SV Kurun 
by Joe Thompson 

1/60 SV Kurun (Heller/Humbrol)

“KURUN” sailed around the world between 1949 and 1952 with its captain and owner, Jacques-Yves Le Toumelin, in command. The vast majority of the trip was done solo.

Le Toumelin (1920-2009) grew up during the tumultuous period of German occupation of France during WWII. He originally had built a fishing cutter he named Le Tonnerre but she was seized and wrecked by the Nazi’s in the early 1940s. Not to be deterred Le Toumelin had the famous French naval architect Henri Dervin design him a Norwegian cutter class boat based on the famous lines of the renowned Norwegian designer Colin Archer.

Sporting the usual cutter design of a double-ender KURUN, which means ‘thunder’ in the Breton language spoken around Brittany, was gaff rigged. However KURUN had a couple unusual design features. One was that she had no crew cockpit; her weather deck is unbroken by a recessed cockpit. She was designed this way to add structural integrity to the hull form and it also allows for extra internal storage space in the rear of the vessel.

Without a cockpit and its usual seating another peculiar feature was introduced. When Le Toumelin was hand steering the vessel he sat on a convex shaped bench that ran athwartships the entire width of the boat just aft of the cabin. Since this bench was higher amidships than along the gunwale lines he was able to sit on a relatively level surface regardless of what angle of heel the boat took under sail.

Another unusual feature were the “shore legs”. I modeled them attached to either side of the hull. These uniquely designed wooden supports made careening KURUN for unwater hull maintenance much easier. Careening is the practice of grounding a sailboat at high tide in order to expose one side of its hull for maintenance and repairs below the water line when the tide goes out. However using KURUN’s “shore legs” when she was careened it provided access to the entire hull below the waterline because the boat was upright instead of resting on one side. When not in use these legs were stowed under the helmsman’s bench.

A purist when it came to his seamanship Le Toumelin once said, “It is hard to become a true sailor if you get into the habit of using a motor.” And thus he sailed KURUN around the world without an engine (Joshua Slocum style) and therefore we find stowed on the port side a large sculling oar he used to maneuver his boat in tight quarters or when becalmed in certain instances. (His transit of the Panama Canal was made especially difficult because he lacked an engine for maneuvering.)

The original KURUN was oak planked with acacia ribs. The deck was made of iroko (a large hardwood tree from the west coast of tropical Africa that can live up to 500 years) and mahogany.

Length Overall (LOA):  33 ft.
Length on the waterline (LWL): 27 ft. 10 inch.
Beam (Max): 11 ft. 10 inch.
Draught: 5 ft. 4 inch.
Displacement: 8.5 tons
Sail plan: Traditional gaff-rigged with 570 sq. ft. of sail
Aux. propulsion: None

Launched on February 26, 1948 Le Toumelin and KURUN left his hometown port of Le Croisic, France in September 1949 sailing westward around the world. In July 1952, nearly 3 years from his departure, he returned to his home port and said upon arrival, “I felt as I moored KURUN that I had not come back to the harbor to stay. I was merely at a port of call.” Ironically, with that said Le Toumelin only made one other extended cruise in KURUN, a cruise to the Caribbean from September 1954 to July 1955.

The Model: The plastic injection molded kit I built was from the French company Heller/Humbrol. In 1/60 scale the assembly is rather straight forward and the fit good. However to make the model resemble KURUN as she did on her circumnavigation required quite as lot of modifications. I scratch built an anchor windlass cover, the bowsprit, sculling oar, access ladder, cabin top handrails, rigging blocks, stowed boom and gaff cover, baggywrinkle, ratboards, appropriate halyard fittings and the “shore-legs”. I also enhanced cabin portholes, added freeing ports where necessary and added various standing and running rigging enhancements. I used web images and Le Toumelin’s book “KURUN Around the World” as reference during construction.

Joe Thompson

Gallery updated 5/3/2019