A rigorous refit for Safran

Since the damage that caused Morgan Lagravière and Nicolas Lunven to abandon the Transat Jacques Vabre, Safran’s technical team has been working round the clock. They had to determine the exact causes of the damage without obstructing the boatyard from restoring the boat.

"This is our operating logic: if we want reliable solutions, we must be as accurate as possible in understanding the causes of the damage sustained during this Transat Jacques Vabre." Gérard Le Page, director of the Safran Sailing Team, said during an update on the first conclusions drawn since the boat was taken out of the water.


The nature of the damage

The team concentrated chiefly on a tear in the hull, which caused a leak, and the rupture of the rails – lengths of carbon fibre that serve to stiffen the hull longitudinally – "As soon as there is deterioration of one part, there are inevitably knock-on effects," Le Page added. "The challenge is to understand what the underlying cause was and what the logical sequence of the damage was." To improve this first assessment, the Safran Sailing Team, in agreement with the CDK yard, who built the boat, brought on board the architects, VPLP and Guillaume Verdier, and Pascal Casari, an expert in composite materials.

March 5 at 5:30 p.m.(French time) at the CDK boatyard in Lorient, Safran, the new IMOCA 60 skippered by Morgan Lagravière was launched for the first time.

The expert work

Casari conducted the collection of samples for analysis in a laboratory to try and outline a sequence of events for the deterioration process. "At the moment we don't have any definitive conclusions," Le Page said. "It was possibly a combination of different factors that could have caused the damage we can see." However, Casari's first investigations have made it possible to identify the extent of damage and to provide reassurance that the damaged composite can be repaired. Casari's expert investigations continue.


Ongoing repairs

"At the same time, we must face up to an emergency," Le Page said, "the boat, like our skipper, needs to sail. So, we started the work as quickly as possible." In consultation with the architects and the boatyard the decision was taken to install additional longitudinal stiffeners that should result in a fourfold reduction of the stresses on the hull panels. "This is a step that has been taken on all latest generation boats," Le Page said. "And We could measure the effectiveness of such a precaution in light of Sébastien Josse's race in the Transat Saint-Barth – Port-la-Forêt."


The influence of the foils

An initial observation is clear. The addition of the foils profoundly changes the behaviour of monohulls. Firstly, the boats reach much higher top speeds, but more fundamentally their balance is radically different. "As the boat is resting on the foil, the forward third of the hull is no longer bearing the brunt of the loads," Le Page said. "The main focus points of the impacts are distributed much further back. The hulls are subjected to a completely new regime." It is the consequence of any innovation to open new fields of research.


The next deadline

The technical team set as goal of being able to put Safran back in the water in the second half of March.