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Three-time Figaro winner Jérémie Beyou is worth a wager in the Vendée Globe. Beyou is an aggressive and clever racer whose ‘new’ Imoca 60 combines the VPLP/Verdier ex-Banque Populaire that finished 2nd in 2013 with some free-thinking foil technology. Five of the six new VPLP/Verdier hulls built for this Vendée experienced structural failures in the Transat Jacques Vabre (the sixth stayed ashore). Beyou’s team are pushing foil development hard (above) with hybrid foils that diverge from the current ‘wavy’ consensus and also allow for a lighter installation package. A fast reliable platform turboed with 2016 thinking… this is after all the Vendée Globe


proven, fast but now six-year-old boat. In 2014, shortly after being purchased from Macif, Maître Coq was re-equipped with a steel keel to replace the existing one made in carbon. She also acquired two new upgraded rudders for the Route du Rhum. In 2015 other key mechanical elements were changed and the water-ballast system modified in the course of moving towards a final Vendée Globe configuration. ‘That makes one year that we have worked on the foils option,’ explains the skipper. ‘We started by using a good VPP to define the boat in its current configuration and then we developed fresh performance predictions with the boat equipped with foils of various different types.


‘Then we applied the various polar simulations to a round-the- world course similar to the Vendée. That confirmed the scale of the bonus brought by the foils. In fact, the gain was estimated to be as much as five days in the most favourable case…’


But then, during early training last year at Port La Forêt, Jérémie was a bit disappointed with the performance shown by the newest boats equipped with foils, compared to the previous generation that have conventional fins. ‘But in September,’ he says, ‘everything started changing. Suddenly the new Banque Populaire and Gitana were sailing faster. That convinced us that we had to do this.’ Then, later on, at the start of the TJV off Le Havre, the new boats again did not look good, slowed by their ‘moustaches’ dragging horribly through the water when sailing to windward in light air. But the same boats rapidly moved into the lead when the time came during the first night to run full throttle out of the Channel. Within a couple of days Beyou’s team had confirmed both the vulnerabilities and advantages of the new Imocas in two of the key conditions for racing around the world. On balance there was nothing they had seen to change their mind for the so-called ‘Maître Coq 2’. While the average windspeed racing around the world is surpris- ingly low (early teens), there is normally relatively little light air. Pierre-François Dargnies, technical director of Beyou Racing, Jérémie and Sam Manuard, well-known designer (creator of the successful Mach 40 Class40) and himself a top sailor, now started work together on the preliminary draft for the radical modifications. ‘Then we asked specialists CDK to quote for the modifications to the boat, and approached Heol Composites for the foils [Heol made the foils for all the new Imocas except Hugo Boss, which, interestingly, has experienced the most problems in getting its foils working reliably]. For the design of the foils we could not approach VPLP/Verdier because they still had an exclusivity agreement in place with the customers for their six new Imocas. So instead we contacted Nick Holroyd, who led the foil design for Team New Zealand in the last America’s Cup.


‘When Nick came to see the boat,’ continued Jérémie, ‘he saw immediately what sort of foils we needed and what needed to be adjusted on the boat to make them work.’


In addition to the construction of the foils, their installation in the boat required a lot of work: removal of the existing board trunks, manufacture of new trunks and their installation, structural rein- forcements (Jérémie wished also to stiffen up the bottom of the hull forward), larger rudders as well as adding additional unidirectional reinforcement to the outer skin of the mast. ‘With the foils you add righting moment to the boat, and so power. It is necessary to accompany this increase with strengthening all areas of the boat to preserve reliability,’ adds Jérémie. ‘The shock- absorbing function of the new foils is also not particularly effective, especially when the boat crashes down in a trough at high speed.’ A modern Imoca foil is basically a long carbon blade (the shaft) that is heavily cambered at the outer end (the tip) to produce lift, to raise the hull, decreasing drag and thus making it possible for the boat to accelerate and sail more quickly.


Unfortunately, when sailing fast, the natural location of these foils along the hull does not deliver a neutral helm balance, because the hull in front of the foils is out of the water. So should the foils be moved further aft? Sadly it is not as simple as that, for reasons of drag. For the moment Beyou’s chief engineer, Pierre-François Dargnies, wishes to keep the results of his research here strictly confidential; but the problem is certainly not simple, and achieving a good balance when flying will be key to a successful Vendée Globe. The faster the boat is travelling the greater the lift from the foil. The way that the tip immerses in the water is determined by the angle of the trunk and the length (span) and curve of the shaft. The deeper the tip is immersed the more power it generates, but also the more heavily stressed the whole boat/foil system will be. The foil of Maître Coq 2 extends 2.5m between the hull and the end of the tip. The boat’s new trunks are straight and the optimal output of the foil is obtained at 20° of heel. ‘But its immersion is profitable from 12-13kt of speed upwards,’ says Pierre-François, ‘and this is the case on any point of sail.’ Aside from the straight shaft, the other difference between MC2’s foils compared to those currently seen on the six new boats is the addition of a further small tip which helps to reduce leeway. Its drag is said to be negligible. Also we noticed that the main tip is straight on MC2, instead of curved – to decrease wetted surface and increase lift. This geometry, combined with the aggressive angle of the tip, is intended to decrease drag in light airs. Lastly, the MC2 team are experimenting with partial immersion of the foil in some conditions to better balance the power delivery. Jérémie summarises the philosophy of the new device: ‘What interests me is to have a good all-round boat to begin with, which then gains a turbo mode that I can use when the conditions are suitable.’


Another favourable factor with Maître Coq is actually her age. Being six years old she fits nicely into the 2012 Imoca rule, requiring a maximum heel of 10° in the least favourable ballast configuration,


SEAHORSE 13 


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