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Sportsboats laboratory - Naval College Grand Prix

by Kate Jennings on 8 Mar 2008
Naval College Grand Prix - Image Jacques Vapillon . ©

The team running the Grand Prix de l’Ecole Navale are currently busying themselves with organising their event. From 8 to 11 May, over 130 ‘latest generation’ one design yachts are expected at the Naval College situated in the community of Lanvéoc in Brest harbour, beside the Crozon peninsula.

For its seventh edition, the Grand Prix de l’Ecole Navale has again raised the bar in terms of participants and is this year positioned as the largest gathering of sportsboats in Europe. These planing yachts, which are both spontaneous and technological, are what have given the Grand Prix its name since the very outset.

Seven years of Sportsboats!

Already 7 years have passed since the Naval College, the officer training institution for the French Navy and one of the top 10 engineering colleges in France, first took the gamble of placing the sportsboats centre stage. With the notable purchase of numerous J80's as the official craft for sail training at the Naval College and the 'sponsoring' partnership of an Open 750, the Naval College wanted to set themselves the challenge of a new one design sailing in France and Europe.

The gauntlet was fairly quickly taken up with over 100 yachts registered on the 2004 start lines, set in the cove of Poulmic, a fantastically tactical race zone in Brest harbour. Efforts by the College in and around Sportsboats haven't stopped since then. Considerable thought has gone into the sail wardrobe of the ‘house’ boats with valuable input from the research institute and Alain Daoulas, master sailmaker and race director of the event.

As regards the piloting, numerous training sessions have been organised at the Naval College and a team from the French military servicemen became European J80 champions in 2006… In this way, the Grand Prix de l’Ecole Navale has become a reference on the matter as well as a real laboratory of little ‘sea rockets’, which are accessible to the general public.

Loick Peyron, Marc Guillemot, Bertrand de Broc, Glenn Bourke, Géry Trentesaux, Jimmy Pahun and Yann Eliès have come to the Naval College in order to taste the pleasures of the Sportsboat. The Open 5.70s have made the Grand Prix one of their flagship races with 30 craft registered each year.

Indeed the Naval College has just acquired two Open 5.70s within the framework of the 'young' French Sailing Federation (FFV) network. There have also been a host of long distance events organised for the Open 750, the very epitome of the Sportsboat, as well as presentations by the pacy Speed Feet 18, Mach 650 or even the Open 650.

An America's Cup aroma at the Grand Prix 2008

This year, two new, long awaited sportsboats will come and do battle for the first time at the Grand Prix. The ‘China Team’ Crew from the America's Cup will be coming along to the Grand Prix de l’Ecole Navale with 3 to 4 'Longtze Premiers’.

The first four one design boats, including that of the China Cup, have been sailing since last October and the production boats are coming out of the yard now. They will be equipped with new rudders, a carbon boom, a new keel designed in France, a refined deck plan with deck fittings positioned 'to the millimetre' by Pierre Mas and Luc Gellusseau as well as a wealth of new additions, which are the fruit of intense work performed on the prototypes. The sail plan is impressive and reacts like a 'cinquo' dinghy' says Luc Gellusseau, one of the designers of this stylish yacht.

The K 6.50 will also be one of the major attractions of the Grand Prix 2008. Designed by Juan Koujoumdjian, designer of the US version of the America's Cup Yacht, Team Oracle, the K 6.50 is an ultra-powerful sportsboat with the ability to plane from 10 knots of true wind. Its rotating carbon wing mast, its flat-headed mainsail enabling it to power up and its ‘Volvo Ocean Race’ style hull at the height of sophistication, should make this new one design a beast on the racecourse. Forza Sportsboat!

The latest news about the Grand Prix at http://www.gpen.ecole-navale.fr/
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