The foiler revolution
When the IMOCA measurement switched to a more one-design format in 2013, notably with regards to the masts and keels, one might be forgiven for thinking that the creativity of the naval architects would be kept in check. Instead, Guillaume Verdier and the VPLP design office in Vannes, south-west Brittany, have given rise to some amazing new, let’s call them moustached’ boats.

Taking inspiration from what the multihulls are undergoing in other domains, particularly in the America’s Cup, with its foiling catamarans that y above the water thanks to ‘L’ shaped foils, the designers have adapted the concept for the Vendée Globe monohulls. e boats don’t really y but the foils they carry on each side enable the hull to be supported by the water, which limits the drag and opens up an unsuspected universe of power.

Within the racing stable tted out by Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild, this major innovation has swiftly been allowed free expression. Indeed, ying is a skill already familiar to the Gitana Team. First off, for several years Sébastien has been sailing the foiling Moth, which is a fascinating and especially unstable carbon creation. Familiar with this aerial method of sailing, the skipper quickly began foiling on the GC32 catamaran Edmond de Rothschild and has competed with the five-arrow team in the famous Bol d’Or on Lake Geneva. Next, more surprising still, in the spring of 2016, in a new departure at the controls of the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild, the team became the first oceanic trimaran in history to take off from the surface of the sea where they reached no less than 43 knots of speed, pushed along by just twenty or so knots of breeze.

Given such a track record, it was only natural for the Gitana Team to envisage the use of foils in the Vendée Globe. This bold wager has since been taken up by the teams of five other new boats (Banque Populaire, Hugo Boss, No Way Back, Safran and St Michel Virbac) as well as by Jérémie Beyou, whose Maître CoQ is a former generation hull, albeit one equipped with ‘moustaches’.

Since that time, each of them has been able to showcase the benefits in lots of conditions with the foils enhancing performance. However, this innovation remains very recent, which logically raises questions about such things as reliability over a ‘long distance’ course like the Vendée Globe. In the round the world race, besides solidity, one of the main challenges will involve use of these foils in the numerous phases of weather transition, as well as in the extreme situations that the sailors might have to negotiate in the seas of the Deep South.

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