INTERVIEW available in the last Bretagne Sailing Valley® News – Newsletter #7 – Autumn 2021
A qualified naval architect, Tanguy Le Bihan launched Foil & Co five years ago. This Breton company, specialised in the manufacture of foils and boards for smaller sail powered craft and boards is growing rapidly, the market having exploded in 2020, due in particular to the health crisis.
Can you tell us about the genesis of Foil & Co?
I created the company in September 2016 with a partner, Thierry Pen. I was then a naval architect, mainly in the field of motor boats, and a bit like a computer scientist discovering the internet, I was challenged by the arrival of the foil on all types of platforms. I told myself that I couldn’t afford to miss this revolution. From the outset our idea was to be very agile, to create a design office coupled to a prototyping center, to then move on more industrial production. We did that by starting the production of series foils in 2017. Since then, we have only stepped up the output and, today, our average production rate is 15 foils per day.
The health crisis has not impacted you?
On the contrary, it turned everything upside down, but in a good way for us! During the first lockdown, people realized that they weren’t going to be able to travel very much and that it was cool to get out on the water. They then began to invest in lightweight foiling boards and since then we have seen an explosion in participation and sales. On top of that, a new sport that is a hit, the wing foil, has been arrived. Today, out of every 15 foils sold, 12 are for the wing, 3 for windsurfing, the trend has completely reversed. We believe that the wing is going to be a massive sport, bigger than kite. You can practice it anywhere, in all types of wind, from 6 to 60 knots, in waves or on flat seas, and above all, it is very accessible and easy to use.
Is this growth reflected in your turnover and your workforce?
In 2019, we made 1.3 million euros in turnover; in 2020, we made 1.2 million over just 7 months of work, because of the Covid; this year, we should triple that number! In terms of staff, we are now 24 employees at our Tréhou site, we are still hiring 6 people by the end of the year in support roles. From the start, we gambled a bit in terms of relocating which was not too fashionable five years ago, but it has allowed us to be recognized last year as the first VSE in Brittany to be elected as a regional stimulus industry. Thanks to this device, we will be able to develop our means of production: as we are cramped in our premises, we are considering various solutions to expand, we must at least double the size of the site. In particular, our objective is to build a board factory, with completely different technologies, with the objective of sustainable development, a really important subject for us. For example today, we produce less than 5% of composite waste, our goal is to reach 0%. We are also working hard on reducing the energy consumption of our moulding systems, the idea is to save 30% compared to conventional systems.
Foil & Co is only dedicated to gliding or are you interested in bigger craft, such as offshore racing yachts?
We also work for Imoca teams, for Jean Le Cam, Damien Seguin and Stéphane Le Diraison, not on foils, but on machined parts, such as stanchions, clutch supports; we also do a lot of carbon padeyes with Ino-Rope in Concarneau, we try to be open minded and do other things on the side, knowing that the foil still represents 90% of our activity today. So far the biggest foils we’ve built – T-foils for Swiss catamarans – were 3 meters long and we think we can make bigger pieces. But as regards Imoca and others, there are very specialized players in Brittany, we cannot be in all markets and too greedy.
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