I’m sure that most reading this will have heard of, if not even own something made by the fashion brand Lacoste. In fact, it is a high street staple across the globe. So how did this well know brand come to be on a yacht? The story is an unusual one and with a promising beginning but a sad end.
The brand Lacoste has its origins in 1920s and 30s with the French tennis champion and entrepreneur René Lacoste, winner of 7 grand slam titles. As with most successful Frenchmen, his adoring public gave him a nickname. Due to an incident around a lost bet over a crocodile skin suitcase, René was branded ‘the Crocodile’ – a name he later used as a symbol for his rather successful fashion brand.
So what does this have to do with boats? In the mid 1980s Lacoste decided to expand its offering into the rather lucrative yachting market. Having no brand alliance or association with this market, a bold strategy was adopted to break in; Lacoste would commission their own range of yachts. These yachts would not be any old production yacht, but they would exemplify style, performance, and comfort. Naturally, being a lucrative brand, they went to the world’s most respected yacht architects for the designs.
Sparkman and Stephens initially designed three boats for the Lacoste range. The Lacoste 42 sailing yacht and her smaller sister the Lacoste 36…. our boat. The yachts were designed as fast cruiser/racers and were built and marketed for Lacoste by the Dufour / Yachting France yard at La Rochelle under the engineering supervison of Michel Dufour himself. They also designed a motor yacht that sadly never went into production
On the outside, both yachts are designed to be a high performance racing yacht, with a tall, narrow, complicated rig, a race-crew oriented deck layout, inner forestay and running backstays to counter the huge headsails and spinnakers they were designed to carry. A rigger who was quoting to replace our standing rigging was rubbing his hands with glee when looking up at the vast quantities of heavy gauge wire holding our mast up.
Their underwater profiles consist of a deep fin keel and substantial spade rudder to help keep control of her canvas.
Inside the yachts where designer by M. Flahault to be luxurious holiday homes, with spacious double cabins, a large galley and a spacious and comfortable saloon. Throughout they were finished in teak, with custom made or designer fixtures and fittings adorning each cabin, galley and even the heads.
It is this split personality which would eventually curtail the yachts production. The yachts came with a price tag which put them at the same buffet table as the equivalent sized Swan, which is no surprise, as S&S also produced the designs for these. Once the interior fit out was complete the result was eye watering in both its form, and its price tag. The market at the time demanded either comfort or speed. For those who wanted the former, the complicated rig and large sails was a distinct drawback. For those who wanted a pure speed machine, the extra weight of the interior fit out dampened their enthusiasm. For the few who wanted both, and who could afford to brass up for a Swan – well they went for a Swan, rather than bet on a relatively unknown horse even from a good stud, renowned stable and with a famous name. This left the both the Lacoste yacht models with a limited production run. In all twelve of the 42 footers were built and Elyse is hull number fourteen of the 36 footers. Once the Lacoste orders dried up Dufour made use of the hull mouldings to produce the Dufour 36’ and 42’ production yachts of the 90s with their own redesigned rig and interior fit out.
Elyse was imported into the UK straight from the yard in La Teste, just south of Bordeaux, named Tres Gate (trans. Spoiled Rotten) by her first owner. We have spoken to the original broker, who imported three 42s, but only one 36. She was used around the south coast before being laid up in Cowes for seven years, then put up for sale and was purchased by a consortium of four who renamed her Saurian (trans. Large Reptile). They lavished her with the care and attention she deserved and sailed her extensively, but after ten years decided to retire from sailing and made the hard decision to sell her. This is where we join her story. We were hunting the UK and Europe for a Sigma 365, having spend 5 years sailing our Cobra 750 around the south coast. We were moments away from putting an offer in on a boat we had seen in North Wales when we decided to do one last internet search. An insightful broker had put the line ‘if you are looking for a Sigma you must come and see this yacht’ within her description and thankfully, Google found that line and flashed her onto our screen. Coupled with this James’ father happened to be viewing a different yacht, for a friend, in the same brokerage on the same day. Knowing we were on the hunt he called to say we had to come and see this unusual yacht he had just seen in Southampton. Amazingly, having been around the UK and even out to Spain looking at Sigmas, she was in a yard not twenty miles from our home port. Some would say it was fate, others, it was just blind luck, but whatever you believe we felt something was pulling us together. We went to see her, found her to be more spacious and better constructed than a Sigma, well laid out and impeccably maintained. We made on offer on her within the week, had her surveyed and completed within a month. We then spend the next four weeks going over her every system, learning how she worked and preparing her for the season, launched her and never looked back.
We have found her to be an exceptionally well founded boat with a fantastic turn of speed in the right conditions and a safe ride in the wrong conditions. She has opened up the world of cruising to us and we hope to travel with her far and wide in the future….. just watch this space.
PS We would be delighted to meet other Lacoste owners. We know many have gone across the Atlantic to the states and others are in the Med. If you are lucky enough to own one, or even know of one in your local harbour please do drop us a line.