Three-masted Barques of type "Amiral Courbet"

( 3-mâts barques du type "Amiral-Courbet" )

built by the

Chantiers Nantais de Constructions Maritimes


In 1893 the French government started to enact laws providing subsidiaries for the nautical shipping industry, a move that nowadays (2007) would be frowned upon by the World Trade Organization. For sailing ships, the subsidiary was 1.7 Francs per gross ton per 1000 nautical miles, diminishing till extinction for the following 10 years. For steamers, it was only 1.1 Francs. As a result, 212 squarerigger "Bounty Ships" were built between 1897 and 1902, practically all for bulk cargo. In those days, the Panama Canal did not exist, and those ships had to round the infamous Cape Horn for trips to Chili and California.

The company "Chantiers Nantais de Constructions Maritimes" was created to take advantage of the opportunity. It designed a quite classic three-masted barque, the "Amiral Courbet" type, and within 23 months, launched 30 identical ships in its yard at Chantenay-sur-Loire. Shortly after, the company was dissolved.

The "Amiral Courbet" barque was made conventionally of steel plates.
Its capacity was 2200 Gross Tons, 2000 Net Tons, and 3100 Dead Weight Tons.
Its dimensions were length 227', breadth 40'4", and depth 22'5".

The somewhat French look of these ships comes from:
- a long poop (52') and forecastle (39'), for extended and more comfortable crew quarters,
- a steam donkey boiler to operate windlass and pumps, another cause for crew jealousy, and
- a subtly different spacing of the yards on the masts.

These ships were by no means racehorses, and they sailed significantly slower than clipper ships built decades before, but they did their job with regularity and predictability in relatively nasty seas, which is what the shareholders wanted to hear. However, the First World War, then the post-war freight slump brought an end to their story. Not a single one survives past 1932. All is left to travel back in time are now images, and for those for which no pictures were found, one starts to wonder if they ever existed at all....

Exhaustive list of the 30 ships

Amiral Courbet

Launched Apr 25, 1900, 2223 gross, 1969 net
Lost Irish Coast near Cork Oct 1915 First built, and first alphabetically

see also Randier p.268

Amiral de Cornulier

Launched Jul 28, 1900, 2208 gross, 1946 net
Broken up 1923

Amiral Halgan

Launched May 28, 1900, 2214 gross, 1947 net
Broken up 1923

AmiralHalgan_VN.jpg Anchored on a calm day (Frédéric Grellier, Voiliers Nantais)


Launched Feb 27, 1902, 2243 gross, 2016 net
Lost Ile des Pins, New Caledonia, Nov 8, 1909

Babin Chevaye

Launched Oct 16, 1901, 2174 gross, 1930 net
Sunk by U-84, Bay of Biscay, Jan 14 1918

BabinChevaye_Randier174_75dpi.jpg Anchor always ready to go when under tow (Randier p.174)

BabinChevaye_Randier285_75dpi.jpg Beating the wind with all sails on (Randier p.285)


Launched Jul 1, 1901, 2201 gross, 1970 net
Broken up Germany 1926

Bayard_VN.jpg Object on aft main deck may be a canvas ventilator (Frédéric Grellier, Voiliers Nantais)


Launched Sep 1901, 2199 gross, 1917 net
Lost Flores island (Azores), in a place called "Baixio", May 24, 1915 Wind dead astern, not a comfortable tack Tugs alongside in narrows [location?]


Launched Aug 1902, 2208 gross, 1981 net
Sank in St. Vincent’s Gulf. Raised and repaired in Melbourne
Broken up Lorient 1927 Waiting for cargo, a not-uncommon occurrence Three tugs for a very narrow river [location?] Foremast yards are braced more than main mast for steering stability Practically becalmed

see also Villiers & Picard p.104


Launched Jul 20, 1902, 2248 gross, 1982 net
Not to be confused with 1863 iron barque
Sunk by U-70, St George Canal, Feb 1916 Hulk in Noumea


Launched Sep 27, 1901, 2197 gross, 1914 net, HNPJ
Not to be confused with 1898 Bretagne lost Cape Horn in 1900
Broken up Blumenthal 1926 Sails on foremast are starting to get taken aback

see also Villiers & Picard pp.122-123, Randier pp.41, 269

Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil

Launched Nov 26, 1900, 2187 gross, 1926 net
Originally with a "Jubilee rig"
Broken up Jan 1927 Lower yards tilted to clear loading cranes

see also Villiers & Picard p.124

Connétable de Richemont

Launched Apr 30, 1901, 2297 gross, 1732 net
Lost Honolulu Oct 11, 1903

Du Couëdic

Launched May 15, 1901, 2297 gross, 1732 net
Vanished Marshall Jul 1903

Duc d’Aumale

Launched Dec 27, 1900, 2189 gross, 1944 net
Sunk by U-43 45:21N 8:50W Jan 22 1917 Anchored in a nice breeze

