Ed Dubois was a good friend of Practical Boat Owner magazine contributor Peter K Poland and this was probably the last and most up-to-date profile on him. As published in the February 2016 issue of PBO.
An eye for the one-offs
While this new Westerly stream of production cruisers was beginning to expand and flow smoothly, Dubois continued to enhance his reputation in the one-off racing boat field. In the 1970s and ’80s, this was the best way to make your name as a designer and pick up production boat commissions.
Like Ron Holland, Doug Peterson, Michel Dufour, Jean-Marie Finot et al, Dubois spent a lot of time racing on his own designs and evolving his ideas.
His next big break came with the 12.8m (42ft) Two Tonner Police Car, part of the Australian Admiral’s Cup team that won this holy grail of offshore racing in 1979.
While every other boat in the Two Ton fleet had a masthead rig and plenty of freeboard, the prettier Police Car boasted a fractional rig and relatively low freeboard. It was little short of revolutionary.
‘A big risk,’ Dubois said. ‘But it worked. It was just electric in a breeze.’
After the Fastnet Race tragedy of 1979 (15 sailors died in a fleet-decimating freak storm) that concluded the Admiral’s Cup, Dubois picked up a lot of new business.
‘It was a weird feeling,’ he said. ‘Part of me was happy and elated. I knew I was off and running career-wise. But I also knew that there were families who lost people, going through hell.’
Meanwhile, Dubois’ portfolio of production boats continued to grow. His attractive Quarter Ton cruiser-racer the Starflash (7.68m) came out in 1978 then Trapper Yachts bought the moulds and developed it into the fin-keel Trapper T250 and successful lift-keel Trapper TS240 in 1980.
It remains a popular club racer to this day and makes an excellent and versatile family coastal cruiser.
Colvic also offered Dubois’ sleek Liberator 35.
Then, in 1985, Dubois took on a decidedly ‘upmarket’ marque of production cruisers.
He told me: ‘I was very pleased to get the work for Wauquiez in France. Henri Wauquiez was something of an Anglophile and had built Holman & Pye designs before.
‘Then he came to me after the success of our Admiral’s Cupper Victory of Burnham in 1981. The first boat was the Centurion 47.
He hoped to build 25 of them, but in fact over 80 were sold! This led to the Centurion 42, the Centurions 40, 38 & 36 and then later the pilothouse boats, the Wauquiez 48, 54 & 60.’
Waiquiez’s UK distributor, Charles Watson, told me: ‘Wauquiez built its reputation on high performance, high-quality construction and attention to detail and finish. They were then seen as the French equivalent of Camper & Nicholsons or Swan and had a strong following in the UK.
‘The 48 has always been my favourite. Built as both a Centurion and as a Pilot Saloon, it’s a powerful cruising boat that eats up the miles, looks gorgeous, is bulletproof and offers every home comfort. What’s not to like?
‘The later 43 Pilot Saloon has the build quality of the 48-footers and still offers three cabins, saloon and two heads. Being smaller, all the gear is that bit easier to manage and shallower draught has its advantages. Wauquiez never built a Centurion version of this model but she is an excellent sea boat and very capable of fast, comfortable, long-distance passage-making.’
To this day, Dubois’ Wauquiez boats have many attractions. Their design gives above-average performance while the interior finish and quality are well ahead of other French production yachts from the same era.
In addition, Dubois’ Deck Saloon versions combined sleek styling with wonderful panoramic views that can be enjoyed from a warm, dry and comfortable environment. In many ways they look like small Oysters.
On the racing scene, designs were commissioned by high-profile owners such as Peter de Savary (Victory of Burnham) and Brian Saffery-Cooper (Dragon).
This dynamic duo formed part of the UK’s 1981 Admiral’s Cup team that walked off with the coveted cup.