Le Figaro 3 fait partie des candidats comme bateau de l'épreuve de course au large des JO de Paris 2024

2024 olympics: The yards positioning themselves for the offshore boat

There was another step forward in Februray in World Sailing’s selection process for the equipment to be used in the new mixed double offshore event in the Paris Olympics in 2024. The international federation published a list of the twelve boats presented by builders, who will be able to compete for the bid to tender when it is launced. For the yards, it is time to move their pawns forward as they look ahead. Tip & Shaft looks at what is going on.

With four and a half years to go to the 2024 Paris Olympics, the new mixed double offshore event is involved in a long process which World sailing started over a year ago. They had to draw up the rules, but also choose the type of boat – a one-design monohull. A working party, comprising various members of committees and the heads of World Sailing, set to work on the matter. They sent a request for information (RFI) to builders and classes to appraise the situation concerning which boats could apply and which yards were interested.

They received 12 replies, which were published mid-February, which led one of those involved to declare, “There is a lot to get our teeth into. Some do not meet the criteria in terms of the category, others are more like boats for crews and as for the budget, it goes from 30,000 dollars [for the Far East 28 R] to 200,000 euros [price of a Figaro 3].” The Figaro 3 is in fact on the list while at the start of the selection process, World Sailing talked about a non-foiling boat. Has there been a change of heart? “It depends what you mean by a boat with foils, a well informed source told us, who believes that the foils on a Figaro 3 may be considered as an anti-leeway appendage. “I do not believe that World Sailing wants to move away from that option and not move with what is happening to ocean racing boats.”

Beneteau grabbed the opportunity and proposed the one-design boat they launched last year. Product manager at the yard in Vendée, Luc Joëssel explained: “For this dossier, we are working as a group and working hand in hand with Jeanneau who presented the Sun Fast 3300. Depending on how the dossier evolves, we could go one way or the other. The Figaro is of the high standard which corresponds to the Olympic spirit, while the Sun Fast is a boat that is very fast and very modern in comparison to a number of the boats proposed.”

Among the other yards applying, the American J Boats who has presented three boats, the J88, the J99 and the J105“For us it would have been a professional mistake not to have got involved, as racer cruiser one design monohulls are part of the DNA of J Boats, explained Didier Le Moal, head of J Composites, the European manufacturer of J Boats. “We are the brand that has the biggest number of international one-design boats in their catalogue.” While he admits that the yard as adopted “a wide approach” presenting three boats, he believes that the J99 is the best suited to the format of the offshore race for the Olympics “because more modern and better designed for that. The 88 is more of a racer and the 105 is too old.”

As for Jean-Pierre Kelbert, head of the JPK yard, he presented a customised version of the JPK 1030“In light conditions, you can’t hoist too much sail or the IRC rating is hit, but for the Olympic event, we don’t have that problem, so we said we could adapt the boat to the conditions in the Mediterranean in the summer, making her livelier in light airs.” How? “We add a square top mainsail with two backstays, a code zero on the bowsprit, a bigger area to the spinnaker, more power  with a large keel bulb. In short, we have kept the qualities of the boat making her better suited to a wide range of conditions, while keeping costs down.”

Among the other proposals sent to World Sailing, there was Vector, a Mini 650 series boat, built by the Polish yard Yacht Service and designed by Etienne Bertrand, which was announced at the last moment. “I am completely innocent, the latter said. “It was a German friend of the yard, Roland Gaebler, who thought it was worth giving it a go and drew up the dossier. I gave my agreement, even if I didn’t think there would be the slightest chance.” Why? “I think there are yards which are more solid than others and will therefore be chosen by the committee. And I’m not sure that the people making the choice are that open to innovations like the scow. The bar of soap look may not go down well. But doing this race on a Mini maybe fun.” 

What next for the yards that replied to World Sailing’s RFI? They will be invited to the headquarters in London for a meeting on 7th April aimed at entering into the details about the applications. World Sailing then intends to publish a list of the criteria to be met by the future boat for the games by the 31st December 2020. This will form the basis of a request for proposal (RFD), with the bid for tender opening at a date to be announced. At the same time a list of boats aboard which the 2024 Olympic selection races will take place will be announced by 31st December.

The criteria to be announced by the end of the year will involve safety, everything linked to the quality of the build and one design conformity, the dimensions, sail plan, the ability of the yards to produce around twenty boats on time and an important criteria for World Sailing, that these boats can be used after the Games. That seems to be the case for most of the 12 boats proposed to World Sailing, as they are already sailing in existing circuits with the exception of the Dehler 30, whose builder plans to create a specific one-design fleet. “Launching such a one-design fleet today is really complicated,” commented a doubtful Jean-Pierre Kelbert, with whom our expert of the internal affairs of World Sailing: “On paper, the Dehler is really interesting. It comes between the Figaro and boats that are more suited to IRC, but the market is not as clear for the moment as for the others.”

After examining the candidates, World Sailing’s final choice will be revealed before 31st December 2023, as the international federation wants to come to a late decision to avoid the bigger federations getting ahead. What about the ability of the yards with such a tight deadline following this date? “We should be able to do it. Today, we make one J99 boat every four days,” replied Didier Le Moal. “That is the trickiest matter, but if necessary when replying to such an offer, we can double our production capacity,” added Jean-Pierre Kelbert, while Luc Joëssel is not as convinced: “The timing is not very realistic when you are talking about building twenty precise one-design boats in such a short space of time. The only way for boats to be ready in such a time frame is for them to exist already.” World Sailing does not exclude that hypothesis, which would involve convincing owners and / or classes to make their boats available to the Olympic organising committee, which as the organiser supplies the equipment during and indeed before the Olympics, as they will have to go into the yard to ensure their uniformity.

A lot of questions remain for the possible candidates hoping to build the Olympic boat. They agree on one matter: what is at stake here for them is more a question of prestige rather than commercial success. “It is clearly a question of image, but also a way of supporting Paris 2024. The Games are taking place in France, so it would be nice to have a French boat, wouldn’t it?” confirmed Luc Joëssel. “Whether we are chosen or not is not a risk for the company whatever happens,” said Didier Le Moal, while Jean-Pierre Kelbert concluded: “It will be a good showcase for the yard. We don’t just do things for money. We also do them for the fun of it.”

Photo : Yvan Zedda / Solitaire du Figaro

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