The French Challenger for the 2003 America's Cup, FRA 69, was baptised yesterday evening in Lorient by the film director Claude Lelouch and pop singer Patricia Kass.
This is the boat that will sail for France in the 31st America's Cup competition - to be held, for the second time, in Auckland New Zealand, which begins on 1st October with the Louis Vuitton Cup - the challenger selection series.
The naming ceremony took place in the presence the ambassador to France from New Zealand, the President of the French sailing federation, the Commodore of the UNCL challenging yacht club and the entire Défi Areva team.
Claude Lelouch's latest film, " And now ladies and gentlemen" will close the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. Its hero, Jeremy Irons, meets Patricia Kass as he is preparing to sail around the world. Lelouch's film, as all films are, was a labour of love and took two long years to make, in much the same way as FRA-69 is today the fruit of the labours of the whole Défi. Since March 2000, the end of the last America's Cup, the Défi has concentrated on one objective - bringing the America's Cup to France for the first time.
The America's Cup competition represents the Holy Grail of the world of sailing. Nine challengers from six nations (United States, France, Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden) are all preparing strong challenges in an effort to dethrone Team New Zealand, holders of the America's Cup since 1995.
History has shown that the silver trophy is only won by a team prepared to put up a continuous effort towards victory over many years. As a Louis Vuitton Cup Semi Finalist in 2000 the Défi is continuing its pursuit of the America's Cup. It has assembled a strong team of 90 people, supported by the French Sailing Federation and its challenging yacht club, the Union Nationale pour la Course au Large. The Défi is hosted in Lorient by the Pays de Lorient which has built an impressive custom designed base from which the team will operate until it leaves for New Zealand. In its pursuit of the America's Cup the team is accompanied on a daily basis by 22 partner companies and is benefiting from the know-how and expertise of more than 50 manufacturers and suppliers.
Amongst these special mention must go to the Areva Group, a fusion of Cogema, Framatome ANP and FCI, who joined the Défi's adventure on 11th January 2002 as title partner. By becoming associated with this project, AREVA is developing its international communications both internally and externally. This support from a world economic player such as AREVA gives the French team the means and the ability for success in the long term.
The experts within the Yaka Design Team, the fathers of FRA-69, dedicated 35,000 hours to research, using all tools available including tank and wind tunnel testing before coming up with the most promising design on 27th October 2001. The design specification was precise - the boat must be quick upwind, manoeuvrable and an all-rounder for the complex weather patterns likely to be experienced on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf. Six months of building at the Multiplast yard in Vannes were required to produce the new boat that will sail for the first time tomorrow, Saturday. Now it is up to the sailors, engineers and technicians of the Défi Areva to develop the boat and draw the most from the design's potential in competition.
Saturday, a public Open Day, will see a huge fleet of pleasure boats escort the new ACC boat out into the Bay of Lorient where FRA-69's sails will be hoisted for the first time and the team will put the boat through its initial sea trials. The boat will then be brought into Lorient's Downtown Marina where the team will be presented to the Lorient public who have been such gracious hosts for more than a year.
Check out the new Défi Areva website (www.ledefi.com), developed with Devoteam and launched today at 1300.