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The editor's focus

Lalou Roucayrol's future Multi50 rocket


Lalou Roucayrol's future Multi50 rocket

François Forestier's 'first mate' aboard 'Lejaby Rasurel', Lalou Roucayrol, became well-known when he took over Guy Delage's amazing proa (Funambule - Lestra Sport - Francopholies) and finished 4th in the 1991 La Baule – Dakar. He then accompanied Yves Parlier, Francis Joyon and Alain Gauthier on most of the big events, before taking over the controls of the 60' Orma trimaran, 'Banque Populaire'.

There was then the Route de l’Or on 'Aquitaine Innovation', the terrible 2002 Rhum (which he was the only one in a 60' Orma to finish without stopping) and the adventure of the hydraplane 'Mediatis', aboard which he shattered the 24-hour record (597.8 miles), then that for the flying mile, with top speeds of 42 knots!

2010 Rhum: podium in November, capsize in December
Lalou, aboard 'Région Aquitaine Port Médoc', finished second, behind Lionel Lemonchois, in this meteorologically complex edition. The return delivery trip followed close behind, in December, on an Atlantic Ocean which was still rough thanks to the squally weather. A violent squall at more than 50 knots surprised the crew, which was sailing with full main at a good speed. The trimaran was catapulted head over heels. Everyone was saved, but the multihull was lost, its float crushed by the rescuing cargo ship.

A radical new boat!
Still supported by the region, which sees in him a fantastic talent agitator and a sailor-catalyst for skills transfer between the nautical industry and regional companies in the avionics sector, Lalou is currently working on the construction of a latest generation Multi50'. At the rule's minimum weight limit (3t), the machine should be a flyer! In his favourite boatyard at Grayan L’hopital (Strato Compo), a few kilometres from his base in Port Medoc, Lalou Roucayrol has brought together a dream team, whose main players are  Romaric Neyhousser (architect and former crew member on 'Banque Pop'), Guillaume Verdier, Benjamin Muil (all 3 working on the design), with Thierry Eluère conducting the construction. The project's key words, beyond the stated sporting ambition, are: collective spirit – a wish to pass on and train, transversality and skill-sharing. The first months of the winter were above all used to adapt the boatyard to the new demands of this type of construction, and to organise a turnkey construction process for possible sister ships.  

MW: How is the construction coming on?

Lalou: Work on the tooling has taken a lot of time, today 40% of the boat's parts have been completed, we are taking the sides of the central hull out of the moulds, but don't want to settle too early on the underwater lines of the floats, which are special (their shape generates lift).

MW: When is the launch date?

Lalou: During the second half of November: we are envisaging a classic crane launch, but also using a helicopter, if the navy allows the use of a Puma from the helicopter carrier AQUITAINE (which will be in our waters at the time).  

MW: Can you reveal a few little secrets of its design and construction?

Thierry Eluère's extraordinary skills in the field of composites (PRB, SAFRAN, MEDIATIS…) is an added value which we rely on…in addition to a build quality which we want to be exemplary, we are taking advantage of innovative development partnerships. Just 2 examples: our bulkheads are epoxy bonded, but with fillet joints laminated in methacrylate, from AEC Polymères. They offer mechanical qualities and a flexibility/user hygiene which interests us (product available in cartridges). We are also taking advantage of a paint system which will allow us to plot the forces and structural deformations in real time, by the colour code!

MW: What will the diary for the end of 2012 and 2013 be?

Lalou: After the first tests in our front garden, the Gironde, we will be setting up the training base in the Canaries and would like to do this trip as a fleet, with one or two Multi50s; 'Axa atout cœur' already seems to be interested. We will then be taking part in all the spring events (Tour de Belle Ile, Armen Race, Trophée SNSM) and those on the Multi50 circuit, to finish with the Transat Jacques Vabre, two-up with Quentin Vlamynck.

MW: Your adventures are always full of meaning, how do you define your new role?  

Lalou: I feel like the heir to the tradition of the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century, when people like Bordes launched some real racing boats, such as the 138-metre, 5-masted France II. To fulfil their part of the contract, they often covered 300-350 miles a day. I like the link with what we are doing today. We build the machine, perfect it, choose and train the men whilst committing ourselves, accepting our share of the risk. I find this kind of relationship with the sponsors is healthier...and we remain masters of our own fate.

MW: You are leaving to deliver 'Axa atout cœur', to take Erik Nigon's Multi50 trimaran to the start of Quebec-St Malo; what meaning is there in this project?   

Lalou: In parallel with the development of a very fast Multi50, and the organisation of the programme, there is a stage dedicated to the transfer of technical knowledge, which we hope will lead to the creation of a real ocean racing centre. The aim of entering two boats in the 2014 Rhum is achievable. This transat, in race preparation-delivery mode, will be with Maiëul Riffet and Fred Palacio, who have been with me for a long time; its aim is to prepare the young Quentin Vlamynck (20, who we selected this winter) for the Route du Café, which we will be racing together.  

MW: Bravo for this nice project! To finish, news of the Multi50', the MOD 70s and the America's Cup in multihulls?  

Lalou: I believe in the future of the Multi50', the class is now mature, capable of bringing together 8 to 13 boats at each event. The investments remain reasonable and the sporting nature of the class doesn't prohibit creativity. There is no reason why the future big events can't integrate the MOD 70s with the Multi 50s; this would optimise the media spin-offs, and be profitable for both. I've followed the preliminary regattas for the America's Cup, in AC 45s – I would love to try one! Those sail plans are fantastic, even though the hulls still remain quite traditional; these extraordinary machines are perfectly suited to their programme and are capable of providing excitement for the spectators. My architects are working with the New Zealanders on certain parts of an AC 72' (top secret, of course)!

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