They are the fastest flying boats in the world. They are back for a season 3 of the Sail GP circuit which starts on May 14 and 15 in Bermuda. The ambition of these catamarans, Formula 1 of the seas, is to offer an unprecedented spectacle on the water. Ten countries are in the running, including France.
Arrived last fall, Quentin Delapierre is the new skipper of the boat in French colors. The 29-year-old Breton had to learn in a hurry to pilot these machines. Double winner of the Tour de France in sailing, he comes from Olympic sailing, he also participated in the last Olympic Games in Tokyo (he finished with Manon Audinet in 8th place in Nacra 17). But by joining the Sail GP circuit, Quentin Delapierre landed on another planet. “The problem with these machines is that they only accelerate and we very quickly reach speeds that we did not know, he laughs. In Sydney, we did 52 knots, around 100 km/h. I had never reached that speed. At the moment, we feel that the whole body is alert and we don’t want to make the slightest mistake. But at the same time, we’re going to look for it because there’s adrenaline.“
And that is the ambition of this show on the water: to go fast, always faster, even if it means sometimes flirting with the limits. Crashes and collisions between boats (not serious for sailors) are not uncommon. The safety conditions on board are draconian with very advanced survival equipment: a small bottle of oxygen if you get stuck underwater, a knife to cut the ropes…
“It becomes magic” Quentin Delapierre
The race formats are very tight to ensure the show. The ten catamarans with their large foils to allow them to fly 1.5 meters above water level are all identical. They are in the fight at the same time, close to the coast as close as possible to the spectators. A winning formula! “It becomes magical raves Quentin Delapierre. There are very few spaces. Everything is done for it to be visual, very close to the spectators who are on the ground, sometimes less than 20 meters from them. As a result, our playing area is reduced but we are not slowing down. This is something that was unknown in the sailing world.“
The Sail GP circuit, created and financed by Larry Ellison, a wealthy American businessman, has conquered the world. There are now eleven stages on all continents, including new events in Dubai or Singapore. That of Saint-Tropez which will take place in September is kept for the second consecutive year. The boats in the running are a concentrate of technology and France has a say in this race for innovation. “It’s extraordinary because we’re living the sail of tomorrow”, says the tricolor pilot. “We are with the best engineers, with the best league in the world. Grand prix after grand prix top speed is beaten. All the people who come to the sites are very surprised by the intensity of the races, it takes your guts out. The recipe is taking and there are more and more people following us.”
And to put the odds on its side, the French crew, made up this year of ten members, including four women, trained in Northern Ireland in an ultra-modern simulator, the only one in the world that exists at the actual hour. “I’ve been there three times.” explains Quentin Delapierre. “It’s completely immersive, it’s as if you were at Futuroscope in an attraction with a nacelle on jacks. Except that there, the nacelle is a part of the real hull of the boat with all the buttons, my bar, etc… everything is identical. This is valuable since we have less experience than other boats. And in addition, we are dry!!“
France hopes to do well for this third season of the Sail GP, by grabbing podiums. Why not this weekend in the turquoise blue waters of the island of Bermuda.