New Fila trimaran for Cape d'Agde Grand Prix

Three-hulled action in the south of France

Thursday June 7th 2001, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
Eight 60ft trimarans will be taking part in the Offshore Racing Multihull Association's 9 Telecom Cape d'Agde Grand Prix which starts Friday.

The focus of attention at the event will be on the new Fila trimaran of Around Alone winner Giovanni Soldini. This is a Marc van Peteghem/Vincent Lauriot Prevost design and sistership to Jean le Cam's Bonduelle. She was built by MAG France in La Rochelle in prepreg carbon/Nomex and at 61ft beam max is slightly wider than her predecessors (and wider than she is long!).

Instead of the conventional daggerboard arrangement she has a dinghy-style centre board - albeit 16ft long - which rotates aft into a case. Because 60ft trimarans have the ability to lift their main hulls they have rudders on each of their three hulls. On Fila the centre rudder is retractible to reduce drag in these conditions.

The use of giant hydraulic rams attached to the shrouds, allowing the mast to be canted to weather was first tried out on Loick Peyron's original Fujicolor (now racing as Belgacom). Now all the 60ft tris have this system, however Fila has gone a stage further and has a hydrualic ram on her forestay so that the mast can be canted both sideways and fore and aft.

Among Soldini's crew for the Grand Prix will be Australian Tornado Olympian Mitch Booth.

After the apparent carnage of the Challenge Mondial Assistance, the fleet is only one boat down. Marc Guillemot's La Trinitaine-Team Ethypharm lost her starboard bow in that race and was abandoned by her crew. In the time between her abandonment and Guillemot's team getting a salvage vessel to rendezvous with her she was effectively looted by an American ship. The ship pulled up right alongside the stricken trimaran walloping her port hull to such a degree that it completely delaminated. Amazingly she was then taken in tow at around 18 knots - the ship's cruising speed. At some point during this tow from hell, her mast fell down and eventually after dragging her through the water for 250 miles the ship abandoned her. When the team's salvage vessel recovered her, the mast was destroyed as were her two brand new floats, fitted for this season.

La Trinitaine-Team Ethypharm'sdesigner Nigel Irens says that in some ways they were lucky as the main hull and the cross beams are still both in reasonably good order and can be salvaged. Fortunately for skipper Marc Guillemot as the boat was not insured, liability over the original breakage of the starboard bow has been admitted by the builder of the new floats - Nordahl Mabire and his new boat building company Tresco - who are constructing two new ones free of charge. The team are hoping to have La Trinitaine-Team Ethypharmback in race ready condition in time for the Transat Jacques Vabre in November.

Two other boats which pulled out of the Challenge Mondial Assistance will be taking part in the Cape d'Agde Grand Prix. The new Banque Populaire of Lalou Roucayrol had to stop for repairs when her halyard sheaves began to pull through the mast.

At the time of writing Loick Peyron's new Fujifilm was rushing to make the grand prix having had repair work carried out to her damaged beams. "There was a problem with the stability of the apexes of the beams where they join the mainhull," Irens told madforsailing. "Structural designers High Modulus had not made sufficient structure to stabilise it." This area around the forward beam-hull join has now been fixed and similar work carried out to the aft beam in case the same happens there. Irens says that Fujifilm has experienced some reasonably harsh conditions en route to the south of France and has come through it unscathed. "We are feeling cautiously optimistic."

Regular Foncia-Kingfisher crew Ellen MacArthur is standing down from this Grand Prix in order to spend time writing her book on the Vendee Globe.

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