Launched on Monday 13 March, the AC Class Groupama Team France enjoyed herfirst flight on Friday 16 at the heart of Great Sound, which from 26 May will host the series of matches scheduled for the next edition of the America’s Cup.
The smiles on the team’s faces when they returned to the dock spoke volumes about the success of this baptism of fire.
Groupama Team France: first time!
After three weeks of assembly, all the members of the French challenge were keen to see the advanced version of the AC Class strutting her stuff. That’s another box ticked now and the results appear to be very encouraging, judging by the reaction from skipper Franck Cammas:
“For a first time, it’s been rather successful, particularly given that there was a fair amount of breeze, 18 knots, gusting to 20 at the start! The whole crew’s happy. We had some great sensations. We rose in crescendo and gradually pushed Groupama Team France harder and harder until we were posting a series of fast legs, both downwind and upwind. However, on this first attempt, we didn’t use the boat’s full potential, though we did reach 37 knots at one point.”
The Groupama Team France crew was more focused on getting its bearings again after nearly three months without sailing:
“We actually got in 1hr15 of proper sailing on every point of sail. We didn’t work on the manœuvres, instead opting to get back to grips with our catamaran down a straight line. The fact that she’s bigger improves the stability. The hulls measure 1.5 metres longer than those on our test boat. We make pretty fast headway and immediately, from the opening tacks, we were able to achieve a good balance. The boat is really very nice to sail.”
It was a similar sensation for the most exposed of the bowmen, Devan Le Bihan:
“It’s really enjoyable to have finally arrived at this stage of the project and to share the experience with the whole team. Today, of course, it was a technical sea trial, but we had a sense that all the developments made to ensure the AC Class is more energy efficient, without having a negative effect on the boat’s performance, have borne fruit!”
As soon as conditions allow, the team will begin to really concentrate on using the different systems in the correct manner and performing more manœuvres.
“There are a fair number of developments to be implemented before we reach the full potential of the AC Class Groupama Team France. We need another fortnight for that. In mid-April, our latest generation foils will arrive. Another stage in prospect! In the meantime, the objective is to make the best possible use of every minute we have on the water!”
The already solid pace of the past year and half will only intensify now in a bid to use every possible opportunity to get out sailing in the 70 days between now and the French challenge’s first qualification duel on Friday 26 May 2017.
The sailors aboard Groupama Team France
Six sailors sail the AC Class. However, Groupama Team France boasts nine so as there can be some team rotation between races, notably for the very full-on bowman positions:
Franck Cammas (FRA) – helmsman
Thierry Fouchier (FRA) – Wing trimmer
Adam Minoprio (NZL) – Wing trimmer and replacement helmsman -
Thomas Le Breton (FRA) – Tactician
Olivier Herledant (FRA) – Grinder in charge of racking up the necessary energy for such roles as trimming the wing
Nicolas Heintz (FRA) - Grinder in charge of racking up the necessary energy for such roles as trimming the foils
Matthieu Vandame (FRA) – Grinder in charge of racking up the necessary energy for such roles as trimming the foils
Arnaud Jarlegan (FRA) - Grinder in charge of racking up the necessary energy for such roles as trimming the foils
Devan Le Bihan (FRA) - Grinder in charge of racking up the necessary energy for such roles as trimming the foils
The AC Class in brief: Length: 15 metres - Beam: 8.47 metres – Maximum draught: 2.40 metres – Wing height: 23.60 metres - Surface area of wing: 100m2 – Weight of the wing: 445kg – Weight of the platform: minimum 1,887kg – maximum 1,987kg – Total weight: minimum 2,332kg – maximum 2,432kg – Weight of media and safety equipment required by the organisation: 149kg - 12 headsails – 2 T-foil rudders - 4 foils permitted – able to sail in wind of between 5 and 25 knots – upwind flight in upward of 10 knots and downwind flight in upward of 8 knots of breeze – peak speed 45 knots.
Reminder on how the 35th edition of the America’s Cup will operate
1. Between July 2015 and November 2016, the six racing stables signed up for the quest for the silver ewer came up against one another on a global preliminary circuit in a total of nine grand prix events comprising fleet races aboard one-design AC45 Series catamarans.
2. Between 26 May and 12 June 2017 a series of elimination rounds split into three phases are scheduled, during which the competitors will face each other in a duel format (match race) on the prototype catamarans:
- The Qualifiers from 26/05 to 3/06: each team will vie against the other twice. At the end of this phase, one of the challengers will be eliminated.
- The Playoffs from 4/06 to 12/06 with the semi-finals and a final
- For this final phase in the qualification rounds, the 4 challengers will be split into two groups for the semi-finals. The first of each of the groups to reach 5 points will win their semi-final.
The winners of these semi-finals will then battle it out in a final where the first team to reach 5 points will be designated THE CHALLENGER.
3. Over two weekends from 17 to 18 June then 24 to 27 June, the final MATCH of the America’s Cup will take place between the best of the Challengers and the DEFENDER Oracle Team USA. The first to reach 7 points will win the oldest sporting Trophy in the world.