top of page

The Rocca - the story of an Italian family who came to seek their fortune in France

It was in 1923 that Domenico Rocca, the patriarch, arrived from Italy. A joiner-carpenter, he started out in the Chauvière factory specializing in the construction of propellers and canoes. This is where he learned to recognize the different species of wood and how to work them for nautical use. In 1928, he became a foreman and decided to found his own shipyard; he then settled in Vitry sur Seine. Unlike its competitors, it adapts its constructions to the desires of its clients using premium materials (grand bassam mahogany, spruce, ash, cedar, Honduras mahogany from America).

The first deliveries are made on a trailer towed by a bicycle. Manufacturing gradually increased and when war broke out, his site had 10 workers. After the war, in 1944, Domenico Rocca resumed his activities with makeshift means!

His two sons, Louis and Oreste, joined him as soon as they left school.

Orders are flowing in quickly; thus, in 1946, the site had to expand; a new hangar and an office are then added to the workshop.

The outboard engine is becoming more and more used in the world of boating.

The shipyard is innovating by creating a new concept of motor canoe: the madeira canoe. This model no longer ends with a tapered stern, but with a truncated rear of a transom. It can therefore be powered by a motor -from 2 to 7 hp- (Monet-Goyon, Lutetia) but also used for rowing, paddling or sailing. This canoe has been designed for both the sea and the river. It is a very fashionable model which gave birth to the first dinghy of the site.

It was in the 1950s that sales of wooden pleasure boats exploded. In addition to its production, the shipyard, in addition to a very varied range of canoes and dinghyes of all sizes and runabouts, markets trailers and engines.

Rocca also builds speedboat cruisers. These "great luxury" boats with convertible cabins are ideal for sea cruises... Spacious, comfortable boats for 6 people. Front deck "sunbathing".

This launch, on request, could be built to accommodate two 15 or 25 HP outboard motors, with coupled remote controls.

Louis and Oreste, very early on, in daily contact with these boats, were attracted by the competition, especially Oreste, the most fiery. Louis, the technician prefers the development.

Successes were not long in coming, Oreste boasted a prestigious track record:

  1. WORLD SPEED RECORDMAN Class X: November 1953

  2. CHAMPION of FRANCE Class c: 1953

  3. WORLD RECORDMAN of the hour CIU class: June 1955

  4. FRANCE CHAMPION Class X: 1955

  5. WORLD SPEED RECORDMAN Class C: November 1956


All these titles contribute largely to the reputation of the shipyard. It was also at this time that Oreste accomplished motornautical exploits as part of Pierre Bellemare's show, "La Tête et les Jambes". Then synthetic resins appeared, via the USA. Thus, despite Domenico's reluctance, his son Louis the Technician obtains a location to develop these new manufacturing processes. The first hulls built were never marketed, but were used for nautical shows which served as a test bench: springboard jumping, crossing flames, stranding at full speed on the bank, etc. These hulls successfully withstood all these harsh trials.

The reconversion then begins in a newly enlarged site (4,000 M2). To promote the release of these first models, Oreste entered a 500 cm3 dinghy in the French championship, a championship he won in 1955, this victory leading to many others (around 200 trophies).

At the same time, the first “standard” polyester dinghies appeared. They are presented at the Boat Show which is held afloat at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, in addition to all the ranges manufactured by the shipyard: wood, mixed wood-polyester, polyester, thus displaying all their know-how.

The shipyard employs 100 workers at peak season and around fifteen bare hulls come out of production every day.

In 1957, the Rocca shipyard built 1,500 boats, using 300 m3 of wood, 15 tons of varnish/paint, 80 tons of resin, 70 tons of glass fabric and 5 tons of fittings.

For its "plastic" construction Rocca only uses matte, roving and varanne fabrics which are impregnated with resin using a roller and brush, depending on the location;

Rocca also manufactured runabouts for Constantin, as well as an original accessory: the “removable roof for dinghies”.

In 1961, the shipyard took inspiration from American lines and presented the Ski-Flash, Impala and Saber models, entirely constructed in polyester. The site then employs more than 100 people.

It was at this time that the shipyard experienced rapid development, building more than 3,000 boats per year. The extension of manufacturing and the increase in the number of models no longer made it possible to fit the 38 boats in the small existing hall. Thus, Oreste, despite the difficulties posed by an expansion, triumphed over administrative difficulties and succeeded in building just opposite the old factory a new ultra-modern building with avant-garde aesthetics of 1500 m2 spread over 3 levels.

Following the example of Oreste, holder of several world records and whose victories in international competitions no longer counted, the 170 agents in the network had always been athletes practicing motorboating. This is why the inauguration took place two days after the Six Hours of Paris, a major date in the motorboating calendar, in the presence of Mr. Roland Nungesser, Founding President of the National Council for Pleasure Boating and Water Sports.

  1. EUROPEAN CHAMPION 600 CM3: 1957

  2. CHAMPION of FRANCE CIU Class: 1957

  3. INTERNATIONAL GRAND PRIX of MONACO Class DU: 1956, 1957, 1959,1960

  4. INTERNATIONAL GRAND PRIX of MONACO CIU class: 1958, 1959, 1960



In ten years, the Rocca shipyard has set up a significant commercial network: 170 French dealers (1), plus Italy, Germany and Belgium where several hundred boats are exported each year. From canoeing to San Remo, these boats are guaranteed for 3 years.

Louis, for his part, is oriented more towards pleasure crafts by offering boats of the "Day Boat" type, 7.5 m cabin-cruiser, Pacha model.

In 1967, the whole family looked at a new concept: the catamaran, a pure speed boat. Two of these boats are entered in the 6 Hours of Paris. Unfortunately, they are too heavy and outdated by the competition. In 1968, Oreste stopped competing then, in 1969, took charge of the site. For his part, Louis created a trailer construction company.

The 78/80s positioned the company among the major boat builders. The third oil crisis (1981) put the management of the site in difficulty. Despite the decline, in 1985, the 100,000th boat left the production units.

Oreste gave up management of the site in 1988; he left us a year later, at the age of 63. The 90s were decisive: the shipyard was bought by a British group Duncan/hydrosport, and moved to La Rochelle. In 1995, it closed definitively.

(1) Among the concessions, a quick focus on that of Bordeaux Sainte Eulalie which Michel Dailliez managed from 1967 to 1971 (end of activity). It was then the heyday of shipyards and caravanning and Mr. Dailliez was both a Rocca and Digue dealer, under the SOCANA brand (Sud-Ouest Caravanes Nacteurs), Bordeaux Yachting Services.

From his retirement in Nice, Mr. Dalliez shares some memories with us...

1968 (photo on the left): exhibition of the Rocca range as part of the Bordeaux International Fair, Place des Quinconces. In the foreground, the Concorde.

1969 (photo on the right): the Bordeaux International Fair was moved, permanently, to be held in Bordeaux-Lac. It is the inauguration of this new location and the ROCCA range is well represented (despite an intruder in the center of the photo, a boat with a green stripe which is a Polaris 25).


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page