Here is a success story, one of staying the course, of finishing and achieving race winning reliability. This is the story of ProFurl who have been pioneers in sail furling since 1982.
For a long time they were used to the Vendée Globe, equipping a large proportion of the fleet, certainly for the first three editions. But the company had gradually moved away from the world of ocean racing, really since the beginning of the 2000s.
Now they are back at the forefront of the fleet. And with 8 boats out of 33 equipped with its hooks at the start of the 2020 Vendée Globe, going on to take first and third places at the finish, ProFurl has achieved an enviable record.
“We worked over ten years ago a little bit with Roland Jourdain, but it was really during the 2016 Vendée Globe that we really got back into the game by equipping PRB and Banque Populaire,” explains Cédric Martel, head of custom and technical support at the Wichard Group, which bought ProFurl in 2002.
Armel Le Cléac’h’s victory should have been the best publicity for the brand except that at the finish the winning skipper revealed that his J1 hook had broken. So engineers and technicians went back to the drawing board, deciding to question themselves and work on the reliability of their products by moving to another design methodology.
“We have developed what we call the hybrid system, with as little mechanical parts as possible inside our hooks, just a female part that receives a male body machined from the mass, with a very high safety coefficient,” explains Cédric Martel. This same hybrid system has been applied to the “lighter and stronger furlers, which have a completely open mechanism, without grease or seals. This makes it easier for the skipper to rotate it and to manoeuvre: the less he pulls on it, the better it is”.
Once these products were developed, convincing skippers and teams to adopt them was the next stage. But Prysmian Group, DMG Mori and MACSF set off on 8 November with ProFurl hooks, while Maitre CoQ, Bureau Vallée, PRB, Arkéa Paprec and Banque Populaire had the full pack, including furlers.
And so now three months later, the Vendée Globe test is passed with flying colours. “None of our eight skippers had any hook damage“, points out Cédric Martel including Yannick Bestaven and Louis Burton who were first and third. Asked in the middle of his media tour in Paris, the winner took the time to say: “What I liked was the simplicity of the mechanisms and the reliability. The hook system with no moving mechanical parts is a real plus as I didn’t encounter any problems. Yes, I went up the mast, but not for the hook!”
For ProFurl, 90% of whose turnover is linked to ocean cruising, the objective now is to increase its market share in ocean racing – in addition to the Imoca boats mentioned above, the brand equips Idec Sport, Spindrift, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, the Multi50 Leyton, the Class40 Crédit Mutuel and Project Rescue Océan, the David Raison design that Axel Tréhin has just launched.
“The stakes were very high for us but we are pleased to say we proved that our hooks were 100% reliable, and reliability means safety for the sailors. Before the start, Giancarlo (Pedote) made it clear to me that the hooks had to hold, because he absolutely didn’t want to climb the mast”, recalls Cédric Martel. And so he was very warmly congratulated by the Italian sailor!
Photo: Stéphane Maillard / Bureau Vallée