The market for multihulls has grown tremendously over the last three decades, but in 1981 it was a big gamble to build a production cruising cat.
1976 was a whirlwind of a year for Frenchman Jean-François Fountaine, who had dedicated himself to representing his country in Montreal, Canada at the first International 470 Class regatta sailed in the Olympic Games. Going to this level of competition takes an immense effort – and for most people that would have been enough – but Fountaine also created a partnership between himself, Yves Pajot and two others to form Fountaine Pajot.
Starting Very Small
The new yard’s initial mission was to build high-performance sailing skiffs, in particular the International 505, so called because it is 5.05m. With the two marquee partners so intricately connected to the world of small-boat racing at the time – in addition to Fountaine’s Olympic experience, Pajot was the 505 world champion in 1975 – the yard quickly gained orders for the International 420 and also the 470 boats.
Fountaine Pajot set-up shop in La Rochelle, France and quickly gained a reputation for the build quality of these very light boats. Due to class restrictions, the weight had to be within a very narrow range. Yet small vessels sailed as hard as these in intense competition often leave many areas prone to failure.
The Fountaine Pajot boats were known for being fast and durable, and were being used by many of the elite French sailors.