A beautiful hull that was ahead of its time - yachts racing under the RORC and CCA rules didn't transition to separate keel & rudder until 1967 (IIRC)
Tabarly was and probably still is one of the most innovative sailors in the history or racing.
Apart from its specific design for the 1964 OSTAR, Pen Duick II also introduced some new practical ideas, such as the gimbaled chart table (with a Harley Davidson saddle as a seat
) and the Plexiglas dome he “borrowed” from an aircraft (Tabarly was in fact a French Navy pilot).
Pen Duick III was the first racing yacht designed with the aid of model tank testing and won almost everything there was to win in the RORC races, including both the Fastnet and Sydney-Hobart in 1967.
Pen Duick IV was the first big, aluminium racing multihull. Although Tabarly himself abandoned in the 1968 OSTAR because of lack of preparation (may '68 almost completely paralysed France for months), Alain Colas won in 1972 (and sadly disappeared with the boat, re-baptized Manureva, during the first Route du Rhum in 1978).
Pen Duick V was especially designed for the first 1969 Transpac, a downwind race. It can be considered as the precursor of modern open designs such as the IMOCA’s: light, large beam aft, vertical transom, maximized waterline and water ballasted. Tabarly finished 11 days (!) before the second. In fact nobody expected such a fast crossing (no trackers then) so there was nobody in Tokyo to witness his finish
Pen Duick VI was designed for the 1973-74 Whitbread RWR but abandoned the race after being dismasted twice. There was also a lot of fuzz about its depleted uranium keel, probably driven by jealous competitors not wanting Tabarly to win also this race.
His victory in the exceptionally stormy 1976 OSTAR on board this 22 meter and 32 ton ketch designed for a crew of 12, is still considered one of the most extraordinary in sailing history, beating his former soul mate Alain Colas and the 72 meter monster Club Méditerrannée.
Although nobody thought he could ever make it solo with Pen Duick VI, Tabarly made it clear from the start he wasn’t there as a figurant, by hoisting his huge spinnaker solo
and thereby introducing the spinnaker sock.
Tabarly also firmly believed in the possibilities of flying multihulls on foils. The aluminium trimaran Paul Ricard was once again a precursor and although too heavy in comparison to its carbon and composite followers, it was the first to break the legendary transatlantic record of Charlie Barr and his 70 meter schooner Atlantic, already standing for 75 years (1905-1980).
Afterwards Tabarly also inspired and coached the Hydroptère concept, the first sailing vessel to break the 50 knots barrier.
The sloop Côte d’Or didn’t perform in the 1985-86 Whitbread, not only because of the somewhat selective penalties Tabarly was imposed for changing the keel. Although this was an all Belgian sponsorship, I must admit it is the only Tabarly-inspired design without any added value
Apart from his numerous innovations, Tabarly was reputed for his extraordinary physical capacities and his shy modesty. He hated publicity and especially interviews, because he felt most questions posed by journalists were completely irrelevant
What also should be remembered is the way he saved the 1898 William Fife III gaff cutter Pen Duick (the only one without a number), the Tabarly family yacht he recieved in an absolutely desperate condition from his father. Investing every single penny he could save for many years, he carefully and completely rebuilt this wonderful yacht himself. Thereby also pioneering in the use of GRP in the late fifties, a new technology in these days.
Also illustrating Tabarly’s special character: he fell in love with a “longère” (traditional, long and narrow farm house in Brittany) which he bought, dismantled and rebuilt stone by stone on the borders of the Odet river, next to the mooring of his beloved Pen Duick.
Sadly it’s on board of this very Pen Duick he lost his life in 1998, falling overboard during a reefing maneuver in the Irish Sea, on his way to Scotland for a Fife classic yachts regatta.
All existing Pen Duicks (the Original Fife Pen Duick, Pen Duick II, III, V and VI) are now fully operational again and visible at (if not sailing from) the Cité de la Voile Éric Tabarly in Lorient. A must when visiting Brittany, with also a very interesting permanent and temporary exhibitions.
And very well illustrating the legendary status Éric Tabarly acquired in France, and still has even 15 years after his tragical death.