Under such blessed circumstances it is little wonder that Beyou is relatively serene. Never in his three previous Vendée Globe campaigns has he had such means and time on his side as he prepares for the pinnacle non-stop solo round the world race. His team have already been working on the design of the new IMOCA for several months now. After the recent measurement and rule changes, and fully armed with all the lessons from his 2016-17 race in which he finished third, this time he is taking what he considers an unprecedented step.
"Before the Vendée Globe 2016, everyone was mired in a high level of uncertainty. We did feel that foils were able to provide that extra dimension but because of the lack of real feedback no one dared to push the envelope. But now today it is different. We know that the next winner of the Vendée Globe will be equipped with foils. So from the very outset we built our project around this knowledge." says Beyou He is not pressing too far into the real unknown, however. The experiences and learning of the last Vendée Globe is fundamental to their choices: "With the team we analyzed what had worked well and where we could look for more. We were also interested in how teams like Banque Populaire or Hugo Boss had prepared. We quickly came to the conclusion that we had to be up and running, sailing the new boat as early as possible. Some will say that we take the risk of missing out on the latest developments. But this way, being as early as we can, I am sure we will still have time to make any updates or corrections were they prove necessary. " And in many respects the solo racer who has won La Solitaire du Figaro three times is sticking with who and what he knows. He has kept the same core technical team around him that he had for the last edition. And he has stayed with the designers, VPLP.
"We know each other well because we worked together on the appendice package for Maître CoQ after we made the decision together to incorporate foils. "
A More Open Game
When four years ago there were still uncertainties about the exact contribution of foils, how reliable they would be and what performance gains there would be, such uncertainties are now largely in the past. The IMOCA rule has evolved to allow greater flexibility in the use of foils. The Charal team's technical director Pierre-François Dargnies explains: "In 2016, foils were considered to be an option. All the major teams had worked on projects that took into account this option but with the idea of perhaps going back if they had to. This time it is definitive. From the outset foils are integrated as a central element, and from there we begin to think about the hull, the structural elements of the boat, the fittings and the ergonomics. So from the very beginning the foils are fully integrated into the design of the boat. The experience of the previous Vendée Globe allowed us to define what we want. We had plenty of ideas. In totality we gave a specification of a good ten pages to VPLP." It is difficult to learn much more at this early stage of building. The team are giving nothing away. "We took the risk of starting very early in this programme. And so now we will try to keep a step ahead by maintaining our intelligence, our little secrets. "
This information is especially valuable because the changes to the rules allows the incidence angle of the foils to be changed and so a complete rethinking of the fixing and the adjustment systems is required.
A Partner on the Same Page
To get up into the real premier league, the top tier of the class it is necessary to have a sizeable partner who really behind the programme. Stéphanie Bérard-Gest, marketing director of Charal, admits to having been captivated by the Beyou's proposal.
"Two elements were decisive for starting on this adventure. First of all it was the meeting with Jérémie. His outlook clearly displayed both determination and simplicity and that immediately won us over. The innovative nature of his approach was the second vital facet, because it is clearly an aspect fundamental to what we want to communicate. Today, our goal is not so much to gain publicity and profile but rather to consolidate and inspire internally and to enhance the modern image of the company. In this sense the project is perfect. "
If deadlines are met Charal should be launched early in the summer of 2018 aiming at the first big deadline, the Route du Rhum in November. The technical team is composed of eight people but it is expected to continue to grow in strength to reach the equivalent of ten full-timers in August. "I like the idea that we will launch ahead of everyone" concludes Pierre-François Dargnies. " Although we have eighteen months of study and work behind us we know that nothing really is fixed. That is also what makes this project so exciting. "