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Vaikobi 2021 Boots - LEADERBOARD

Alex Thomson's C-foils to be fitted to the IMOCA Nexans - Art & Fenêtres

by Fabrice Amedeo 21 Jan 23:42 PST
Nexans – Art & Fenêtres © Fabrice Amedeo

In refit since December, Fabrice Amedeo's monohull is undergoing a complete transformation as she's equipped with C-shaped foils.

Acquired from the team at Alex Thomson Racing whose shore crew is helping to install these new appendages, which are a lot bigger than her original 2016 generation foils, the boat's speed and versatility will be boosted. The skipper of Nexans - Art & Fenêtres and his team are absolutely thrilled with this development with a view to the next Vendée Globe.

Vendee Globe 2024: Staying Out on the Racetrack

For offshore racing stables, now's the time to start preparing for the round the world race. For Team Nexans - Art & Fenêtres, the plan to transform Fabrice Amedeo's 60' monohull - launched in 2015 and kitted out with V2 of the small foils acquired in 2016 - took shape in the summer of 2021. "Fairly early on, I realised that there were a lot of boats in build for the Vendée Globe 2024", explains the skipper. In fact, 13 new IMOCAs will likely be at the start of the next round the world race in addition to the eight 2020 generation boats. That equates to 21 IMOCAs with large foils, to which we must add the older generation boats previously transformed like those skippered by Romain Attanasio and Arnaud Boissières. "Of the 35 or 40 boats at the start, we would have had at least 25 which had the potential to be quicker than us. As a result, upgrading Nexans - Art & Fenêtres was a must to stay in the running", explains Fabrice Amedeo.

A Pragmatic Approach

Convinced of the merits of this new project, the skipper of Nexans - Art & Fenêtres has two ideas to mull over: to find the most reliable and efficient solution possible and to study the feasibility of reusing existing foils. "I wanted to try to have a 'plug and play' project. Ideally, I would use existing foils, or in any case a design already in existence, in a bid to bypass a huge labyrinthine system with the development and architects, because I'm not an engineer and we didn't have the relevant in-house skills at the time." At that point, Fabrice Amedeo got in touch with Michel Desjoyeaux. "I kind of approached it as I would have when I was a journalist. I asked him: "if you had to make a boat that was heavily geared towards the next Vendée Globe, what would you do?" Without a moment's hesitation, he replied that he'd put C-shaped foils on her for several reasons."

Persuasive Arguments

1/ Retractable foils. "We can bring them in when conditions become dangerous or in zones where there are a lot of whales for example, explains Fabrice. It's a fantastic safety feature."

2/ Adjustable foils. "It's not ON or OFF. You can use 100%, 80%, 60% of the foil according to where you want to strike a balance, which is really interesting in terms of performance."

3/ Very quick foils in downwind conditions. "Often, certain boats stop flying once they go beyond 135 degrees to the wind. With these foils, we'll be able to slip along a bit further downwind and continue to fly", concludes the skipper.

All of these advantages are particularly appealing for a race like the Vendée Globe where downwind is the predominant point of sail. Equally, the long course, which passes through some very hostile zones like the Deep South, requires greater versatility than in transatlantic races.

Hugo Boss' C-Shaped Foils: The 'Plug and Play' Solution

There are very few C-shaped foils in existence though! Fabrice Amedeo's first thoughts naturally turned to the IMOCA Hugo Boss and he called up her skipper Alex Thomson, who confirmed that it was "a fantastic idea" and put him in touch with Ross Daniel, his team manager, back in June. "They had two sets of foils for their IMOCA, which competed in the last Vendée Globe, one of which was for sale, explains Fabrice. As a result, we decided to go with this particular plan, a plan that played out just as I wanted it to as the foils were already in existence. On top of that, VPLP, the firm of naval architects who designed the Hugo Boss boat, also co-designed our boat - a VPLP-Verdier design - is piloting the project."

"We're very happy to be working with Fabrice on his new foils, and I believe they'll enable him to upgrade his boat and make her more competitive for the Vendée Globe 2024", says Alex Thomson.

A Reinforced Team

Once we'd located the foils, we then had to put together a team to carry out the refit. At that point, Fabrice Amedeo decided to bring an English contingent into the project and work with them. "The team which had participated in the construction of the last Hugo Boss was available, explains the skipper. We agreed that they would build the foil casings and come to Lorient to fit them." As a result, Team Nexans - Art & Fenêtres has been joined by four English boat builders from Pro Build Composites. "They removed the current foil systems from the mould and will set up the new foils 55 cm further forward, so they'll pierce the hull again, then the deck and finally fit the new systems."

Meantime, a team of five lamination specialists are working on all the 'structural reinforcement' under Simon Chevallier, head of composites for Team Nexans - Art & Fenêtres. "The zone where the major slamming loads occur due to impacting the ocean will be further aft due to these larger foils. As such, a whole series of structural reinforcements are needed under the hull around the keel area. After that there will be a whole body of work associated with the class measurement. All this modification will weigh the boat down, but she still has to satisfy the 180 degrees test: if she capsizes, she has to be able to right herself on her own. As a result, we'll have a slightly larger cuddy with greater buoyancy", adds Fabrice.

An Ambitious and Exciting Project

In all, nine people have joined the five members of Team Nexans - Art & Fenêtres in what is the most ambitious project in the career of the journalist who turned skipper five years ago. "There was a bit of pressure at the start. It wasn't easy to organise, but Eric Lamy, my new Team Manager took it all in his stride, explains Fabrice. Teaming up with the English means we can move forward very quickly with the refit. There's a really nice energy and everyone is happy. All that augurs well for being happy at sea, on a fine boat on a quest for performance and new targets. In terms of outright speed, we still won't be as quick as the 2020 and 2024 generation boats, but we're going to narrow the gap. Added to that, the Vendée Globe is an atypical race where you can't push the boats at 100%. At times like that, where skippers are easing off the pace, my boat will be very interesting as she has a pretty powerful hull, which will be more tolerant than the latest generation boats."

In the meantime, a fine season of solo sailing awaits Fabrice Amedeo, who's well aware that a lengthy apprenticeship lies ahead of him at the end of the refit, scheduled for mid-April: the Bermudes 1000 Race in May, the Vendée - Arctique - Les Sables d'Olonne in June, the Défi Azimut in September and then the legendary Route du Rhum in November make up the programme for 2022. "It's good that we're doing this refit early on. We have three seasons to prepare for the Vendée Globe, to familiarise ourselves with the boat in her new version and make her reliable. I exchange ideas a great deal with Eric Lamy, who was involved in a similar refit with Initiatives Cœur and I'm well aware that I'm going to have a boat that will be faster and more impressive, with different trimming elements and new sensations. It's going to be a massive challenge to learn to sail on this 'new boat' and it's very exciting", concludes the skipper.

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