Loïck Peyron and his brother Bruno, the key cogs in France’s Energy Team, have just weeks left to secure the sponsorship they need to compete in the America’s Cup and are looking at some formidable in-shore competition in the America’s Cup World Series circuit in the meantime. But regardless of what happens, Loïck Peyron says he is very pleased with how the America’s Cup culture has changed for the better. Energy Team’s technical collaboration with Oracle Racing is just one example of the race’s new spirit of openness. And whether Energy Team successfully becomes a contender in the America’s Cup next year or not, the brothers Peyron are prepared to try again—and again.
Bruce Gain: How far is your team away from getting the sponsorship needed to compete in the America’s Cup?
Loïck Peyron: We are working hard to do that and have fewer than two months left to find out whether we will be there or not. That is the main problem for the moment. It is not easy, especially since time is burning. It is surprising that [we do not have the sponsorship yet] because of the value of the package we are offering, especially with the Oracle deal. That is the reality. But we are still confident. The product we are trying to sell is very, very powerful. We have a [lot to offer] and we are doing very good things with the smallest budget in the fleet. As we say in France, we do not have oil but we have good ideas, but that is not enough to be in The Cup by itself. We also know that we will be on the AC45 series next year and if we are not in the next America’s Cup, then we will be in the one after that.
So you can safely assume that you have the lowest budget compared to the other competitors?
Oh, yes [laughing]. It is definitely the case. We will have one of the best boats, thanks to the Oracle agreement, and we are only looking for 15 million Euro, which is a lot less compared to the other teams. That is why I am speaking the truth when I say that we are offering one of the most attractive packages.
**Is Energy Racing’s relationship with Oracle Racing merely technical? Do you plan to train with Oracle as well? **
No, we are not training with Oracle at all. It is only a technology [agreement]. But we also need to have the sponsorship to [compete] in order to make use of the technology that Oracle Racing is offering.
How do you, as a challenger, feel about breaking an important Cup tradition by working with the defender to prepare?
That is the proof that the mindset has changed and that the defenders are doing a lot of good things by attempting to improve the race, which used to be a very private and closed event for many, many years. They want to make it accessible to more people and we can only agree with this point of view. It is very interesting to listen and share with them our thoughts about the decisions, about the new rules, and about the courses. I am very happy to live this moment now. Everything is really changing. It is better for younger sailors, too. You can see that with the new crews. It is a new generation. There is a new spirit and new people. But it is still the Cup. The Cup is a very respectable older woman, but they have killed her and taken her DNA to make a new body that is a lot sexier. But the same DNA is inside, because we have to respect what was done for a century and a half.
How do you see Energy Team transitioning from the AC45 to an AC72 series boat?
We will be ready. The big revolution took place two years ago when the rules were changed and everything else changed. Before that, the technology was not shared around the world. The smart decision was the one-design rule. The AC45 races have also served as a great opportunity to race against more international teams, including the Chinese and South Korean teams. But as we know, there are not that many challengers able to compete in the Vuitton Cup challenge and we still hope very much to be there. All the venues and events in the [America’s Cup World Series] have changed so much [for the better]. The exchanges with all of the guests are so interesting at all of the venues. What goes on behind the scenes here at these World Series races is very interesting; here in Venice, the activity in the [yacht] village is like that of a Formula 1 car race. There is the race and there is also what goes on behind the scenes where you can share information and technologies.
What part will you play on the AC72? Will Yann Guichard, who has done a fine job steering the AC45 for the past few World Series events, be the helmsman for the AC72?
No, we are sharing the wheel. Here, in Venice, I will be at the helm and I will be the helmsman in Newport. But in San Francisco, Yann will be back at the helm for the first race. Since the beginning, it was clear that we will share the wheel. As you know, you need at least two helmsmen. The boats are so wide that when you tack and jibe you really need to share the wheel. Because there is along distance required to traverse the net from one side of the boat to the other, you need at least [one capable helmsman] on each side. Yann and I are also not going to be the only helmsmen to be tested on the boats, either.
While we have not yet sailed on an AC72, we have all been sailing on many different types of boats for many years. As you know, Yann is the skipper on his own MOD70 project and part of our crew is also involved in the MOD70 program. So as we said two years ago when we started Energy Team, we have a chance in France. The pity is that we do not have much mone,y but we have many ideas and a lot of [boat design knowhow], from A Class catamarans to mega multihulls, like the Banque Populaire.
The AC45s struggled in the wind and waves off Naples. But there is expected to be higher winds and bigger waves on San Francisco Bay. How will the AC72s be able to withstand that abuse on a daily basis? What is the danger of a capsize or pitchpole?
As you know, when you make a mistake on a monohull, you just risk losing some speed or position, but on a multihull, you may lose your boat. That is why we are confident that we can compensate for our lack of time and training with our depth of multihull racing experience. For sure, the best way to win a race is by finishing it, and on a big multihull, all of the problems and all of the mistakes you make can definitely create big problems.
So sailing on an AC72 in San Francisco will not be a major challenge?
The AC72s are definitely big boats and the most complicated thing to manage is the logistics and preparation. You have the problem of managing the big loads everywhere, the faster speeds, and the course itself in San Francisco is certainly not the easiest one. The risk of breakages is very high, of course.
**Besides The Cup races, what are your off-shore racing plans in the near- and long-term? **
I do not have any off-shore plans these days. What I would really like to do is some off-shore cruising with my family. I would really like to do a round-the-world trip with them–but with stops—one day. Each time I do a round-the-world trip, I usually don’t stop. But I am now mainly focused on The Cup and that has been a big part of my life.