Sails raised on FRA-69

Put your shades on and check out the first picture of Areva under sail.

Tuesday June 4th 2002, Author: Nigel Cherrie, Location: Australasia

The yacht that incensed Greenpeace, Areva FRA-69

Two weeks after being rammed and damaged by the environmental activist group, Greenpeace, Defi Areva’s new America’s Cup class yacht has been out for her maiden sail.

Greenpeace opted not to mount a fresh assault on the Areva sponsored campaign and the fluorescent yellow FRA-69 was gently put through her paces off Le Defi’s home port of Lorient on Saturday. The team spent four days repairing the yacht, replacing the damaged skins of the hull where the Greenpeace RIB hit at an estimated 15 knots, 50cm below the starboard chain plate for the shrouds, 90 cm below deck level.

But after the repairs were completed, the weather conspired against them and the French had to wait for a further week until the weekend, when light winds allowed the crew to eventually raise the sails on their only new 2003-generation yacht.

"The maiden sail is a strong moment for the whole team. Now we have to clock up lots of miles on board so that we can get to know her, become familiar with her strengths and weaknesses, make her as reliable as possible and develop her as best we can to gain those precious percentage points in terms of performance. We’ll need every single one of those in Auckland, on 1st October," said Pierre Mas, Defi Areva’s Sporting Director.

Up until now, the Le-Defi team have been training on FRA-46 and the former NZL-32. Their new steed immediately strikes the eye as being an original design with a huge stern overhang and a rounded cross section amidships. "Compared to FRA 46 which made use of many known systems, each component on this new boat has, without exception, been imagined, designed and built specifically with this boat in mind," added Technical Director Luc Gellusseau.

"The America’s Cup is above all else a technological competition. You have to adopt a highly innovative approach - work without a safety net, as it were - from every point of view if you are going to be competitive. That means perfecting the very last detail from the mast head to the tip of the keel. In order to develop the boat, every day after each outing we have to ask ourselves what we can change to make her sail that much faster the following day. If we don’t have an answer to that question every day, then we start moving backward."

FRA-69 and the modified FRA-46 will be shipped to Auckland in mid-July. The team will start sailing on the Hauraki Gulf from the former illbruck base in late August or early September.

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