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 imput. 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.
I was fascinated by the boat’s ability to accelerate, I really discovered a new world. To reach such speeds with so little wind is fabulous.
The ease of flight is remarkable. Without knowing the boat, I found my feet right away. 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 offshore racing, this is not allowed. But the research done for the TF is advancing knowledge of flight in general, and it’s exciting.
One of the fundamental rules of sail racing is system autonomy. That means no motors are used to operate the winches, or for any maneuvers. There is an exception to that, 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 discipline, but there are cultural differences that mean we are still essentially among French people. I say that because you have to be aware of the culture of Lake Geneva. What’s happening over there in terms of development is fantastic, and I love coming to sail in Switzerland. There’s a particular context that has allowed everything that’s going on there. So I’m wondering if it’s all really exportable? I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, and try to internationalize 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 sport catamarans do it, and even some monohulls. But to take off so fast, in such light conditions is completely incredible. The accelerations are 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 entire regatta. Having a computer do that job therefore seems like a good choice.
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 better and 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. I think I brought a bit of clairvoyance in the general organization on board. In the beginning, it was pretty hard to fly steady. We were watching our competitors, and we could see that they were doing a little better than us. Stable flying is a subtle component between sail trim and foil trim, you have to have equal forces.
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 is recognized by others, and the structure works well.
What have you brought to the crew with your flying multihull experience?
I think I brought a bit of clairvoyance in the general organization on board. In the beginning, it was pretty hard to fly steady. We were watching our competitors, and we could see that they were doing a little better than us. Stable flying is a subtle component between sail trim and foil trim, you have to have equal forces.