May 2 to July 3, two very special months enter the annals of VPLP design. May 2 marked the start of The Transat bakerly which pitted Francois Gabart (Macif) against Thomas Coville (Sodebo) in a solo duel aboard 30 metre plus monsters designed by VPLP, the victory going to the former Vendee Globe winner eight days later. June 8 saw Thomas Coville update the record books of single-handed sailing with a historic twenty-four hour run of 714 nautical miles. And July 3 Francois Gabart raises the bar even higher to 785 miles ! What do the specialists say? Xavier Guilbaud keeps tabs on multihull development at VPLP’s design office in Vannes (Brittany): “It’s a game changer. When Franck Cammas entered the Route du Rhum in 2010 aboard Groupama 3, a VPLP design trimaran built for the Jules Verne trophy, everyone thought he was crazy!
So what made this sea change possible in just six short years? Significant progress has been made in every field: in preparing the boats, in the skippers’ abilities, in weather forecasting, in autopilots – which are now incredible – and, last but not least, in boat design. Vincent Lauriot-Prevost explains: “When we designed Macif our focus was on adapting every aspect of a 30 metre trimaran to single-handed sailing: dimensions, weight, power, living quarters, rigging and, of course, the foils and rudders which carry the boat at high speed.” 
From machines built for crews and then adapted to solo racing, such as Groupama 3 renamed Banque Populaire and now Idec, we’ve entered the era of made-for-purpose Ultimates like Macif. Vincent remembers: “Francois Gabart told us he wanted a moped with an upgrade window of seven years. Thomas Coville’s trimaran is more powerful (170 tonnes/m² versus 145) but not quite so responsive in the transition phases.”
And for Vincent that’s the issue when it comes to making these craft fly: “It’s the direction we’re heading in and I think we’ll soon be doing away with the centre-board. Over the last four years we’ve made enormous progress on the foils thanks to tools developed in-house, such as hydro/aero CFD, VPP and section design. We’ve got three people working on this full time. Collaborations with the team at Artemis and with Gsea/HDS have also borne fruit.” Back at VPLP’s design office works are moving apace on Banque Populaire IX (launch in 2017) in the firm conviction that we’re witnessing the start of a new era!
Quentin Lucet and Daniele Capua, responsible for monohull IMOCAs at the firm, reflect on the May and June trans-Atlantic crossings of the VPLP design/Team Verdier foilers.
What lessons did you learn from The Transat bakerly and the New York–Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne)?
Quentin Lucet: First of all, works to render the boat more reliable were successful. Structural weaknesses which appeared at the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre have been resolved.
Daniele Capua: And now the skippers have gained confidence and are starting to feel more comfortable with what is, it has to be said, a very different way of sailing. After a period of uncertainty, this resounding vindication has done us the world of good! We took a lot of risks so it’s reassuring to see our designs working well.
At last the foilers are getting into gear in the New York–Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne)…
Quentin Lucet: Yes, it’s the first time! It’s important to understand that we tailored the boats for the Vendee Globe and the previous editions just didn’t have similar conditions. This time we saw they could add, on average, an extra 2 to 3 knots when reaching.
And close-hauled, have they caught up?
Quentin Lucet: That’s the other piece of good news. Even though very few of the boats were carrying the second version of their foils, they did extremely well. For instance, on The Transat bakerly we saw Banque Populaire holding on to PRB, the fastest upwind sailer in the fleet. The V2 and V3 foils should almost-completely erase any remaining discrepancies.
What can we do, in design terms, about the collisions with OFNIs that we saw on the return race?
Daniele Capua: I flew over to Newport, where five of the boats had called in, to examine the damage and advise the teams on how to carry out suitable repairs. We’re going to do for the IMOCAs what we did for the ORMAs and apply the same principles of strengthening, cushioning and watertightness. The idea is to manage the force chain so we can place the reinforcements in the right places. And allow the skipper to continue the race with reduced performance or to simply remain afloat, depending on the severity of the impact.
Quentin Lucet: The positive in all this is the keel zone held up well despite getting knocked about quite considerably.
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While the thirty-nine competitors of the 47th Solitaire Bompard–Le Figaro are slugging it out for the title, the teams at VPLP design are busy designing the next generation: Figaro Beneteau 3. With the contract secured in late March, Vincent Lauriot-Prevost is clearly delighted: “It’s an important project for us because it’s a one-design that all the leading skippers – those of today and those of tomorrow – are going to be sailing.”
So what can we expect from the Figaro 3 when it takes to the water in 2019? The person to answer that question is Daniele Capua, the project’s leader at VPLP design: “She’s going to be a hybrid boat, one that can behave like a classic and ride foils like her big sisters the IMOCAs. She’s going to be simple and light, efficient on every point of sail, and capable of opening the throttle on a reach thanks to her foils. In a nutshell, that’s where we’re going with the design of the Figaro 3.”
Projected dimensions: 9.75 m long, 3.4 m beam, 2.5 m draught.
SEVENTY 7: VPLP design’s largest ever production boat project has reached a significant milestone: the hull is about to receive its deck. No doubt about it, the flagship of the Lagoon brand, world leader in cruising catamarans, is a major commission for VPLP design. The firm is working with Patrick Le Quement for the style and Nauta Yachts for the interior. The official launch of the SEVENTY 7 series takes place at Cannes Yachting Festival in early September.

MULTI50: VPLP design belongs to the collective of architects working on the one-design foils destined for use on the Multi50 class. The collective has opted for C-foils inspired by VPLP design’s work on the ORMAs and the MOD70s. Delivery of the first foil is expected in November.

MAXI: Another win for Comanche 100, a VPLP/Team Verdier design launched in late 2014. She slashed Rambler’s 2012 record by 5 hours to claim the 50th edition of the Newport–Bermuda Race.

MOD70: Musandam Oman Sail wins the Volvo Round Ireland Race and knocks 2 h 15 min off her own record, finishing just ahead of Phaedo and Concise, the other two MOD70s competing in the race. VPLP design is proud that these one-design multihulls, which the firm designed a decade ago, are still racing thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of their owners.

DIAM24: Twenty-four crews will be taking the starting line of the Tour de France à la Voile on July 8. VPLP design created the Diam 24 OD for ADH Inotec in 2013 and since then this multihull racing series has enjoyed considerable success!

READ: Vincent Lauriot-Prevost talks to Philippe Joubin about the influence of foils in a long interview for the magazine Voiles et voiliers (in French).
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