with the big hotspots of sailing: Lorient, La Rochelle and – of course – Les Sables d´Olonne.
You may know that I work for a Beneteau dealer and thus trips to the yard and commissioning sites at the Atlantic Ocean are quite frequent for me. I am a happy guy who has turned his passion into his job. Anyways, travelling to Les Sables, the City of the Vendeé Globe is always worth the hustle because here you have a great chance to spot a brand new model that has been set into the water for first sea trials (like Alubat´s new Ovni 370 back in the day of the brand new Sun Odyssey 380 I´ve seen last year) and so I was happy to see, well not a brand new model and certainly not a prototype, but at least nothing less than one of my all-time favorite boats. The aluminium made Alubat Cigale 16!
A familiar sight: A Cigale 16?
As I went to the catamaran pontoon (I was underway for our cat brand Excess) I saw a big mast and I was instantly struck by the familiar shape of the sheer line, the tarnished glow of the aluminium hull and the thin, aggressive and elegant stripe that is the window in the cabin roof structure. No doubt, this was a Cigale 16. As much as I love the ingenuity and practicality of the aluminium-made Boreal 47.2 which is a another fave of mine, I admire the Cigale´s design and high performance potentials.
It goes without question that I excused myself from the team and immediately walked all around the marina to enter the Vendeé Globe pontoon. My steps became longer and the breathing more frequent, as I neared the metal marvel, Marc Lombard´s interpretation of an idea that had been proposed by legendary Jean Marie Finot back in the day as a high performance ULDB-boat with unprecedented sailing capabilities. She is a true beauty and a timeless piece of naval architecture!
Admiring Marc Lombard´s work
I walked around SY ELORA, what a beautiful name for a vessel like this! Alubat used to make the Cigale 14 and 16, the original designs by Finot, up until the early 2000´s when they decided to keep the distinctive boat-concept but widen the range to a 18 and 21 metre-version and have it “spiced up” and taken up a notch by Lombard. I personally regret that they phased out the Cigale 14 and did not replace this boat size with a Lombard-version, but that´s how it went.
Marc Lombard did an absolutely amazing job though! The Cigale 16 retains all of ideas Finot´s ideas, offers an absolutely incredible amount of internal volume, the Cigale-signature “magic saloon” and unleashes powerful sailing capabilities for a demanding owner. In this, the Cigale always was and still is a unique yet polarizing concept. A concept that never found too many admirers and thus people willing to pay for it, so the sight of a Cigale, no matter if the “original” Finot-type or the Lombard-redesigns is a rare one. In this, I was much more than happy to finally get to see one in the water after I was only able to visit a boat in the shed or see half-finished boats.
The “Magic Salon”
“What is this Cigale-thing?”, many may ask. Well, basically, it is the idea that the owner´s cabin shouldn´t be located where sleeping or resting whilst at sea an absolute nightmare – in the ship´s bow. Everybody who ever tried to find a good night´s sleep after a long, demanding shift at the steering wheels knows, how impossible it is to sleep in the fore cabin under sea conditions. I know of many skippers who completely abandon their front cabins to sleep on the settees of the saloon instead. So, the owner´s cabin in a Cigale is situated right on top of the pivotal point of the ship – the keel.
Crew cabins and pilot berths in the front. Now, for the fact, that there aren´t any aft cabins, the saloon is moved abaft and fills the whole stern area of the yacht. Upon going down the entryway, an incredibly huge free space opens up behind the excited visitor, a huge U-shaped settee goes from one side all around the stern to the other. On the forward bulkhead – behind which the owner´s cabin adjoins – is the nav station to the port side and the galley to starboard. It´s absolutely ingenious, if you ask me! The Cigale isn´t the only boat offering this sensation, there is the Italian made interpretation of the Cigale, the wonder-wonder-wonderful Gulliver 57 which can be seen as a further development of the concept, featuring a variable draft and an updated rigging/sailplan.
I knocked on the massively made yet beautifully arranged aluminium hull as I hoped that the owners or the skipper would have been aboard. But sadly, the boat was empty. So I couldn´t go down to see Marc Lombard´s interior. When you browse to YouTube and check for movies of the Cigale 16, you will just find some sparse material of the prototype which shows a very odd color-choice for the interior appearance that is not very attractive. So, sadly, no chance for now to paint a different picture with a more nicely chosen color palette. Nevertheless, seeing the boat in a touching finger´s reach is sheer pleasure.
Superior Sailing Performance
I focused on exploring the cockpit and running rigging layout: The mainsheet traveler separates the guest´s seating area from the skipper´s or crew´s working area. The large central mainsheet winch, secondary winches to operate Genoa or light wind sails. I also spot lashings for the backstays which indicate a large mainsail and the need to stabilize the massive power generated by it in the standing rigging. All in all it looked well-proportioned and thought-through, although I must say I like Valenti´s interpretation on the marvelous Gulliver 57 a bit more as it seemed a bit more cluttered with an emphasis on beauty.
So, after some 30 minutes of circling the boat from near and afar time and again I said Goodbye to ELORA and wished the boat and her crew fair winds. I know that Alubat is planning to unveil yet another updated version soon which they call the Cigale 15, although no further details are public yet. It won´t be a Marc Cigale boat. Judging by their work with the latest Ovni-boats, 400 and 370, where Alubat went for a rather extreme visual line, I hope that the new Cigale 15 will stay true to the DNA of Jean Marie Finot and offer as well a timeless design as Marc Lombard did. We will see, I´d say.
You may like to try out these related articles:
A Cigale 16 in the making at Alubat yard
Talking Cigale with Marc Lombard and Christian Picard