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 Corbin Inc 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 Corbin Ic yard at Chateau Gay, 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 Inc yard ceased production of the Corbin 39 in 1990, and moved on to production of other boats of one sort or another including small trawlers (actually we have since been told that perhaps only one motorboat was really made, and the Corbin Inc simply went bust). Nevertheless we must be mindful that 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 Corbin Inc 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 production yard manager). In 2021 we learned more about this because Raymond Dupuis, who employed Gaetan Duchesne, explained that in early 1991 they moved the moulds into a small workshop in St Edouard, Quebec and built a Corbin 39 from scratch just as all the previous ones had been built, with a moulding month of 02/1991. This was “Complicite” and it was not in fact stamped as a ZCJ-etc hull though it is in every other respect a Corbin 39. Then Gaetan Duchesne was employed by (we are told) Gilles Grimard and they built “L’Aventure III” (subsequently renamed as “Philosophe”) in the same way, using the same workshop in St Edouard, and this was subsequently stamped by Transport Canada as being ZCJ0002010791. So if “L’Aventure III” was correctly given the #201 designation then “Complicite” must have been #200. Or if Transport Canada made an error then they really ought to be #201 and #202. In any case both of these 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. Raymond Dupuis was not aware of any more Corbin 39s that were built by Gaetan Duchesne in this way. We were also able to speak with Gaetan Duchesne in August-2021 and he confirmed that only Philosophe and L’Aventure were built in this way in St Edouard. He also does not know of any other hulls that were moulded after these two.
According to one report in “Canadian Yachting” issue of Winter 1996 the indications are that the moulds themselves had been bought by a person called Giles Bastien* in 1990 when Corbin Inc was shut down. Raymond Dupuis borrowed these moulds when he made “Complicite” in 02/1991and they were used later in 07/1991 to mould “L’Aventure III”. However Gaetan Duchesne, who was the Corbin Inc production manager, is not sure this is correct and his best recollection is that the moulds became Mr Bouchard’s.
There are various rumours 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 who did not have the experience of Gaetan Duchesne, and if there was a commercial attempt at it then it would have left a big enough footprint to identify. Certainly Gaetan Duchesne also thinks there were no more Corbins moulded after Philosophe and L’Aventure, and he was well placed to know.
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.
Is that all ?
There was one other built. Gaetan Duchesne explained that before Marius Corbin agreed to licence the design from Robert Dufour, that another individual bought a set of plans and built his own, entirely independently of Corbin Inc. He says this was “Toi-et-Moi” and it was built by a Mr Robert Harnoi in Quebec. Apparently this was started in approximately 1975 and completed in approximately 1985, and was built in fibreglass but without using moulds. As of August-2021 Gaetan was aware that Mr Harnoi had fairly recently died, and that this boat was for sale in the Marina St-Mathias where he had kept it. The Canadian register does indeed show a vessel of that name with registry number 393313 and that owner, but that has now been taken from the register. So I guess this should be called a Dufour 39 and will likely be very similar to the mk1 Corbin 39. At present we do not have any photos of this.
[note, written as a placeholder by DS, 2019, updated Aug-2021]
* “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 ]