1968: the year that changed the world also revolutionized boating


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“I file a complaint against the modern world, he is the monster.
He destroys our land, tramples on the souls of men.” So wrote Bernard Moitessier in his diary after abandoning the nonstop solo circumnavigation of the globe (Golden Globe) while leading the race. He had sailed on August 22, 1968, from the English city of Plymouth in his Joshua, a 12-meter steel ketch with masts that were telegraph poles.

Aug. 21, 1968, Bernard Moitessier at the press conference, the day before he was to set sail in his 12-meter steel ketch on a nonstop solo round-the-world voyage. The following year, while leading the regatta, he abandoned the regatta, denouncing the hypocrisy of the modern world in which he no longer wanted to
live. In fact, he took refuge in the atolls of Polynesia.

A few months earlier, in May 1968, without Moitessier’s knowledge-his boat had no means of communication-French students had occupied the Sorbonne University in Paris, expressing the same malaise described by the sailor. In that year the foundations of today’s society were laid. A less classist and hypocritical society, with freer customs, where women have equal dignity with men, where war is no longer seen as an inescapable event in history.

It was precisely a society with these values that Moitessier would have wanted. But in ’68 that was not the case. His protest then prompted him to the resounding gesture of abandoning the World Tour, just before the victory that would earn him the £5,000 prize, by setting course for Tahiti, a refuge from the hated Western world.

Port of Sestri Levante (Genoa), spring 1968. The 3rd class RORC Lunic moored at the buoy, as was almost always the custom then in Italy. Almost all cabin cruiser boats of that time were still made of wood, built in one piece. Fiberglass boats were very few and small in size.
A page from the “Navigare Lungocosta” pilot book, at that time a true boater’s bible

But in that 1968, which revolutionized our society, the 40th anniversary of which we are celebrating, another revolution also occurred. In that very year, popular boating was born.. Credit is not due to the wind of change expressed by Moitessier and the French students. One has to thank a material, fiberglass, and a man, Michel Dufour. But first, it is worth remembering what the boating world was in 1968. Nothing to do with today’s.

The cabin boats were still almost all made of wood and were unique pieces, one different from the other. Only dinghies and small open boats were mass-produced and made of fiberglass. In practice, the boating industry did not exist; the shipyards were small craft enterprises. Boats cost, as a result, a lot and were the privilege of the few. There was no construction site that could be called “industrial.” Yet the advent of fiberglass as a construction material had solved the problem of seriality, which wood could not offer.

There was a need to rethink the way of building a hull, so as to optimize processing time and thus cut costs. Frenchman Michel Dufour had the advantage of being a nautical designer as well as a builder. He designed and built his own boats. By combining these two specificities, Dufour was able to organize the work of his shipyard according to criteria of industrial organization. And he designed according to these parameters, down to the smallest detail, the first, true, boat of modern boating, the Arpège.

This sloop of just over nine meters was more comfortable, faster, marine, and aesthetically innovative than anything ever seen. Above all, it required little maintenance and cost little money. Arpège had its consecration, after an experimental first series, just in 1968 and was the second revolution of that year. The boat was an unimaginable success. It was produced in 1,500 examples, sold worldwide, until 1976. Is a record that still stands today. Arpège and Dufour became the symbol of boating for all, that which a segment of the population hitherto excluded could afford.

Since that 1968, millions of enthusiasts have been able to take up sailing, then considered an elitist sport. And they were able to afford a boat to cruise with. is another, lesser-known revolution that year brought us. Important for our society, for boating, for sailing.

The Arpège is the symbol of the modern boat; it went into actual production in 1968, after the first examples were presented at the 1967 Paris Salon. It is the first that can be called a large series boat. The real revolution of this nine-meter is the construction method, conceived by its designer and builder, Michel Dufour. In fact, Arpège was not only built entirely of fiberglass, but was the first boat with an integral counter mold, also made of fiberglass.

This allowed for simpler, more rational, spacious interior layouts than all boats then on the market. In addition, this nine-meter was much more solid and rigid, with extremely simplified maintenance. The characteristics of the Arpège are: length ft 9.25 m; max. width 3.00 m; displacement 3300 kg; ballast 1750 kg; draft 1.35/1.50 m; sail sup. 48.50 sq. m. In Italy there is an association of amateurs and owners, Associazione Mitico Arpège, www.arpege.it




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