North Sails NEWS
THE ULTIMES AT THE 2021 ROLEX FASTNET RACE: TEAM SODEBO
Offshore Veteran Thomas Coville Expects Intense Competition
Sodebo Ultim 3, a latest-generation boat skippered by Thomas Coville, will line up at the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race against the other Ultimes. The sailing team includes Thomas Rouxel, Corentin Horeau, François Duguet, Matthieu Vandame, Léonard Legrand and Thierry Douillard, and part of the crew was also involved in the team’s 2020 Jules Verne Trophy attempt.
“We are probably one of the boats that has sailed the most,” Colville says. “These 32-meter boats are technically complex and very demanding. It’s exciting, because the project management is constant.”
Despite ever-changing circumstances since the launch in 2019, Coville has a positive assessment of the last two years. “We have experienced a dynamic and creative period with a vast amount of internal collaborative work. We have set up a design office to coordinate our work with the best experts in each specialty, and a rotating leadership that adapts according to the skills of each person.”
Right from designer Renaud Banuls’ very first drafts, the team focused on aerodynamics and worked closely with North Sails.
“To design this boat, we started with the experience of the previous boat, and the old sail surfaces. We then redesigned the sail plan,” explains Coville. “We are very much linked to North’s studies and involvement on our internal platform. With Gautier Sergent, we started with the sail plan and aerodynamics to think about how we could integrate with different parameters linked to the boat’s behavior, such as the centering of the weight. Each element interacted with another element to make the whole reflection loop work. From the power of the boat generated by the sail plan, we created a hydrodynamic package to balance these forces. That was pretty innovative.”
This interactive approach continued right up until their 2020 Jules Vernes Trophy attempt, and the sailing team returned with a wealth of data combined with a rich experience to further evolve both the boat and the sail plan. “There were some sail shapes that we were happy with, and we made some nice changes to the mainsail and gennaker. For each sail, we are looking for an optimization between the structure and the shape. As far as Helix technology is concerned, we’ve seen clear improvements, especially on the second version of the new set with the data feedback.”
Coville is a Rolex Fastnet Race veteran and says each edition is different. “I love this race, because it was one of my first competitions as a young sailor, which introduced me to ocean racing and to the Anglo-Saxon sailing world. At the time, Cowes was the Mecca of ocean racing and all the nations came to compete. You could meet all types of sailors, from amateurs to professionals, in a festive atmosphere and with good chemistry.”
He doesn’t think the new course format will change the race very much. But he predicts this first match-up between the Ultimes will be quite intense; “We have been sailing a lot lately, but with a team led by Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, two sharp sailors on a boat that has reached maturity, and another team skippered by Yves Le Blevec, who has a boat with a solid track record…” it will be a great battle for line honors into Cherbourg.
North Sails equips three Ultimes taking part in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race. We spoke to the crews about their project, the evolution of their boat and sails, as well as their Fastnet training program and their expectations for this edition. You can access our other stories via the links below.