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Prost gives Team France boat his blessing

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Next step: Team France have launched their first test boat (File photographs by Akil Simmons)

Groupama Team France reached an important campaign milestone on Monday when the team officially launched its AC45S test platform at the team base in Lorient, France.

The boat was christened by Alain Prost, the four-times Formula 1 world champion, and is a genuine “laboratory” boat that the team will use to test and validate its design and engineering ideas, including the important control systems and foil shapes.

A virtual carbon copy of the boat Team France will use at the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda, the test boat is 13.45 metres long and took a total of 23,000 man-hours to just build the platform.

Also at the ceremony were Franck Cammas, the Team France skipper, along with his fellow team principals Michel Desjoyeaux and Olivier de Kersauson, as well as Norbert Métairie, the mayor of Lorient and president of Lorient Agglomération, and Jean-Yves Le Drian, the president of the Breton region.

“What’s important for me is the human, technological, regional and national challenge,” Prost, a patron of Groupama Team France, said. “They are important projects for a country. There are only six syndicates, one of which is French. In France, we have incredible technology and we must find the right synergies.

“I don’t have any experience of flight; I’m longing to go sailing.”

Cammas said the test boat represented the latest stage in the team’s journey to capture the America’s Cup for France.

“Sailing is a thrilling sport,” Cammas said. “We started the project three years ago with Michel Desjoyeaux and Olivier de Kersauson with a view to conquering the America’s Cup.

“Today, we’re presenting to you the first Groupama Team France creation.

“A catamaran, which required 35,000 man-hours and even more in the design office. Our team is made up of 70 people from 12 different nationalities; there are a great many skills across all the different departments: design, construction, performance, shore team and also management and logistics.

“The cup is a tough nut to crack in the sense that we have to beat the world’s best crews, people who have a lot of talent.

“We need to be rigorous, persevering and innovative. Thank you to all our partners for their support and thank you to you all for coming out in force this evening.”