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Image: Le Defi Areva prepares for Quarter Finals

Press Release 39 - Friday 8 November, Auckland

LE DEFI AREVA prepares for Quarter Finals

LE DEFI AREVA knows the quality of its opponent for the Quarter Finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup – Victory Challenge. Several days out from the restart of the competition (12 November), the French team has made a number of decisions to better tackle this stage of racing.

At the end of a series of team debriefings, LE DEFI AREVA has today hit the water again with not one, but two lime green boats which will see evolutions and modifications to both FRA 69 and the sailing team trialled before next week.

LE DEFI AREVA has spent a great deal of time analysing approach and performance during Round Robins I & II – not only of its own team, but of the Swedes as well. Victory Challenge has two rapid and reliable boats which have been sailed almost faultlessly by Jesper Banks and the Swedish crew. The French team insists it has made good progress in vital areas over the course of the Round Robins and with a competitive boat, all that remains is for the sailing team to master its performance and win four regattas !

The team is working to perfect its performance and hopes to avoid the errors made over the course of the two Round Robins. A good working knowledge of the race course and of weather patterns on the Hauraki Gulf stands the team in excellent stead and from now on, they will be working to improve match-racing tactics: starts, mark-roundings and close contact situations.

To consolidate these improvements, a preparation programme has been put in place which includes the following decisions:


>From 3 – 12 November, all Challengers are granted a ‘change period’ which allows them to make modifications to their boats over a period of nine days, hopefully improving the performance of the boats before racing commences. Once the boat has been measured by officials, it becomes virtually ‘untouchable’ until the end of the Quarter Finals. ‘Virtually’, because each team has the right to make one slight change over this period which is unmeasured.

The French team is also subject to this ruling. Between the first and second Round Robins, certain improvements ensured that FRA 69 increased it’s capacity to perform downwind. During the second Round Robin, sailors, designers and technicians determined the various areas in which the boat could still improve before the beginning of the Quarter Finals. The clock has been ticking for a week now, with technicians working day and night to optimise the performance of FRA 69.

Modification objectives - FRA 69:

a.. To gain upwind boatspeed

b.. To gain downwind boatspeed

c.. To increase onboard deck gear to further weight the ballast

a.. To improve boat-handling by the sailing team The boat has been dry-docked for four days while modifications have been made to the appendages, rigging, mechanical systems, electronics and information systems (please see document attached). These will be tested over the next few days in the Hauraki Gulf.

Sailing crew:

LE DEFI AREVA has made great progress during the two Round Robins and this is thanks to solid work by the whole team. Today, the team must continue to improve its boat-handling and contact-racing, taking into account the particular strengths of the Swedes. The objective is to create a framework which will facilitate better on-board communication and improve teamwork in close contact racing situations, all the while maintaining the boatspeed gained over the course of the Round Robins.

The decision has therefore been made to reorganise the afterguard.

The afterguard for the Quarter Finals will be composed of Philippe Presti (skipper-helmsman), Luc Gellusseau (tactician) and Philippe Mourniac (navigator). Philippe Presti has the advantage of having raced Jesper Bank on the international yachting circuit for many years and it was also Presti who helmed during training matches against the Swedes in September. He showed strong qualities in both start manoeuvres and in contact racing and will bring precious experience to the regattas of the Quarter Finals.

"I know Jesper Bank well", says Philippe Presti. "I have had the opportunity of racing against him on the international circuit and the training matches we had against them in September were very useful. These will be tough rivals who have had a very good start to the Louis Vuitton Cup. I have been analysing their regattas and if we can improve our performance in the contact phases – as well as maintaining the good boatspeed we now have – we should be able to mark a point against them".

The change of afterguard has not been easy.

"I made a difficult decision", says Sailing Manager, Pierre Mas. "It had to be done. We are at a critical moment in the competition and we have to take into account all of our strengths and our weaknesses. There is no questioning of Luc Pillot’s capabilities nor of his contribution to the team. He took the helm during a difficult time and he has helped enormously in improving our boatspeed over the course of the Round Robins.

"Today, we find ourselves in the position of having one single opponent – the Swedes. We have to catch them and be better than them in all the close match-racing phases of the regatta. To do this, I decided to reconfigure the team around Philippe Presti. At the helm of FRA 69, he is a plus for us against Victory Challenge.

"He has never left the sailing team and I said all along that he could at any moment be chosen to be back on board. That’s how the competition works. To beat the Swedes, we need perfect racing: good starts, close contact, tight manoeuvres and good boatspeed.

"Just as with the technical modifications, this change is part of the overall team development: in boat handling, in communications and in match-racing. The team will continue improvements and modifications as long as it stays in Auckland", Pierre Mas confirmed.

Sailing and training programme:

From today, both French boats will be training in the Hauraki Gulf – FRA 79 as the sparring partner to LE DEFI AREVA’s main race boat FRA 69. They will be training together from now until next Tuesday, when regattas against the Swedes for the Quarter Finals begin. The aim of dual training is to validate the technical modifications and evolutions which have been made, as well as improving boat handling and contact management by the crew.

More information available at

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