After four trips aboard the Artemis AC72, Loïck Peyron, skipper of Energy Team, gives us his first impressions of this impressive winged giant, with her exceptional size, her potential for power and her high speeds…
Loïck Peyron: “We have sailed aboard her four times and she is extremely powerful. That isn’t that much of a surprise for me, as I have spent a long time looking at the design of these machines, but it is still all very impressive. To sum up, these are boats that aren’t that wide or that big, but which have a very powerful “engine”. To get an idea of what I mean, it’s a bit like putting a V8 or V12 engine on a go-kart. So it is no easy matter making use of all that power. We saw what can happen when Oracle capsized. These machines require caution. My job was to be something like a test pilot on this AC72. I’m here to find just how far we can take things and avoid those hairy moments, when the boat starts to dig in, for example. Already by the second or third trip, I found myself out there on the helm and I can say it’s fascinating.”
What is the difference from an AC45?
LP: “They don’t have that much in common. Proportionally, the AC72s are much more unstable. Because looking at the base, the engine is that much more powerful. You need to add on a third more power to an AC45 to get some sort of idea. And then, there is the sheer scale: everything is that much heavier, including the wing, of course and the centre of gravity is not that well placed, as it is higher up. On top of that, there is a lot of inertia… the “engine” is extremely powerful, but above all she is always in gear. And of course, you can’t take in a reef…”
“Yes. Of all the boats I have sailed on, she is the trickiest. When you start flying downwind, it is very impressive and that is one of the major questions that interest us: you need to find a compromise, knowing when to fly, but above all without using too much energy to do that. For me, flying aircraft for more than twenty years, it is very interesting. After each day out there sailing, we need to spend several days ashore fine-tuning the boat on every level. For the moment, we are just working on boat number 1, but we have already got some ideas about the second one. With the first one, it’s rather like racing with 30kg on your shoulders. Once the second boat is on the water, that weight won’t be there any more.”
“Very. For the moment, we’re taking it step by step deliberately, so we’re not out there looking for the highest speed. But we have already reached 26 knots in just 10 knots of wind.”
A useful experience for the Energy Team project?
“In every America’s Cup there is a transfer season between the teams. I’m a bit like a jobbing actor going from one team to another, or maybe more like a Swiss army knife for the team – that’s what Ernesto (Bertarelli) called me when I was with Alinghi. Of course, and it is quite normal, I have certain obligations and have to keep certain info to myself: there are certain things I can’t share with others, but it is obvious that bringing all these experiences together benefits everyone. I am in fact the first member of Energy Team to be hired by another team, but I probably won’t be the last. With Bruno and Energy Team, we have managed to build up a pool of talent. If we manage to get everything together for the next Cup, all of these experiences will be useful For the moment, from a personal perspective, this is an exceptional opportunity to try to make it all the way with Artemis, or in other words right through the Louis Vuitton Cup and further if possible…”