INTERVIEW available in the last Bretagne Sailing Valley® News – Newsletter #10 – Summer 2022
At the head of CDK Technologies and Multiplast respectively for 30 and 13 years apiece Philippe Facque and Dominique Dubois have both decided to retire and hand over control to new shareholders, Inspiring Sport Capital and the group HBH. This presents a good opportunity to speak with both at the same time.
Philippe, you managed CDK for almost 30 years, Dominique the Carboman group for 13 years, what were the major stages or projects of your respective companies during these years?
Philippe Facque: “The really striking moment was when we made the decision to move to Lorient in 2007. We had the Banque Populaire V order in our hands, but before signing, we had to find a place to build it, because we didn’t have the space in Port-la-Forêt. My partners did not necessarily all agree with taking this risk, which is why we created two separate companies, Keroman Technologies and CDK Technologies. In fact, Keroman grew very quickly to become as big as CDK, this choice allowed us to build and assemble large boats, this is the step that really made the yard grow.”
Dominique Dubois: “The first striking project that comes to mind is the Volvo 70 Groupama 4, a boat on which we had quite a few construction problems, in particular a chemical reaction on the prepregs, that started badly, but in the end, this boat turned out to be a super machine that won everything: the Volvo Ocean Race, Sydney-Hobart, the Fastnet, a complete marvel! And as well there was the adventure with the Volvo 65, working within a consortium set up with Decision, Persico Marine and King Marine. Then, I would say the dome of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Paris, a colossal project, and, more recently, the large masts of ocean liners and the sails of 1,200 m2 within the framework of the Solid Sail/AeolDrive project. These projects are a good illustration of our diversification strategy.”
And from a more technological point of view?
Philippe Facque: “The real breakthrough was when we started building boats in pre-impregnated materials. The “pre-preg” allows us to have perfect carbon quality with the right amount of resin, and therefore to make light and solid boats. Even now it’s not always easy because you have to be careful not to leave air bubbles, you have to be meticulous, but it’s really the technology that allowed us, at one point, to make the difference. And to do this of course we needed ovens to heat everything, then large autoclaves. Now we have three today.”
Dominique Dubois: “Having gone from parts made of 95% pre-impregnated carbon to a significant proportion of infusion parts. We gained this technology by buying Plastinov, who had a perfect ability in large-scale infusions because they made wind turbine blades. It was a big change: today, we are able, like on the SolidSail/Aeoldrive project, to make 150 m2 infused panels. We have added new strings to our bow by giving ourselves complete areas of technologies that make it possible to make a difference, because not everyone needs pre-impregnated carbon, diversification also sees to that. I would also mention the ovens capable of baking at 200 degrees, which allowed us to access the aeronautics and space markets. Today, the company is really so different from ten years ago.”
What technological developments do you see coming in competitive sailing?
Philippe Facque: “The major development is foils, particularly on monohulls, which today go as fast, or even faster, than the 20 or 25 meter multihulls I used to sail. And products are progressing all the time, that’s why we constantly manage to make stronger and lighter boats, and this will also apply to the foils, in all areas: design, materials, structure. Today, we can already see that there are much less breakages than when we started out in this.”
Dominique Dubois: “I think also that we are only at the very beginning of foils, we see that they are still breaking, we see that everyone is looking a little in all directions, there is still a lot of work to be done in this area. And I think that the technologies will evolve because we see astronomical prices, we will have to find good ideas, there is really a way to progress in this area, but the imagination of man has no limits.”
And what risks do you see emerging for the sector?
Philippe Facque: “Boats are more and more expensive because they are more and more complex. You only have to look at the number of engineers integrated into the yards today: they did not exist before, whereas now today, on an Imoca project, we have one or two engineers attached to the project permanently. Now, I don’t know if that’s a danger, because the boats also resell very well: before, you bought an Imoca new for 3 million to resell it for 1.5 million four years later. Now you make boats at 5 or 6 million which are sold for 4 or 4.5. On the other hand recruitment remains a big problem, especially in recent years, there is a constant lack of people everywhere, it is increasingly difficult to retain people who want to be more “free”.”
Dominique Dubois: “I’m a little worried when I see that there are 14 new boats for the next edition of the Vendée Globe, whereas usually it’s more than 6 or 7. Does that mean that there won’t be any for the next one? This is a real thing to be monitored which will have an impact on recruitment, a major challenge for our businesses. We can’t afford to recruit 50 people to part with them a year later because there’s no more IMOCAs to build. You have to manage to smooth out your workload over time. Recruiting and training people is a long-term, big human investment. And when I look at this I tell myself that we did well to diversify.”
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