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Abordage - Model Ship Builder

Anyone who’s had the chance to witness Velsheda, Ranger, White Wings et al at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta can confirm that these thoroughbreds are breathtaking in action. Crowds flock the marinas after racing has ended to take in the assembly of teak, mahogany and brass and to imagine what it would be like to own such a beauty.

Since 1989, a French company based in the Dominican Republic has been making this dream come true. Well, sort of. Abordage, named after the cry used by French Pirates on boarding a galleon, is a high-end model ship builder specialising in full replicas and half hulls. Located in San Cristobal, Abordage employs some 30 skilled craftsmen.

Originally, the company was launched to build 500th anniversary replicas of Columbus’ Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, using plans supplied by the Maritime Museum of Barcelona. Over the years, the range has been extended to Classic replicas, modern racing yachts and custom builds of everyday cruisers.

Each model takes over a hundred hours to complete. The original design drawings are taken to make the jig patterns. Deck hardware is examined and recreated separately in brass, steel or acrylic. The hulls are constructed using the traditional plank on bulkhead or hand laid-up resin methods, using teak, mahogany, laurel and maple. The wood is processed in strips and the hull painted with 10 coats of primer and varnish, which is then hand sanded. Dacron and steel wire are used for the rigging.

For this end, the facility includes three painting workshops, a wood workshop, silver casting and chroming department and a miniature parts workshop with precision equipment. Once the boat is finished, it receives the official stamp from Philippe Herbreteau, Wood Art Expert from L’Ecole Boulle in Paris.

The price of each boat reflects the work that goes into it, and the extraordinary attention to detail. For $1,770, you can take delivery of a replica J Class such as Shamrock or Velsheda, while $1,600 is the tag for a modern America’s Cup yacht like BMW Oracle, Prada or Team New Zealand. Many of these models are used as prizes, awards or corporate gifts. Some 500 custom builds have also been commissioned by owners, designers and shipyards. These include Classics such as Ticonderoga and Britannia, or just simple cruising boats like Swans, Catalinas and Megayachts.

Half Hulls, which really show off the line and keel – whether full or bulb – come in at around $275.

Abordage has exhibited at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and was the official model maker for the America’s Cup Jubilee in 2001 in Cowes. Owners include Dominican Republic President Fernandez, President Bush Sr, the US Hereshoff Museum and a whole bunch of armchair boat-lovers who want to be able to enjoy a Classic yacht without the trauma of trying to maintain one!

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