From Monday May 29 to June 3, Lake Molveno, in northern Italy, hosts Grand Prix 2, the second event of the 2023 season of the Algebris 69F Cup Europe. This is an opportunity for Tip & Shaft to take stock of the increasingly popular 69F class and in particular how it is appealing to teams preparing for the 2024 Women and Youth America’s Cup.
Hard launched in 2021 after test events the previous year, the 69F circuit, which features the strict one-design foiling monohulls created by Persico Marine in 2019, is into its third full season, with several separate competitions : the Algebris 69F Cup Europe, open to all, which includes five Grands Prix. Then the Youth Foiling Gold Cup, the second of the four Acts of ended on May 14 in La Grande Motte, which is reserved for those under 25.
This season at the end of August in Gargnano (Lake Garda) a 100% women’s event will take place for the first time, as part of a new Women Foiling Gold Cup which will be developed in 2024, while the class will organize the first European championship (September 17-24) in Puntaldia (Sardinia). “It is a longer route to obtain the World Championship title, but we are on it, the 69F Class and World Sailing, it shouldn’t be too long to go now, hopefully, all the procedures are in place, the waiting game is on”, explains Italian Silvia Sicouri, new president of the class.
And in the United States, the 69F US Foiling Select Series takes place this year with several teams, serving in particular as a framework for the selection of the female and young crews of the American Magic challenge for the Youth and Women America’s Cup, scheduled in AC40s as part of the 37th America’s Cup in 2024 in Barcelona.
Three of Six Cup Challenges are in
The 69F class has become popular with Cup challengers, indeed three of them have chosen this foiling one design platform to train and/or select their female and youth crews, who will represent their colors in Barcelona in a year and half’s time. American Magic, but also Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, two of the three crews of the Italian challenger have finished on the podium – including the winners – of the Act 2 of the Youth Foiling Gold Cup at La Grande Motte. Also competing this year in a few 69F events is Orient Express Racing Team, with a crew branded Team France. And the Dutch from Dutch Sail, who dominated the first two seasons of the Youth Foiling Gold Cup, are entered into the Women and Youth America’s Cup.
“Today the 69F is the boat which comes closest to the AC40 and that is why more and more teams are interested in the circuit, observes Charles Dorange, who raced during the two previous seasons with Team France and is now in charge of the youth and female program of Orient Express Racing Team (see our article). It’s a brilliant class, racing flying and fast monohulls, the racing format is quite intense with many manoeuvres and situations to anticipate, so it’s honing very useful foundation skills for the Cup.”
“We find it to be a class which met our needs well, firstly because it allows us to work on the cohesion of the crew, then because it is a one-design monohull with foils that we can use for our young and female sailors, it has become an obvious choice for us“, explains Jacopo Plazzi, responsible for the Youth and 69F program of Luna Rossa. And the Italian adds: “The 69F is a very simple class that allows you to learn the basic ingredients for foiling, and the big advantage is that the 69F Sailing team takes care of everything, it’s very light in terms of logistics, you just have to sail.”
One USP of the circuit is that the 69F class controls things. The administrative director of the Mediterranean Training Center (CEM) in La Grande Motte, which hosted Act 2 of the Youth Foiling Gold Cup, Camille El Bèze confirms: “It’s a turnkey event, there are about fifteen people in the 69F team and they arrive with their six 69Fs which they charter to the teams registered. There were twelve crews at La Grande Motte, which means efficient organization on the water, with a programmed rotation between the crews, but it’s very well run. And they have a communications team that does a great job – they did 250 stories on Instagram ! – and a shore team for technical assistance. The organization is very professional and there is good media interest as it is an international circuit, it gives you visibility outside of France as well.”
The budget to host an event is achievable: “There are no fees to pay, you cover their transport and accommodation costs, you have to provide seven RIBs, a boat for the crews. It’s quite clever to operate like this, no one is asking for a hosting fee of 100,000 euros, you make sure the logistics are covered, it must be around 40,000 euros, plus the involvement of our employees of the CEM“, explains Camille El Bèze.
All the 69Fs are rented for the Youth Foiling Gold Cup, for €9,000 excl. VAT per event, registration fees and technical assistance included. “It’s not bad through it has increased, since it was 6,000 in 2022, their business model is running like this, but as it is all super professional, you get what you pay for“, adds Camille El Bèze.
The teams competing in the Algebris 69F Cup Europe – some do both circuits, such as the French of Groupe Atlantic – have the choice between renting (€12,500 excluding tax per Grand Prix), and buying a new boat costing €195,000 excluding tax (it then add €2,500 excluding VAT per event). “It’s quite expensive, but the circuit is great, the boat is solid, there are almost no maintenance costs, we get to maximise our time on the water“, says Nelson Mettraux, administrator of the Regatta Training Center (CER) of Geneva, which bought a boat at the end of 2021 and is competing on the open circuit this season, with an overall budget which he estimates at around 80,000 euros, excluding depreciation.
“Since GC32, there has been no enthusiasm
like this for a series with foils”
The business model of the class is based on the pack rental of boats/registration fees, as Silvia Sicouri explains: “The general idea and business plan is to expand the six-pack formula – the one in which you rent out the boats owned by 69F – around the world replicating the same concept. It is environmentally friendly, as it limits the production of the boats, and it is a business model that can sustain itself and we aim to export it to other areas of the world. It can replicate all circuits: the open Cup, the Youth Foiling Gold Cup, the all-women, and we can think of others too. And when we have sponsors like Algebris, we use the sponsor’s funds to lower the chartering fee for the Cup and the entry fee for the Youth Foiling Gold Cup.”
According to the class president to date, 28 boats have been built by Persico Marine, 12 belong to the 69F company (6 in Europe, 6 in America), 16 to private owners participating on the circuits, while the building of 10 more is about to begin. And so there is ample proof of the growth of a class which, over the years, has become more and more demanding in terms of high level sporting performance. “The level is only increasing, confirms Charles Dorange. As some teams have bought boats, they train more [which is not the case for Team France, editor’s note] and so you have to be able to keep up with the pace, but it’s great to have such a high level with racers who come from the Olympics, from match racing, it’s really the best circuit to progress and aim for the Cup.“
Clément Cron, skipper of Group Atlantic and winner of the Grand Prix 1 of the Algebris 69F Cup Europe at the end of April in Valence, adds: “Not since the GC32 has there has not been such a following for a foiling series. The more we advance, the higher is the level. For example in the Youth Foiling Gold Cup, Dutch Sail were on top the last two years, because they were the first to have a boat, but in La Grande Motte they lost their first regatta and we finished four boats in four points, it is a great match up!”
Photo: Marta Rovatti Studihrad