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December 26, 2018

Vincent Lauriot-Prévost: “Immensely satisfied to retain our Rhum title.”

Vincent, what conclusions do you draw from this eleventh – and certainly historic – edition of the Route du Rhum?

First of all, when I saw IDEC Sport (formerly Groupama 3, formerly Banque Populaire VII) win the race for the third time in a row, I said to myself that we did a good job when we designed that trimaran thirteen years ago! I’m immensely satisfied to retain our title. I am happy for Francis and his team. I believe the opportunity was there for the taking, what with Macif intrinsically faster but damaged and IDEC Sport being pushed to the limit by the experienced hand of Francis Joyon. And we all know that, after passing Tête à l’Anglais, rounding Guadeloupe is a bit of a lottery…

The race also saw the loss of Banque Populaire IX, what’s your take on that?

We don’t have much to go on because parts of the boat were never recovered. My own feeling is that we – and I mean all of us – are still learning how to use these machines. These boats fly higher and cut cleaner through the waves than they did before, and so we have a tendency to sail faster in those kinds of conditions. But the Ultimates haven’t got much sailing time under their belts – except for Macif which has done a circumnavigation – and have never faced such difficult conditions in training. As a result, the boats really only get tested when they are racing, skippered solo. It would be less risky to put them thoroughly through their paces within closer reach to the coast, with a crew and in training.

Sodebo IV also suffered a serious failure…

Once again we don’t have much to go on to determine the causes and source of the split in the beam fairing. It seems to me that we need to fit monitoring systems to these boats (we could even discuss if such monitoring systems should be compulsory) so we can get data on the behaviour, stress and distortion of the structure in order to improve things. Currently, only the Edmond de Rothschild has these systems. In my view it’s the only way we’re going to understand the Ultimates. We know how they work on the lawn, but not cross-country.

In the IMOCA class, it’s also a VPLP-Verdier with a raft of trophies which got the win…

SMA is indeed the Macif which won the Vendée Globe and the Route du Rhum 2014. Paul ran a great race, but what interests me is what Hugo Boss did. Because if we’re talking performance, no one managed to keep up with Alex Thomson’s pace.

How do you explain that?

Alex doesn’t sail like everyone else. He has a very personal approach, very technical. He clocked up a lot of nautical miles, obtained a huge mass of data (his boat was the first to be fitted with a comprehensive monitoring system), talked to sailmakers other than those who work with French sailors… For his foils, he developed his own design which is more L than S shaped, and provides greater lift in the shaft when the boat is heeling. Alex managed to constitute a team of experts willing to look hard at our ideas. He doesn’t want an off-the-shelf boat.

Last but not least, the Multi50s. What were the lessons here?

The smartest won! Armel Tripon sailed a great race. He looked for and found a crack to squeeze through to give his competitors – who encountered their fair share of problems – the slip. What I take away from this edition for our 50’ trimarans is that it’s worthwhile investing in helm protections, even though they add weight. The Multi50s are the most uncomfortable boats in the race. Especially as they are getting faster and faster thanks to their foils.

VPLP hasn’t yet designed a Class40, but you’re keeping a close eye on them…

Yes, and I think the work done by the Lombard firm on the Lift40 sailed by Yoan Richomme, who went on to win the race, was magnificent. Their approach to the hull is original and seems to work!

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