Thursday, July 18, 2024
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InicioRegattaAmerica's CupOrient Express Racing Team skipper and pilot Quentin Delapierre keeps his eyes...

Orient Express Racing Team skipper and pilot Quentin Delapierre keeps his eyes focused on the prize

As skipper and co-pilot of the Orient Express Racing Team’s AC75, Quentin Delapierre is focussed as the clock ticks down to the start of the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup Barcelona in 50 days’ time.

While his primary objective is getting time on the water with the French challenger’s recently launched foiling monohull AC75 before the start of the final preliminary regatta on the 22 August followed by the Louis Vuitton Cup on 29 August, he is also honing his skills as driver of France’s SailGP team — Les Bleus — in the ongoing series. As one of the leaders of the national Cup team, he is also among those welcoming VIP guests to the team’s Barcelona base, which recently included the drivers of the French Formula 1 Alpine team, an Official Partner of Orient Express Racing Team.

For Quentin, 31, and the entire team the major milestone recently reached was the launch and first flight of their AC75 America’s Cup race boat — and the smiles on the crew’s faces when they returned to the dock spoke a million words.

The French K-Challenge is now the Orient Express © Geoff McKay
The French K-Challenge is now the Orient Express © Geoff McKay

“The 75 is a beautiful boat which we are really proud of,” said Quentin reflecting on that maiden sail. “The tech team did an unbelievable job, which they had to do in a rush, which is not easy, but the French nation showed we are able to build this kind of boat.

“We are really pleased with the performance of the 75 — the main challenge for us now is to bring everything together, and make sure the systems are reliable.”

As the last of the five Cup challenger teams to get on the water, Quentin and his crew have no illusions about the challenge ahead even before racing starts, but he paid tribute to the tech and electronics teams who were able to create a simulator which made an enormous difference to their transition.

“When we went sailing in the AC75 it felt familiar. We had been in the AC40 sailing manually of course, and when we transferred to the 75 it was certainly very different, but the hours and hours we had spent in the simulator made the transition easier — I would say we felt very much at home.

“The simulator is a new tool for sailing over the past few years, and since the arrival of the AC75 we have been pushing hard to translate all that we have learnt. It has been a really good start, but we have a way to go.”

America’s Cup Recon. Monday the 4h of March 2024. ORIENT EXPRESS RACING TEAM (FRA) (AC40 Class) practice sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona – Spain. ©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP

Speaking recently before heading to New York for the penultimate edition of SailGP, Quentin emphasised what an important role the top-flight competition played in developing his and the crew’s skills ahead of the America’s Cup.

“It is top competition. When you are part of an AC campaign it is quite difficult to get the opportunity to sail against the other Cup competitors, so being involved in SailGP and racing every month is great as it brings the competition to you at the same time as developing the boat for the Cup.”

Among the SailGP crew are Kevin Peponnet, Jason Saunders, Olivier Herlédant, Timothé Lapauw and Matthieu Vandame — all also members of the AC75 team — as well as Manon Audinet and Amélie Riou, skipper and crew of the Women’s America’s Cup squad. Before New York the team had delivered two second place event finishes, putting them into the three-boat final, and two fourth places alongside an out of character ninth.

“We had a good dynamic early in the season, less so in Bermuda, and then came back from that in Canada with a good second place where we were able to reach the final again,” reflected Quentin. Racing in mixed conditions in New York harbour saw them claim third in two races and finish fifth overall, though they are fourth in the overall season standings ahead of the British, US and Swiss teams and only five points off a podium position.

Before heading west Quentin had the opportunity to meet and share experiences with Alpine F1 drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly ahead of last month’s Barcelona Grand Prix.

“There is more and more crossover between F1 and sailing, particularly as sailing is closing the gap in terms of technology,” noted Quentin. “They were both able to sit in the cockpit and I was able to explain our different roles on board. For them the cockpit was a familiar place, and they also said that their training was very similar to ours, so the connections seem to be getting closer.”

For the record, the Alpine team matched their best result of the season in the subsequent Spanish Grand Prix on June 23.

For the Orient Express Racing Team training for the Challenger, Youth and Women’s America’s Cup teams continues apace, with the Preliminary Regatta Barcelona set for 22 August before the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup Barcelona itself, while Quentin and his SailGP crew will next be in action from 13-15 July in San Francisco for the season finale.

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