In late March, two French sailing personalities sailed aboard Ylliam XII – Comptoir Immobilier, to bring a fresh, outside perspective to the crew. As we look forward to the events in Scarlino, Tuscany in September and October, we offer a look back at a prolific experience sharing.
François Gabart, Vendée Globe winner, solo round the world record holder, and skipper of the brand new Ultime trimaran SVR Lazartigue, as well as Billy Besson, four-time Nacra 17 world champion, sport multihull specialist and skipper of the French boat SailGP sailed for a few days aboard Ylliam XII – Comptoir Immobilier last March, in order to provide the rest of the crew with their experience and imputs. What did they think of this experience on the Lake Geneva foiler?
This wasn’t really my first experience, as I had the opportunity to tack a few times on Zoulou in Brittany. But this was my first time experimenting with the boat on the body of water it was designed for, Lake Geneva with its rather light airs.
So we sailed the boat on the same course as the others.
So we sailed in fairly typical conditions on the stretch of water with a maximum of 12 knots of wind. We were able to experiment with both the archimedean mode and the flight. The conditions were ideal to experiment with the different phases, and see when it is more optimal to fly, or to glide on the water, what are the crossover phases.
I was fascinated by the boat’s ability to accelerate, I really discovered a new world. Achieving such speeds with so little wind is fabulous.
The ease of flight is a real bonus.
The ease of flight is remarkable. Without knowing the boat, I immediately found my bearings. It is a very accessible boat for which there is a nice margin for improvement in performance.
There are both many similarities, and many differences. Offshore, the sea is rarely flat, and the challenge is to find stability when the sea state is complicated. In this sense, the TF35 is interesting, and the developments that have been made to optimise flight stability can be useful to us. That said, the TF35s have opted for a servo-controlled flight system, which means that it is a computer that manages this parameter. In ocean racing, this is not allowed. But the research being done for the TF is advancing knowledge of flight in general, and that’s exciting.
One of the fundamental rules of sail racing is system autonomy. This means that you don’t use motors to operate the winches, or for any manoeuvres. There is an exception to this, which is the autopilot. So I think it would be absurd to run an engine on a sailboat to create power to drive things. It would be unnatural to have a disproportionate consumption of energy for sailing. But that’s for ocean racing, and it’s not impossible that things will evolve and that we’ll eventually be able to produce a little bit of energy autonomously, which will allow us to acquire more stability in flight. For a boat like the TF35, which only needs a small battery that will be recharged on land, for a day’s sailing, the servo principle seems to me on the other hand interesting and coherent.
I’ll allow myself a comparison with ocean racing, which is very Franco-French (even if there are exceptions). It’s an ecosystem that works very well. The success of the Vendée Globe or the Route du Rhum demonstrates this. There are many attempts to internationalise the sport, but there are cultural differences which mean that we are still essentially French. I say that because you have to be aware of the culture of Lake Geneva. What is happening in your country in terms of development is fantastic, and I love coming to sail in Switzerland. There is a particular context that has allowed all that is happening there. So I wonder if all that is really exportable? I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, and try to internationalise the series. But you have to keep the foundation, the roots of the project, which works remarkably well on the lake.
It’s a super-interesting boat, it allows you to fly early with little wind, and it’s really nice. Nowadays, there are a lot of boats that fly. Almost all the sport catamarans do it, and even some monohulls. But to take off so quickly, in such light conditions, is completely incredible. The acceleration is remarkable, it’s another form of sailing that is unconventional. We’re not used to that yet. Maybe in twenty years time it will be the norm. But this is bluffing!
It allows you to be freed from this task which is sensitive is complex. In SailGP (50ft hydrofoil catamarans) for example, there is one crew member who is just in charge of controlling the flying height. It takes the work of one person who does nothing else for the whole race. Having a computer do that job therefore seems like a good choice to me.
After that, there are improvements to be considered, especially in terms of information gathering and sensors. But the developers of the class will most certainly do what it takes to make the system work ever better.
It is a team that works well. Bertrand Demole is really very diligent. He wants to progress, invests a lot. You can feel his desire to win, it’s remarkable. Obviously, as he does this alongside his professional activity, he doesn’t have the reflexes or the perfectionism of people like us who do this all year round. So he shouldn’t try to compare himself because it’s not his job. But he has an excellent competitive spirit and real skills at his job.
In addition, the team is based around Pierre Pennec, who is a bit of a focal point on board. He’s a bit like the pivot of the team, if I make a comparison with handball. Pierre is the referent and he does things very well, it’s recognised by the others, and the structure works well.
The TF35 remains a very physically demanding boat, you always have to have the right gesture, a lot of coordination, strength and energy. It’s going very well on Ylliam XII – Comptoir Immobilier.
I think I brought a bit of insight into the general organisation on board. In the beginning, it was quite difficult to fly steady. We’d watch our competitors, and we’d see that they were doing a little better than us. Stable flight is a subtle component between sail and foil trim, so the forces have to be equal. So we worked with the team to find appropriate techniques to improve that stability. I think my view has helped them to be better in the air. Stability helps to smooth out the speed, avoid acceleration and deceleration, and thus have a higher average speed, of which improve performance.