The genius of Maxi Banque Populaire is rooted in twenty years of reflection starting as far back as Lyonnaise des Eaux Dumez which VPLP designed for Olivier de Kersauson in 1993. The same design under the colours of Sport Elec snapped up the first Jules Verne Trophy for VPLP in 1997. The record, at that time, was 71days, 14 hours and 18 minutes, 8 seconds. Fourteen years later 26 days has been knocked off that record by the same group of naval architects. But VPLP did not pole-vault into this position; it has been a phased process.
Sport – Elec was refitted and upgraded until its final incarnation as IDEC aboard which Francis Joyon won the solo round the world record in 2004 and the solo transatlantic record in 2005.
In 2001 VPLP launched Geronimo which was designed from scratch for de Kersauson. At 34m / 110’ it was a larger, improved version of Sport Elec and Geronimo went on to win the Jules Verne Trophy in 2004 which then stood at 63 days, 13 hours, 59 minutes, 46 seconds.
These VPLP maxi-trimarans were revisited by Franck Cammas and informed the design of Groupama 3. His 104’ / 31.5m trimaran was inspired by Geronimo but of course also strongly influenced by Cammas’ ORMA multihull experience aboard the VPLP 60’ trimaran Groupama 2.
Together VPLP and Groupama design team debated whether to go for a larger boat or, alternatively, to keep her as light as possible whilst getting an added competitive edge from focusing on performance factors such as foils, rudders, and added sail area from the square topped main. The result was very successful, and Groupama 3 brought the round the world record down to 48 days 7 hours 44 minutes and 52 seconds in March 2010. The trimaran proved to be fast and light and exercised the advantages of appendages, particularly in the Atlantic crossings, but dealing with heavy seas in the Southern Ocean was clearly a challenge.
When Pascal Bidégorry came to VPLP, he had a clear vision of what he wanted: a record breaking trimaran with the Jules Verne Trophy as the ultimate goal. Bidégorry also had many years experience on the ORMA circuit and had observed the strengths and weaknesses of all the maxi trimarans that had gone before. The essence of the design brief Bidégorry gave VPLP was to keep all the advantages of Groupama 3 and improve on her limitations. Bidégorry wanted a more muscular trimaran that was able to take on tough conditions while maintaining a high average speed throughout. Together they arrived at a heavier but more durable and powerful trimaran. As a consequence the designers had to add length to balance that extra weight and Maxi Banque Populaire became the largest sailing trimaran in the world at 131’ / 40m.
Vincent Lauriot Prévost comments “A month before we froze the design, the trimaran measured 38m. Either we made the boat wider and more powerful, or we had to stretch it. We preferred to play on the length so that it could better power through the rough seas of the Southern Ocean”.
Debriefing with the crew at Brest after their triumphant arrival, VPLP is satisfied that the triamaran performed as they forecasted. Nevertheless the designers feel that their racing machine was still not pushed to its maximum potential meaning that, with more favourable weather conditions the record could probably be further improved. “When you go over the route, you realize that, compared to the route taken by Bruno Peyron in 2005, Banque Populaire lost almost two days in the Pacific, that’s a lot. But, as we know, it all depends on the weather and as well as the threat of growlers, the wind conditions were not ideal on the passage”. Vincent Lauriot Prévost
The next step in the path of progress is probably further exploration into hydrofoils. VPLP certainly has ample experience with air born vessels after many years working with Alain Thebault on Hydroptère and on smaller prototypes like the 32’ foiler Syz & Co, which was designed for racing on Lake Geneva. But the designers are quick to stress the limitations of such a platform:
“We can design air born racing yachts aided by hydrofoils.” Says VPLP. “We can feasibly design a flying boat that will cross the Atlantic as it is possible to target very specific weather conditions for short sprints like a transat. But this kind of platform has a relatively narrow field of performance and depends largely on the wind conditions and sea state between New York and the The Lizards. If you get the right weather window, a hydrofoil assisted multihull will literally fly across the Atlantic. However on a circumnavigation like the Jules Verne, we can only forecast the first ten days of weather and after that you have to be prepared to meet a variety of conditions – including some very challenging systems in the Southern Ocean. The pivotal factor is making the design versatile so it can navigate at speed in all these various and unpredictable wind and sea states. It is the this feature of versatility that we envisaged four years ago when we were at the drawing board creating Banque Populaire and we are very satisfied with the results.”
Congratulations and thanks go out to the excellent performance of Loïck Peyron and his crew for their remarkable exploit. A project of this importance can never be undertaken without an exceptional team and thanks go out to Banque Populaire for initiating and supporting the venture; to Pascal Bidégorry for his vision, and to all the collaborators who made it possible to realise this design. A special mention for the shipyards JMV and CDK, and remember the late Hubert Desjoyeaux who built this magnificent machine.
Photo Credit: Yvan ZEDDA
– PR –