DucDAumale_Villiers142_75dpi.jpg Sinking with all sails set (Villiers & Picard p.142)

Eugène Pergeline

Launched Sep 20, 1900, 2203 gross, 1953 net
Sunk by U-54 Fastnet Mar 1917

EugenePergeline_VN.jpg With that wind you could probably hear the ship (Frédéric Grellier, Voiliers Nantais)

Eugène Schneider

Launched Apr 5, 1902, 2218 gross, 1939 net
Sunk by collision with SS Burutu English Channel Dec 24, 1926 Moored to an Australian wharf; looks like barkentine Mozart in background Fore and main sails furled up to avoid damage when becalmed

see also Villiers & Picard p.144

Général de Négrier

Launched May 10, 1901, 2196 gross, 1946 net
Broken up Marseille 1928

GeneralDeNegrier_Villiers163_75dpi.jpg Loading grain by hand at Oakland (Villiers & Picard p.163)

Général de Sonis

Launched Nov 7, 1901, 2190 gross, 1943 net
Broken up Sep 1932 Heaving to, probably waiting for tug or pilot At quay [is this Cardiff?] Anchored with the "grand pavois" flags hoisted


Launched Sep 1, 1901, 2178 gross, 1930 net
Lost Port Ellen Bay Oct 21, 1914


Launched Mar 1902, 2212 gross, 1946 net
Broken up Oct 1926

Joinville_Randier227_75dpi.jpg Just about to cast off from Saint-Nazaire, with steam billowing from windlass exhaust (Randier p.227) Under tow into unknown harbor

La RocheJacquelein

Launched Nov 1901, 2199 gross, 1954 net
Sunk by UC-17 Lizard Nov 14, 1916 Spanker and Main sails are furled when running with wind aft

Maréchal de Gontaut

Launched Feb 1902, 2240 gross, 2025 net
Vanished Pacific Ocean from Callao to Sydney Oct 1913 In the process of reducing sail


Launched Apr 1902, 2212 gross, 1960 net
Broken up Holland 1923


Launched Oct 27, 1900, 2186 gross, 1923 net
Sunk by U-90 Atlantic Oct 1, 1917

Olivier de Clisson

Launched May 22, 1901, 2202 gross, 1974 net
Abandoned Cape Verde Islands Sep 23, 1905

Pierre Antonine

Launched Jun 1902, 2206 gross, 2030 net
Broken up 1928 At anchor with ladder down Along pier, nearly fully loaded In Sydney Harbour for repairs after struck by hurricane east of Kerguelen Island. Sepia postcard showing how to sail without tugs

Pierre Loti

Launched Feb 23, 1901, 2196 gross, 1926 net
Sunk by Prinz Eitel Friedrich 29:53S 26:47W Jan 27, 1915


Launched Jun 1902, 2314 gross, 1741 net
Lost maiden voyage New Caledonia June 1, 1904


Launched Aug 25, 1900, 2201 gross, 1939 net
Broken up 1927 The royal sails are the first to go when the wind strenghtens The sail twirl on the fore and main masts is very visible


Launched Jun 27, 1900, 2210 gross, 1964 net
Broken up 1926 Abeam of a strong breeze Towed in after a long voyage,I Stranded on Mavis beach in Sydney,7? Standed; was later refloated


Alan Villiers & Henri Picard (1972) The Bounty Ships of France; The Story of the French Cape Horn Sailing Ships, NY:Charles Scribner's Sons SBN 684-13184-6 LCCN 72-6842


Jean Randier (1974) Grands Voiliers Francais, Grenoble:Editions des Quatre Seigneurs ISBN 2-85231-012-0


Repositories Association du Musée Maritime, Fluvial et Portuaire de Rouen, maintains "Listes des Voiliers du Nickel 1890-1922".

slnsw_logo.gif State Library of New South Wales, Australia, well-made online database.

slv_logo.gif State Library of Victoria, Australia, especially the Malcolm Brodie shipping collection, well-made online database. Group keeping the "Voiliers Nantais" alive, with details on Shipping Compagnies. La construction navale de Nantes à Saint-nazaire de 1850 à 1914.

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created Jan 05, 2007
revised Jun 30, 2009