AC40 Orient Express Racing Team

Bruno Dubois: “On the cup project, nothing could have gone faster”

The start of the new ‘school term’ is particularly busy for Bruno Dubois, what, between three SailGP Grands Prix in four weeks – including France in Saint-Tropez (9-10 September) – the home event for the French team which he is the team manager of, and the first preliminary regatta of the 37th America’s Cup from September 14 to 17 for the Orient Express Racing Team challenge which he co-directs. Tip & Shaft caught up with him.

▶︎ Bruno, let’s start with SailGP, the French team started Season 4 with average performances in Chicago (6th) then Los Angeles (8th), how do you explain them?
Quentin (Delapierre) wanted to try some new things, like the way of flying, communication or maneuvers, to try to get closer in terms of speed to teams like Australia, it didn’t really work. He perhaps wants a to move on a little too much too quickly for my taste, he sets the bar very high. In Chicago, we still won a race, but there were manoeuvres which did not go well and were costly. And in Los Angeles, he was the one who felt a little fatigued. As there was a break afterwards, I told him to go rest and come back to Barcelona a little earlier than planned to get everything back on track. He questioned himself, he took a vacation and is coming back hard for Saint-Tropez, we’ll see what happens.

▶︎ New Zealander Jason Saunders has taken François Morvan’s place as flight controller, why?
Quentin and François no longer had the same vision of the flight controller position, so Quentin took this difficult decision. But François is an excellent sailor and we are happy that he can show that his talent with the Swiss [he replaces… Jason Saunders, Editor’s note].

▶︎ Spain got their first victory in Los Angeles, Canada finished 3rd then 4th in the first two Grands Prix, with this increasing competition, is it more and more difficult to win on this circuit?
Yes, clearly and that’s what’s good, everything is set up so that the teams who come in later can get up to speed, to the level of the others, as SailGP gives them the opportunity to train more. And I think that will continue, there will be regular changes of leaders. From the start, Russell (Coutts, the boss of SailGP) has never wanted one or two teams to dominate, it is a circuit in perpetual movement.


“We were faster than the others
with setting up our youth and women’s projects”


▶︎ Now let’s move on to the Cup, when you look at the French challenge today, what are you thinking to yourself?
Some people ask the question whether we are very late, a little bit late or just on time. Me? I don’t think like that, I just try to instill positivity in the team. If there is constant criticizing and beating ourselves up if we are going to get there that’s wasted energy. What I see is that we signed a sponsor just before Christmas and the next day we ordered the AC40, which we were promised delivery in mid-August, that’s exactly what’s happening. So on that, we wasted no time. At the same time, we managed to set up a base in record time by purchasing two boatyards – including tents, around thirty containers and tools from the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race. We took a huge shortcut, because in general that takes six to seven months. And having ordered the design package from New Zealand also allows us to be on time. In terms of sponsorship I think we will be within the budget objectives that we have set ourselves.

▶︎ So everything is going as you expected?
The only other thing we could have done was buy a training AC75, like Team New Zealand’s Te Kahu, which was just not possible for financial reasons. I also would have liked to have had a training boat sooner, but the rule was clear, it was first come first served. We knew from the start that we would only have our AC40 a few weeks before Vilanova, but that’s not a big deal, we’re taking this event as a demonstration regatta. We will do four months of training until the end of the year with the AC40 in class version (one design, no change possible) and then we will switch to LEQ12 mode (less or equal to 12m, development boat) from January until spring, before the delivery of our AC75.

▶︎ Where are you with the AC75 and is this a guarantee of having a good boat?
Here again, we are completely on time, since we have finished the mould at Multiplast. This is the guarantee of having access to the best of what has been done in the recent past. Afterwards, maybe one team will come along with something much better than the others, but at least that guarantees us not to get lost in our own corner. And if we continue with the next Cup, as is our ambition, we have a base extraordinary work. So, if we take the overall picture compared to our starting point last December, the evolution is absolutely on schedule, nothing could have gone faster. There is even one thing that we are quicker than the others: we were among the first to select our young people and our women. In our budget with Orient Express we found enough to run the two teams which are fully sponsored. That allows them to already be racing in the 69F, they will also compete in ETF26, and have started working on the simulator in Barcelona and also will soon sail in the AC40, accompanied by our Cup’s team… And we are not late really as we have the two platforms running, in particular thanks to SailGP [the composition of the two sailing teams is identical for the hard core, Editor’s note] which allows us to continue to sail together.


“When France is not in the Cup,
the country is falling behind”


▶︎ What do you expect from the first regatta in Vilanova?
Not much, don’t be fooled, it takes time to tame the beast. We will have had a maximum of two weeks of training before leaving for Saint-Tropez and then continuing direct to Vilanova. But it will be an opportunity to take stock of the others, to take a closer look at what they are doing. We hope that we will be able to compete a little more in November in Jeddah, because we will have had about a month more training, so normally, we will have a little more control of the boat. I remind you that our objective is to perform in SailGP and in the Cup, so we take the AC40 as a means to get there, our objective is not to win the two preliminary regattas in AC40, we have to be objective and realistic.

▶︎ The recent French challenges have been mounted late and with few resources, were hardly conclusive in sporting terms. Do you think you will succeed in improving the somewhat skeptical view of the French about the Cup?
In offshore racing we have such a strong base that we are not in this state of mind at all, I find that in France, we too often tell ourselves that we are not going get there, there is negativity. Every day, we always have the same remarks. I’m working with the team to get away from this, we clearly saw on SailGP that when we’re in the right state of mind, we can beat James Spithill, Ben Ainslie, Peter Burling or Tom Slingsby without any problems…  That’s why we have to see the America’s Cup as essential for France, what we learn there benefits the entire ecosystem, and even the French industry, it’s extremely important to be present. Our ambition, in addition to winning one day, is to set up a great project so that it serves all the young people with whom we work and, later, gives them the opportunity to do something else, SailGP, the Vendée Globe,  Ultim… Look at the number of French engineers in all the Cup teams, many of them have previously gone through French challenges. Everyone will tell you that they learned a lot about the Cup, that it took them out of their Franco-French comfort zone. At all levels, we learn a lot about a Cup project, when France is not there, the country falls behind.

▶︎ Can France win it?
I don’t know if France can win, but what I can tell you is that we have put in place a solid, pragmatic system which will allow us to perform very well and not rely on too many unknowns. Now, I may be entirely wrong, elite sport is not an exact science. And in mind, we are looking further ahead, the 38th Cup will be raced on the same boats, so we know that if we do things correctly and tell a great story, we will make our partners want to continue to follow us. And obviously, we will then have even more chances of performing well.

Photo: Martin Keruzoré / Orient Express Racing Team

Tip & Shaft est le média
expert de la voile de compétition

Course au large

Tip & Shaft décrypte la voile de compétition chaque vendredi, par email :

  • Des articles de fond et des enquêtes exclusives
  • Des interviews en profondeur
  • La rubrique Mercato : l’actu business de la semaine
  • Les résultats complets des courses
  • Des liens vers les meilleurs articles de la presse française et étrangère
* champs obligatoires

🇬🇧 Want to join the international version? Click here 🇬🇧