You won’t find an America’s Cup sailor with the depth and breadth of experience of Loïck Peyron. From his fully-crewed assaults on the round the world record, to his various monohull and multihull solo exploits, Peyron is a sailor who has done it all.
Now in his second campaign with Artemis Racing, he is nominally listed as a ‘designer’. But the French legend is much more than this, providing a vital link between the sailing and design worlds.
“I’m involved in many areas because that’s my way,” he explains. “I don’t want to be too specialized. That’s what happens when you’ve been a solo sailor as much as I have. You have to know a little bit – and sometimes quite a lot – about everything.”
Peyron counts many years of experience on multihulls, from round the world behemoths, to the old ORMA circuit, to the catamaran that Alinghi designed and constructed for the 2010 America’s Cup. Alinghi 5 was one of the most incredible boats ever built at the time, but it was eclipsed, if only just slightly, by the American trimaran powered by its towering wing sail, which went on to win the America’s Cup for Oracle Racing.
“When you look back, it’s hard to believe that was just five years ago. We have learned so much since then,” he says, thinking back to those boats, which are almost primitive in comparison to what is being tested by the teams today.
“Each time the America’s Cup becomes interested in something, it forces a huge jump as a lot of clever people focus on that area and start pushing the progress. A century ago we can imagine this was happening maybe with winches and aluminum masts. Today it’s foiling.
“The funny thing with foiling is that speed isn’t related to size. In a classic scenario, speed is related to the waterline length of the boat. But the foiling world is absolutely different. Speed is restricted by drag and by righting moment. That’s why a smaller foiling boat can be quite fast compared to a bigger one. That’s why the boats we have today are so much faster than those monster boats we built in 2010, for example. But it all started from there.
“The main reason behind the new class rule is to push the costs down, so there are some one-design elements in new America’s Cup Class. But one area that is free is the appendages and the controls and there is a lot of room to refine and improve here. The main area of importance on this boat is the drag – aero and hydro. So the appendages are so much more important. The small little details in shape and surface are problems we need to solve. Getting this right can make such a big difference.”
Peyron says Artemis Racing designers are already poring over the new class rule, putting their thinking caps on, sharpening their pencils, and figuring out the best approach. He loves it.
“In the America’s Cup you have so much talent across so may areas that the place is always buzzing. It’s a great ambiance. Everyone is thinking all the time on how to make things work better.
“But it’s a fight every day, by the way,” he says, laughing. “Because hopefully, no one agrees. So you have to defend your opinions and test the options and sometimes learn to accept another point of view. But with this process, the best ideas win out and the boat goes a little bit faster.”
And the incredible flying machines continue to evolve; faster and faster.