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Guillaume Verdier: “a whole new light”

Photo credits: B.Stichelbaut/Sea&Co
Photo credits: B.Stichelbaut/Sea&Co

A naval architect partnered with the VPLP design office, the outfit behind the two winning boats in the last Vendée Globe (MACIF) and the recent Transat Jacques Vabre (PRB), Guillaume Verdier has been entrusted with the design of the next two boats, Safran and Banque Populaire. Questioned about the new IMOCA class rules, he explains how the various approaches will change.

Guillaume Verdier, will the adoption of the new IMOCA class rules influence the designs of the next generation boats?

“The hull designs should be relatively similar to each other, it’s more the general philosophy behind the project that will change. The removal of the central ballast tanks and the requirements of the new class rules, which call for less powerful boats than before, will inevitably mean that we have to evolve. To put things simply, the new generation boats should be a little less powerful, but lighter; the final goal being a gain in performance among the boats.”

Starting out from this basic principle, what are the levers a naval architect can play with?

“We’ve already worked for long enough on the shape of the hull beneath the waterline. I don’t think there are many improvements to be made in this area. We can play around a bit with the sail plan, but the biggest scope for innovation is the positioning of the ballast tanks. In any case, it’s the global design, which needs to be reviewed. In principle, this new rule will push for the ballast tanks to be removed at the front of the boats: as a result, we’re likely to have boats which will be a little less at ease and less powerful upwind. Most importantly they’re likely to slam quite a bit…”

Let’s talk a little about the older generation boats…

“The big question for them will be to choose to change to comply with the new class rules or not. There’s going to be a prospective study to assess the pros and cons of each formula. There was a fair amount of toing and froing in the drawing up of the 2014 class rules so as to leave room for innovation whilst limiting the potential gains originally hoped for.”

Today, the Verdier – VPLP designs have the lion’s share of the market…

“Perhaps the changes will lead other architects to develop projects in fact. Personally I hope that is the case. It’s never very motivating when you find yourself in a situation where there’s a virtual monopoly. Comparing ideas is always motivating…”

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