In spite of the bitterly cold weather, around a hundred spectators showed up yesterday to find out what the VPLP – Verdier design looked like. The hull did not surprise anyone, as it is the same as we have seen with Safran and Groupe Bel, because it came out of the same mould, but at first glance, the bright orange deck with its sharp lines and angles gave a real impression of power with her aggressive look.
In the minutes following her launch, Vincent Riou shut himself inside to carry out the 180° righting test that is required by class rules. For a few seconds, the monohull remained with her bulb in the air in a very unusual position before she righted herself just through the use of the canting keel. This spectacular manoeuvre was applauded by those watching and a clearly relieved skipper reappeared in the cockpit. These were the first words from the skipper, Vincent Riou : "This new boat is a project we have all been working on with the team and PRB for almost a year. After the stress of her launch, next week is going to be one to enjoy, as we’ll be taking her for her maiden sail. We’ll be finishing off dealing with the equipment on the boat this weekend taking her out for the first time on Monday or Tuesday at the latest. We’ll begin with some short three-hour sessions to check everything out and carry out the first tests. Once she has been thoroughly checked, we’ll be heading off to Les Sables d’Olonne. In terms of racing, the goal in 2010 is clearly the Route du Rhum. We hurried to get her built , but at the same time we allowed ourselves some breathing space during the preparation phase, as we’ve six or seven months to get her ready.”
What differences are there between the new PRB and Safran?
"We could say that PRB is a development from Safran. Safran is a boat that was built with a lot of means that we didn’t necessarily have for PRB. So we have made some slightly different choices. We’ve given her a fairly classic welded steel keel, while Safran is fitted with a carbon keel. This was firstly down to an economic consideration, as we have tried to focus on the parts, where gains can be made in terms of performance, while keeping costs to a reasonable level. It’s true that the keel is not something that is going to offer huge gains in performance, but it does cost a huge amount. And then a welded steel keel is something we already master. With PRB, we have made several over the past five years, so we’re not entering the unknown and instead counting on its reliability. The other difference with Safran is the rig. We went for a wing mast with outriggers, as on the previous boat for two reasons. The first because I think that offers better performance. And then, as with the keel, we already are well acquainted with this type of rig. The final difference with Safran is with the deck and the layout. A deck mould does not cost a lot, so we preferred to go for a new deck, which enabled us to work on coming up with something practical and user-friendly for this boat, and then, we wanted to make her look different from Safran. We wanted to make our very own boat, and not the same as someone else. People will quickly see that in terms of how they look, the boats are not at all the same."
What are the main characteristics of this new boat?
"This is the first 60-foot IMOCA designed under the new rules, which in particular limit the height of the mast, as well as limiting the boats’ righting moment. She is therefore a boat, which is more or les at the limit of the righting moment that is accepted by the rules. We wanted to make her as light as possible with the mast must be around 3 or 4 millimetres shorter than what is allowed by the rules. We hope she will be the fastest boat in the fleet, as she is the first of the new generation. We shall see in a few months how she ranks in comparison to the new 60-foot boats currently being built and those that are planned."
Can you explain how the project evolved with the designers?
"They’re two designers I’ve known for a long time, who are very different from each other, but complement each other well. Guillaume has a huge experience of 60-foot monohulls. Vincent Lauriot-Prévost knows a lot about boats that sail quickly and 60-foot monohulls certainly are becoming faster and faster. For example, VPLP did a lot of work on the appendages, while Guillaume Verdier worked more on the structural elements. Today, I must admit that I’m very pleased with the result and the designers did an excellent job. They designed a lot of elements for the boat that are directly linked to performance. In other words, the shape of the hull, the appendages, their position and the sail plan."