INTERVIEW available in the last Bretagne Sailing Valley® News – Newsletter #8 – Winter 2021
Known in particular for his numerous collaborations with Guillaume Verdier (Imoca, 100 footer Comanche, Emirates Team New Zealand, etc.), the architect Benjamin Muyl also works on his own projects. With his team, he has spent the last two years developing Meta, a software suite dedicated to simulating racing boats, especially foils.
We know about VPP, velocity prediction programs. What more does Meta bring to this field?
Until recently, VPPs really were the state of the art. Their objective was to optimize the performance of the boat, but that was really only statically: flat seas, steady average wind, etc. The arrival of flying boats has significantly accelerated the thinking about the need for much more dynamic performance predictions. This is why the America’s Cup teams have developed tools of their own. Following our first campaign with Ineos [British challenge, editor’s note], we set out to develop our own product. Meta is both a simulator (“a Sim”) which immerses the skipper in a virtual environment, but also a simulator without a sailor (“Cruise”), where the sailor is replaced by an automatic pilot to cut out his cognitive influences. In addition, there are several components, including one called Motion which offers trajectory optimization: each maneuver – a tack, a gybe, etc. – is broken down into a series of actions. For each of them, the software gives its best solution to increase performance, in speed, course, or any other criteria, such as the energy expended, for example.
So is it software that is at the confluence of the needs of sailors and designers?
Yes, it is a training tool for sailors, with all the scope that virtual reality opens up, such as the possibility of interacting with the machine and replaying the game. But for us, Meta is a calculation tool and it allows us to answer fundamental questions, taking into account the evolution of performances and technologies, such as: “Will the boat that we design be controllable?”, ” How will it perform in non-static conditions?”
In the last Cup, you were competitors on the other side of the game from Guillaume Verdier who worked for Team New Zealand. How was it on this project?
We cut ourselves off from each other but there are no bad feelings! On the contrary we are currently working together on a new Imoca, after having worked together on a record sand yacht. Guillaume also shared the development costs of Meta which is an ambitious project. It took us two years of work with my three collaborators, Nedeleg Bigi, Antoine Guillou and Thomas Berrod who I would like to mention. We have now reached a phase where we can consider the sale of licenses for interested teams. We have started to reach out and make contacts.
Can such an investment be profitable in such a niche market?
Well first of all we developed Meta for our own needs, to be autonomous. But when we used it in anger we found it to be very usable by others and to perform well. I like to think that the platform is on par with what the teams have developed for the America’s Cup. It’s, I think, a good calling card for the next campaigns for which recruitment is imminent. And then beyond racing, which remains a small market, Meta can be of interest to all kinds of foiling craft. We see that foils are developing just as well on semi-rigid as on passenger ferries and soon cargo ships.
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