“Banque Populaire XI”, the secrets of a giant of the seas


Lhe giant of the seas has rejoined his element. Tuesday April 27 in Lorient (Morbihan), the maxi-trimaran People’s Bank XI (32 meters long by 23 meters wide) was launched under the astonished eyes of Armel Le Cléac’h, the People’s Bank Team and a hundred curious people. A jewel of technology weighing 16 tons, capable of flying over the seas of the world, to complete a round-the-world trip in less than 45 days.

On November 6, 2018, Armel Le Cléac’h certainly had the fear of his life. On board his latest generation multihull maxi-trimaran People’s Bank IX, just two days after the start of the legendary Route du Rhum – a single-handed transatlantic race – “Le Chacal” capsized off the Azores (Portugal). A terrible disillusion and a deep trauma for the experienced Breton skipper, who had then been rescued by a Portuguese fishing boat, before docking in Vigo (Spain), then joining Lorient, where his entire team was waiting for him. Back on the water in the foreground two years later, Armel Le Cléac’h and his team come back even stronger, with new challenges in mind, and present an innovative multihull, combining performance and reliability.

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Safety at the service of performance

Carbon mastodon, the maxi-trimaran People’s Bank XI measures 32 meters long and 23 meters wide for 16 tons. However, the delicacy of its forms is striking and innovation is everywhere, like its cockpit, its load-bearing planes or its foils, twice as large as those of previous generations and designed to increase flight stability and maintain a high average speed while adapting as well as possible to the changing conditions of the open sea. The aerological performance has also been optimized to promote the flow of air at high speed or in “flight” speed.

In terms of comfort, Armel Le Cléac’h notably asked his teams to design an interior allowing him to stand upright, without touching the ceiling, despite its large size (1.88 m). Therefore, the cockpit has been optimized. It has a living area of ​​12 square meters and is 1.90 m high (between the floor and the cap). Completely closed, the cockpit allows the skipper to remain protected from the wind with a spacious living space, where two piloting areas are integrated.

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The other major challenges are reliability and safety on board. To ensure the integrity of its skipper, Banque Populaire fitted the boat with three cameras at the top of the mast, including two thermals to detect any ofnis (unidentified floating objects). An ultrasound system has also been installed in the fin to ward off marine mammals and avoid any potential collision within a radius of 1,500 meters. All the data specific to the boat are collected by around a hundred sensors on board making it possible to record no less than 300 information every 10 seconds during navigation – thanks to three cameras which are constantly rotating (one on each side of the cap and one under the radar support). The front arm, which had given way in 2018, has seen its structure completely redesigned. Finally, optical fibers have been installed throughout the frame, making it possible to control the various impacts and any deformation of the elements.

French excellence

With its design office and all of its employees, the Banque Populaire Team has given pride of place to “made in France”, mainly using French and local companies. This multihull is a concentrate of technologies and innovations, symbol of a Breton know-how unique in the world in the field of competitive sailing offshore. To be able to put this giant of the seas on the water, it took twenty-four months of construction, including 4,500 hours of preparation (design, architecture, plan, simulation at VPLP) and 150,000 hours of work (including more than 100 000 for the CDK Technologies site alone). In total, 300 plans were needed to manufacture this flying boat.

“The construction of an Ultim is a major economic stake which goes beyond the framework of sport”, explains Ronan Lucas, director of Team Banque Populaire. A major player in ocean racing, both sponsor and owner, Banque Populaire has thus supported hundreds of craftsmen, engineers and architects, and the construction of the boat has mobilized 150 companies and craftsmen from the West. Its cost: 12 million euros. A budget at the height of these Formula 1 of the seas, capable of spinning at nearly 100 km / h on the waves, and completing a round-the-world trip in less than 45 days. “We are very proud of the work accomplished during these two years. It allows to launch a boat extremely successful in its smallest details. We know that it will be faster, more efficient, more seaworthy, ”concludes the Team director.

Next challenge: the Jacques-Vabre transatlantic

Now, Armel Le Cléac’h is ready to resume his journey. With his co-skipper Kevin Escoffier and the whole team, they will multiply the outings at sea to prowl the People’s Bank XI. A gradual ramp-up until November 7, the date of the departure of the Jacques-Vabre Normandie Le Havre transatlantic race, is planned with a Mediterranean tour in June, then an express return trip to Martinique in July. Two sailings which will contribute to gaining experience on board, before the big meeting of the fall.

“With the end of the construction of this boat which involved so much talent and know-how, it is a first chapter which ends. Now we are starting a new one: navigation. We are going to carry out the first tests in Lorient, before focusing on the sporting aspect by going offshore to take it in hand. The Jacques-Vabre transatlantic race is already tomorrow for us. This is a major objective, the first major meeting of this Ultim. With the team and Kévin Escoffier, we will do everything to achieve our objectives. And this boat inevitably offers a great dose of desire and optimism to achieve it! »Rejoices Armel. Finally, the skipper will have a revenge to take. “Le Chacal” will set off on its own in November 2022 to tackle the Route du rhum. Beaten by the waves, Armel Le Cléac’h never sinks.


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