This ought to be an easy question to answer. Except it isn’t.
Let us for the moment set aside the confusion caused by reports of two boats sharing the same HIN or mould number. There is no motivation for the yard to have used the same HIN on two different boats, so these are most likely mistakes in reporting, or reports of what are in fact the same boat. This affects – at most – six boats so far, but let us in any case set this aside.
Then we have the reported fact that hull number #013 was not moulded, due to concerns that customers would not want to buy it.
Then we have the issue of the fire in late 1982 which destroyed a lot of the Chateau Gay yard, including the records and some hulls. Our understanding is that this destroyed six hulls being : #059, #112, #117, #120, #122, and #128. This is a reasonable spread to have been destroyed : some of these would likely have been at one stage or another of the yard fit-out programme, whilst others were being paid for in installments and not released until everything was paid.
Then we have the knowledge that the Corbin Les Bateaux yard ceased production of the Corbin 39 in the early 1990s, and moved on to production of other boats of one sort or another including small trawlers. So searching online databases for reports of all HIN-numbers with a ZCJ manufacturer ID, or even a ‘2CJ’ manufacturer ID, may be sweeping other Corbin-types into its net.
Then we have the reports from multiple owners that they bought “the last Corbin 39 ever made”. Well they can’t all be correct. An explanation of course is that on each occasion they were indeed the last person to persuade Marius Corbin to make them a Corbin 39. Well, at least until the next one came along.
Then we have the reports that after the yard stopped manufacturing the Corbin 39 the moulds were moved out, and a few unfinished hulls were completed by the ex-employee Gaetan Duchesne (who had been the Corbin yard manager). As far as we can determine the hulls that Gaetan Duchesne completed were also stamped up as ZCJ hulls and so ought in every respect to be considered full Corbin 39 hulls – and so too ought the fit out to be considered as being at least as good as any other Corbin 39. Presumably the same goes for those that might have been built by Giles Bastien. *
The more worrying rumour is that some extra Corbins were moulded to other standards, and on the internet there are reports of things with balsa cores and so-on, which most definitely would not be a Corbin 39 as we know it. Whether those internet rumours are based on any substance, or just because of people not knowing the full facts, we are not yet certain. My personal (DS) opinion is that these rumours are unsubstantiated. The reason I think this is because nobody in their sane mind locates old moulds in a Quebec field, and then starts low-volume production of a boat that was (by then) too-expensive to build economically compared with the lower-priced competition. Building 39′ yachts from an empty set of moulds is not an endeavour that would have been contemplated by individuals, and if there was a commercial attempt at it then it would have left a big enough footprint to identify.
Putting all that together the last hull number that we have so far located is #201, moulded in 07-1991. This means that all told there were precisely 200 of the Corbin 39 moulded, after allowing for the #013 that was not moulded. This also corresponds with a comment that Marius Corbin made that he thought 200 was a good moment to stop.
So our best answer is that there were precisely 200 of the Corbin 39 moulded. Of these 6 were lost in the factory fire, meaning that 194 reached customers. That is why we say that “about two hundred” were moulded.
Not all Corbin 39’s have completed the fitting out process. Some are still actively in fit-out, maybe under a different owner. Others may be languishing in a barn somewhere. Some have reportedly been broken up without ever being finished and entering the water. We simply aren’t sure.
Then there are the six that were destroyed in the factory fire, and we have a report of one that was broken up in 2013.
There are also many reports of Corbins where we only know the name, we don’t have the hull number, and we don’t have the history or the photographs. For the time being in the database these are given 300-series numbers as a temporary identifier.
With luck over the coming years we will be able to better understand exactly how many made it into the water and are still in use. Is it 150, or 180 ? We really don’t know.
[note, written as a placeholder by DS, 2019]
* “If you are a Corbin fan and are considering a custom boat, you will want to get in touch with Giles Bastien, a former employee of Marius Corbin who now owns the Corbin moulds. He has plans to build boats to order, but has no commitments to date. Bastien also has a couple of unfinished hull-and-deck kits that he intends to sell to home-builders or complete himself for owners.” [extract from an article originally published in Canadian Yachting’s Winter 1996 issue. https://www.canadianyachting.ca/boat-reviews/sail/1162-corbin-39-sail-boat-review ]