Mooring the catamaran in Le Havre roughly a week ago I went to the Capitainerie to pay for the demurrage. Standing there, chatting with the likable lady, I discovered a brochure stand with Transat Jacques Vabre-material and got interested. Taking out one of these I discovered that these weren´t just ordinary brochures but cardboard miniature models of a Class 40/IMOCA-racing yacht in Jacques Vabre style: Perfect for my boys, so I took two of them back home.

The set by

And behold what a joy when I gave these to them! I asked them if they´d knew what the fastest boats in the world would be looking like. Cute their answer: “That´s of course your GEKKO!”, they unisono said, which melted my heart. But nope, that´s not my First 27 SE (which is fast indeed!) but those Class 40 and IMOCA 60 racers, and I told them the story of these yachts. Captivated by my stories, that was the groundwork laid, making them hot to build their own racers. Let´s go!

Making the Class 40 / IMOCA cardboard model

These cardboard sailing boats are probably the best marketing idea I´ve seen so far for kids in sailing. The paper is simple, easy and fun. First you break out the parts as they are pre-stamped and even my youngest boy with 5 years of age had no problem to get them out clean.

Building our own IMOCA racing boat

Now Daddy (or sailing Mommy) will have to lend a hand to help a bit, the parts must be folded at the marked areas and then sticked together by using the designated slits. It just takes a matter of minutes and the boat starts to be looking like a boat. You won´t be able to finish the project without glue, so I was lucky to have a stick (and some pegs from the laundry-basket) at hand.

You will need a glue-stick

We glued the boats together, pressed for some minutes by the pegs. I used the time to explain the boats and what the race is. Did you know that Le Havre once was the first and most important French harbor where coffee was shipped to when discovered in the first place? In this, it makes perfect sense that French coffee brand Jacques Vabre initiated and sponsors one of the big pro-sailing races of France, the Transat Jacques Vabre. I told my kids the story of the so-calld “new world” and the immense and profound changes the big discoveries of the legendary seafarers brought.

Big fun for small sailors!

As the IMOCA cardboard model was nearly finished, we folded the big mast with the mainsail and the Solent-jib, put them together and finished the set-up. It all took no longer than one hour, including drying times for the glue. The cardboard model is a great gimmick and give-away, made by a company called They are making highly detailed resin-models and paper-models, all give-aways. Browsing their site I discovered the CHARAL-Imoca, SPINDRIFT Ultim-Trimaran and many more models, like the CARAC-Class 40 by Marc Lombard I once made an article about as well. You may order directly on their website.

Bringing pro-racing to kids´ imagination

As for my kids, when the paper-model was finished, we finally separated the “stand” on which the paper model was to be glued to. That was essentially one page of the brochure, showing the race route from France, Le Havre, to Salvador de Bahia in Brazil (as this was the 2019 editon). The stand was perfect to have the kids pointing to their home continent, which of course is Europe, and explain to them the vastness of the sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Equator and the world as a whole.

Discovering the Transat-route

When the set-up was ready their enthusiasm was great: Such a simple thing to do but what a big effect! We´ve had great fun together and when they took the model to their rooms they designated a special place to them. That´s my message here: You do not always need a real boat to excite kids for sailing, a good book, a movie or story or – indeed! – making a model can spark their imagination on the same intensity making them ask questions, have nice dreams and instill a feeling of lust for sailing. This is, by the way, what I did some years ago when I built the “naval ships” for my boys (read part 1 here and part 2 here). Models are always great.


So, maybe that is an inspiration for all you sailing Daddies and Mommies looking for a nice present or side-kick, maybe you browse to this website of the company making these cardboard-sheets and get some for your kids. For me, another nice detail of French sailing craziness and the fascinating sailing culture of this beloved country, the epicentre of boat building and pro-sailing of the world. You cannot imagine my pleasant anticipation, my looking forward to the next trip to France, where ever it may take me.


You might as well like to read these articles:

Getting kids interested in sailing

Safety first: New automatic life jackets for sailing children

My first big sailing vacation with kids