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Mackay Boats

Sailing of another era on Lake Geneva

by Jean Philippe Jobé on 4 Jan 2011
First outing of La Demoiselle for 2011, here sailing out of her river mooring Jean Philippe Jobé

Now that the racing boats are ashore for the winter, it gives me the opportunity to talk about the old sailing barges that were used on Lake Geneva in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of those still exist and a group of enthusiastic sailors have built a replica called La Demoiselle which is now one of the biggest sailing craft in Switzerland, soon to be the first sailing training ship in the country.



These sailing barges are an evolution of older designs and appeared on the lake around 1785 and are characterized by two latin sails, a large deck to transport materials and a long flat keel. Some of them sport a small jib as well. They were basically used to transport merchandise, in particular quarry stones from the east part of the lake to the different cities on the other side. Most were built in St. Gingolphe which sits on the border between Switzerland and France, some close to Geneva and others on the French shore of the lake.


If you visit this area you might be able to see some of them sailing on a nice sunny day. Let’s take a look at each of them in no particular order:


La Neptune built in 1904, length 27.3m, was restored in 2004 and represents the city of Geneva. She is under the care of the Fondation Neptune - more info here


La Vaudoise, built in 1932 at Locum, length 22.65m, was then bought by the Pirates of Ouchy, and was restored in 1972-1973. You can get more info at their site here.

La Savoie is a replica of the original Savoie of 1896, was built in Thonon in 1997-2000, length 35m. She is the only French sailing barge remaining and is moored in Evian - more info here


La Demoiselle, mentioned above, is a replica of an original barge of the same name from 1828, length 27.8m; she was built between 1997 and 2009 mostly by unemployed people and volunteers and she has been sailing for the last 2-3 years. She will be soon homologated to take passengers and school classes for sailing cruises on the lake. She now is moored in Villeneuve close to the Chillon castle - more info here


There are some other interesting historical sailing craft on the lake like the smaller 'cochère' called l’Aurore, which you can find more information about here and also the replica of an older 'galère' type boat: La Liberté - here


So if you happen to visit the shores of Lake Geneva and are interested, check one of the sites above and come and see if you can arrange a sail! By the way, each year at the end of July, all the sailing barges converge on the area of Vevey – Montreux for the delight of the public - more info here

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