Latest Banque Populaire launched
With the launch, so skipper Armel Le Cléac'h has taken the opportunity to announce the program for his new 105ft maxi-trimaran, that will culminate in the French skipper sailing the giant boat singlehanded in the 2014 Route du Rhum, trying to better the success of the boat's former skipper Franck Cammas' when he won the singlehanded transatlantic race in 2010.
While Cammas went into that race with some 12 years of maxi-trimaran and ORMA 60 experience under his belt, Le Cléac'h is more of a newcomer to these craft and so will spend the next two season getting to know the boat.
To start this season Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII will be taking part in two warm-up events in Brittany - the Grand Prix Guyader in Douarnanez over 2-5 May followed by the ArMen Race over 9 to 12 May. For these Le Cléac'h will be on board with the man who beat him in the recent Vendee Globe - François Gabart, while on board as tactician and as skipper when Le Cléac'h is busy preparing for this year's La Solitaire du Figaro, will be former America's Cup helm and match racer Bertrand Pace, who will sail on board for Banque Populaire VII's first three races.
It took only three days for Banque Populaire's technical team to launch the maxi-trimaran step the mast, tune the rigging and load on board the sails before her maiden voyage around Ile de Groix and Belle Ile in 18-25 knot winds.
"Good conditions for a first sail!" declared Le Cléac'h on his return. "A westerly wind of around 20 knots, sun, a slightly rough sea and swell around Belle Ile. But the most complicated part was at the start ... and the arrival...at the dock. We brought on board two members of the Groupama Sailing Team to help us and with the Banque Populaire shore crew, we were able to keep control of the boat. Everything went well and we took advantage of this trip to set up the mast," said Le Cléac'h.
The boat proved to be fully functioning and ready for the program of developments planned over the summer until the end of September, after which Le Cléac'h will go on stand-by to make a solo attempt on the TransMed record between Marseille and Carthage in Tunisia, held since last year by Thomas Coville and Sodebo.
Of this attempt Le Cléac'h says: "My only references are a few outings I made on the previous Banque Populaire V maxi-tri, but this is much more manageable and much simpler. This is a human-sized multihull: I do not feel terrified by the anticipation of sailing this singlehanded with a good margin of safety! The boat is very well set up and we can focus on learning to sail her, before considering any optimisation."
Even in her shorter mast configuration, designed for solo racing, as used by her former skipper Franck Cammas in the last Route du Rhum, the trimaran still hits 35 knots and can be sailed by a very small crew. In fact very little has changed on board her since the last Route du Rhum, as the winter refit consisting mainly of applying her paintjob and a rebuild of electrics and electronics.
2 to 5 May: Grand Prix Guyader
9 to 12 May: Armen Race
23 June: Record SNSM
11-14 August: Rolex Fastnet Race
From the end of September: Transmed record attempt (Marseille-Carthage)