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Ultimate: a game changer

May 2 to July 3, two very special months enter the annals of VPLP Design. May 2 marked the start of The Transat bakerly which pitted Francois Gabart (Macif) against Thomas Coville (Sodebo) in a solo duel aboard 30 metre plus monsters designed by VPLP, the victory going to the former Vendee Globe winner eight days later. June 8 saw Thomas Coville update the record books of single-handed sailing with a historic twenty-four hour run of 714 nautical miles. And July 3 Francois Gabart raises the bar even higher to 785 miles ! What do the specialists say? Xavier Guilbaud keeps tabs on multihull development at VPLP’s design office in Vannes (Brittany): “It’s a game changer. When Franck Cammas entered the Route du Rhum in 2010 aboard Groupama 3, a VPLP design trimaran built for the Jules Verne trophy, everyone thought he was crazy!

So what made this sea change possible in just six short years? Significant progress has been made in every field: in preparing the boats, in the skippers’ abilities, in weather forecasting, in autopilots – which are now incredible – and, last but not least, in boat design. Vincent Lauriot-Prevost explains: “When we designed Macif our focus was on adapting every aspect of a 30 metre trimaran to single-handed sailing: dimensions, weight, power, living quarters, rigging and, of course, the foils and rudders which carry the boat at high speed.”

From machines built for crews and then adapted to solo racing, such as Groupama 3 renamed Banque Populaire and now Idec, we’ve entered the era of made-for-purpose Ultimates like Macif. Vincent remembers: “Francois Gabart told us he wanted a moped with an upgrade window of seven years. Thomas Coville’s trimaran is more powerful (170 tonnes/m² versus 145) but not quite so responsive in the transition phases.”

And for Vincent that’s the issue when it comes to making these craft fly: “It’s the direction we’re heading in and I think we’ll soon be doing away with the centre-board. Over the last four years we’ve made enormous progress on the foils thanks to tools developed in-house, such as hydro/aero CFD, VPP and section design. We’ve got three people working on this full time. Collaborations with the team at Artemis and with Gsea/HDS have also borne fruit.” Back at VPLP’s design office works are moving apace on Banque Populaire IX (launch in 2017) in the firm conviction that we’re witnessing the start of a new era!