French Challenger To Fast Track to Cup with Team New Zealand Technology

The late French challenger for the 37th America's Cup announces Orient Express as title sponsor and reveals its management team.
Rendition of the Orient Express Team's AC75
A rendition of the Orient Express Team’s AC75 shows the branding to come. Using a Team New Zealand design and technology package, the French team will begin building its boat in April with a spring 2023 expected launch. Courtesy Orient Express Team

Followers of the 37th America’s Cup now have more details regarding the late French Challenger that emerged in early January. In press release issued last week, the Challenger, sailing under the burgee of the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, announced the Accor hotel group as its title sponsor. The team will be branded as the Orient Express Team. As previously known, the team will be led by Stéphan Kandler and Bruno Dubois, both veterans of the America’s Cup, but last week’s announcement confirmed naval architect Benjamin Muyl, skipper Quentin Delapierre, and head of performance Franck Cammas. Antoine Carraz will serve as technical director. Given the late start and the fast approaching Challenger Selection Series in September 2024, the French syndicate has been provided a “technology package” by the America’s Cup defender, Emirates Team New Zealand.  

“Accor’s support through two of its brands is a global and ambitious commitment that will allow our sport-tech platform K-Challenge, co-managed with Bruno, to engage in multiple sporting and technology projects,” said Kandler, who founded K-Challenge in 2001 for a previous America’s Cup campaign. He was joined in 2021 by Dubois, and since then the partners have been dedicated to building a strong and talented French team, including fielding a team for SailGP.

“In France, there is a pool of technical, technological, and sailing talent that our competitors have identified over the years and used for their campaigns,” said Dubois. “Stéphan and I want to bring together as many of these skills as possible to form a strong French team.

According to the announcement, K-Challenge, now Orient Express Team, “has been working for months to ensure that France, a nation recognized as an expert in the field of competitive sailing, will not only compete in this edition of the America’s Cup, but perform. To this end, the French team has signed a technology agreement with the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand. This fantastic opportunity will nullify the time lost in being a late entry and put the French on an equal footing with their talented competitors.”

The technology agreement, according to the team, gains them access to the “latest generation design package,” for the AC75 to be built in France, per the rules of the Cup. “We are fortunate in France to benefit from an extraordinary amount of expertise that we will exploit to the full,” said Dubois. “We will work with Multiplast, based in Vannes in the Morbihan region, CDK, based in Lorient and Port-La-Forêt, as well as numerous subcontractors. Construction of our AC75 will start in April and will be completed in spring 2024.”

Once in possession of its AC40 for training and development of the Orient Express Team youth and women’s America’s Cup squads, the team will be based in Barcelona this summer and continue its presence in SailGP regattas to come.