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Champagne pours in French fashion at launch

Breaking the bottle: Groupama Team France lower their boat (Photograph by Eloi Stichelbaut)

In an intimate “unofficial” celebration, Elise Bakhoum christened the yacht Groupama Team France in traditional French fashion at Dockyard yesterday.

As the only woman on Groupama Team France’s shore team, she poured the champagne over the bow, as the French do, rather than breaking the bottle.

Much of the champagne sprayed the team as they cheered when she popped the cork. What was left, she poured on the bow of the portside hull.

Bakhoum wished the yacht good luck in Bermuda waters as she stood on a Royal Dockyard bollard to splash the bubbly up on the deck. Women always christen ships for good luck and safe voyages. She wished the yacht and her team “Bon Courage” with a broad smile.

A short time later, Groupama Team France launched their America’s Cup Class entry in the competition. All of the AC Class 50 foot catamarans have now been launched, five in Bermuda’s Great Sound. The sixth, the “Lone Wolf” named New Zealand was launched in Auckland.

Only Groupama Team France team members and sponsors were present for the ceremony, but it was streamed on Facebook.

Team representatives explained their official naming had been the christening of their test boat which was made of 90 per cent of the components of the AC Class 50 launched yesterday.

While the French yacht was in the air being prepped for its first splash, everybody got a good look at the L-shaped daggerboards and the T-shaped rudders. These are the carbon-fibre foils which will lift the AC50’s out of the water, like underwater wings to fly the whole boat above the waves.

Since foil shape is one of the only free design features of the class, not part of the one-design class rule, Team France and all the teams are focused on that. The class rules limits the number of foil shafts and tips a team can build for the AC Class boat. In their 45s training platform they could build six shafts and 12 tips.

In the 50 footer they get just 4 shafts and 8 tips. The tip, must not represent more than 30 per cent of the foil weight. Its length is not restricted.

The difference between the two daggerboards was noticeable. One is straight ‘L’ shape while the other has a curved tip.

“The rule does not require the boat to be configured symmetrically when racing,” Martin Fischer, a team member, said.

“As a result, our port and starboard foils can be different. This is an interesting element, because when you run the race simulations, you notice that the course is not symmetrical.

“There’s more emphasis on starboard tack than port tack. There are two high-speed reaching legs on starboard tack.”

For America’s Cup news or updates, Talbot Wilson can be reached at 595-5881 or 278-0143