INVESTIGATING available on Bretagne Sailing Valley ® News – Newsletter #4 – winter 2020
Finally! After the dates were cancelled in the spring in Cagliari and Portsmouth, the long-awaited contest between the AC75s of the four teams taking part in the 36th America’s Cup will be happening between 17th and 20th December with the America’s Cup World Series in Auckland. The only full dress rehearsal before the Prada Cup (15th January-22nd February), which will determine which of the three challengers (American Magic, Ineos Team UK, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli) will compete in the Cup Match (6th-21st March) against the defender, Emirates Team New Zealand.
Within these teams several firms from Bretagne Sailing Valley are involved in various areas: design (Guillaume Verdier and Benjamin Muyl teams, Nat Shaver Design, GSea Design), electronics (Pixel sur Mel, Madintec), sails (North Sails), construction (Multitech Expertises, Multiplast, Guelt, Bene Solutions, Heol Composite)…
While this phenomenon is not new, it has grown in importance since the Cup adopted multihulls, which had been a French and more specifically a Breton speciality for a long time. “I think that the Orma culture for fast boats with everything that entails to do with development, appendages and sail plans, played its part,” says Benjamin Muyl, chief engineer with Ineos. “The fact that we are based in Lorient where there are so many flying boats, and in particular the Ultimes, which are seen abroad as incredible machines, contributed to the reputation of our firms. The French wins in the Volvo Ocean Race helped too, as we saw that marked a change. The Cup teams come here looking for our expertise and know-how, which are now more well known, as it was much harder before”, declares Jean-François Cuzon, head of Pixel sur Mer.
The ability of Breton firms to innovate also enabled them to enter a world where the technological limits are constantly being pushed back. Jacques Le Berre, founder of Multitech Expertises, which specialises in non-invasive tests, is today working with American Magic, after previous experience with Oracle, Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand. “To continue in the sphere of the Cup, I have always aimed to develop new techniques. On the AC72s and then the AC50s for example, I was the first to use military technology to set up an experimental base able to bring together several diagnostic techniques,” he explains. “For this edition, I have developed a new thermographic infra-red camera, which enables us to obtain diagnostic results much more quickly concerning very fine structures. You should never stop carrying out research.”
Flexibility is also an asset, as Tanguy de Larminat, CEO of Karver Systems, tells us. They are supplying customised parts to one of the teams, which cannot be named for contractual reasons. “It is often in urgent situations that we get involved, because we are a small business. They tell us their problems and we come up with a solution within a week. In three weeks we develop prototypes. Small is beautiful!”
As for the Italian challenger, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, they chose GSea Design: “What interested them, in particular for their test boat which we took care of, was our ability to run a project from scratch to finish, setting up the specifications, going through the design phase, working on measurements and plans, then entering into talks with the yard,” explains Sébastien Guého, Technical Director of the firm which has been involved in the world of Cup racing since the end of the eighties after merging with HDS in 2014.
While the firms in Bretagne Sailing Valley clearly have their strengths, they also have a lot to learn from the America’s Cup, which is a real technological development platform. “In each team, there are engineering experts in each area, so that if you have the slightest question, you can quickly find the solution,” says Benjamin Muyl, before adding, “The AC75s are extremely complicated to understand, whether we are talking about the overall design or parts such as the foils, the double sail… that leads you to think continually about finding solutions, so you are bound to progress in such a context.”
Jean-François Cuzon, whose firm has equipped the Ineos Team UK AC75 with fibre optics, adds: “It is in the Cup that we see innovations appear, as the teams have a lot of means at their disposal and so can cast a wide net. This is a real breeding ground for the highly interesting technology of tomorrow. That is another reason why it is important for us to be here. The demands are much higher than elsewhere and that pushes you towards excellence.” Pixel sur Mer was able to make use of the flight control technology developed for the AC75s to adapt it to the requirements of TF35s on Lake Geneva.
The same goes for Karver Systems: “The Cup helps us develop our products and ensure we remain ahead, as all of the teams push things forward,” explains Tanguy de Larminat. As for Madintec, which specialises in autopilots and navigation units, one of their two co-founders, David Cesari, a member of the American Magic team, agrees. “After each campaign we benefit from all the technological advances and we then include them in the world of ocean racing,” confirms Matthieu Robert, the other co-founder. “It’s been like that for ten years.” A virtuous circle that everyone hopes will last.
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Picture © C.Gregory / Ineos Team UK