Each of these programmes translates as a joint success for CDK Technologies and BANQUE POPULAIRE: from the conquest of the Jules Verne Trophy with Loick Peyron in 2012 on Banque Populaire V, to this extraordinary victory posted by Armel Le Cléac’h in this Vendée Globe on Banque Populaire VIII.
But what is it like behind the scenes of such a feat for the builder? We get the low-down on the key points that have led to this conquest:
- Late 2013, 3 years before the start of the Vendée Globe: an intense period of valuations and negotiations for the construction of a new boat designed to take the start in 2016. There is stiff competition among the 7 new-build projects, and ultimately it’s the Safran-Banque Populaire consortium that decides to pool its efforts and entrust CDK Technologies with the build. It’s a sign of their confidence in us as well as being a sizeable challenge for the yard, which has also taken an order for the Ultime trimaran MACIF, followed a few months later by the order of a mast for the Maxi trimaran Spindrift 2.
- Early 2014, the build commences: on this date, there is still one great unknown with regards to the IMOCA measurement and in particular the possibility of using foils, which is a promising new concept from the naval architects at VPLP. It’s a major decision in terms of the structure of these boats and the definitive response isn’t heard until October 2014. Construction of Banque Populaire VIII begins as soon as the tooling is released by SAFRAN. CDK Technologies’ workforce goes from 45 to 85 people in 6 months. It’s a major challenge to pull off all these projects at the same time and there is a period of intense activity on every level, culminating with the launch of BP VIII in June 2015. Sea trials commence.
- November 2015, the first race for the newcomers to the IMOCA class: there are a series of retirements in the first few days of the race for all the latest generation foilers, save for Armel Le Cléac’h who’s sailing reservedly in a bid to tame his new machine and is hot on the heels of winner PRB with her classic daggerboards. CDK monopolises the podium in every class: MACIF in Ultime, PRB in IMOCA and FENETREA in MULTI 50. The yard’s teams, initially taken aback by the retirement of SAFRAN2 due to structural issues, are rewarded for their months of intensive effort. HUGO BOSS, BP VIII’s main rival in this Vendée, is saved in extremis from total loss.
- Late 2015, return to France and winter refits for all the foilers, launch of the Ultime BP IX: CDK Technologies is called upon to make substantial structural reinforcements to absorb the stresses generated by these new appendages. In light of the promising performances of the foilers, Jérémie Beyou decides to bond foils onto his 2011 design. He entrusts CDK Technologies with refitting his boat (which is none other than the former BP VI, at the controls of which Armel finished 2nd in the Vendée Globe 2012 behind François Gabart).
Meantime, BANQUE POPULAIRE reiterates its confidence in CDK Technologies by entrusting it with the build of its Ultime BP IX, which is due for launch in mid-2017. The BANQUE POPULAIRE - CDK TECHNOLOGIES saga continues.
- Early 2016, optimisation phase: a series of sea trials ensues with the teams gradually honing their steeds as they learn to operate the foils. Armel wins The Transat, validating all the work carried out on her since the launch. Jérémie Beyou goes on to win the New York Vendée, the first ever IMOCA victory for him and he does so in the very first race on his recently transformed boat. The rise in power of the latest generation CDK boats is very much in evidence, a fact heightened by SAFRAN 2’s performance in the Trophée AZIMUT, where she’s able to show just what she’s made of after being seriously damaged during the Transat Jacques Vabre.
Summer 2016, the teams gradually come together in terms of performance: a few lingering issues remain, the focus of which is the fine-tuning of the foils. Meantime, the tweetosphere debate on the chances of the ‘classics’ and the ‘flying boats’ is in full swing. The deadline is approaching, the weapons are being sharpened, and HUGO BOSS’ position, far from the concentration of the top teams in southern Brittany is likely an advantage at this stage of play: no direct confrontation with rivals, little information on the performance and technical issues: Alex Thomson continues on his journey, far from the media furore of the Vendée Globe.
It’s all systems go for the construction of BP IX.
October 2016: the moment of truth! The Vendée Globe pontoons are fizzing. It’s time for one last tour of the boats built by CDK Technologies, as well as some competing boats. A chance too to discover the latest optimisations implemented by the teams and an opportunity to put the world to rights a little in this 3-year programme to prepare for the Everest of singlehanded races. Everyone has something to say on the matter and the teams at CDK Technologies organise a competition to predict the winner using improvised rules to establish the rankings. The debate continues to rage between the ‘classics’ and the ‘flying boats’. The 3 generations of CDK boats present at the start are among the predicted top 5. In fact, there are 7 CDK boats participating in this edition, all of which are competitive and in with a chance of a solid result in this race.
November 2016: the race start and the first lessons learned. The sailors set sail on their race with varying degrees of caution and pretty quickly onlookers are able to get their first impressions about the boats’ performances, which come with a first surprise: HUGO BOSS is very fast for one (though this was not entirely unexpected given the performances posted by her in the New York Vendée), but Alex Thomson also catches his rivals unawares by his ambitious tactical choices. He clearly sails in a very different manner to those at the Pôle Finistère Course au Large, which is where the main candidates train. The atmosphere at the yard is calm with no problems in the first days of the race. The telephones are silent.
The descent of the Atlantic, the start of the Southern Ocean and the initial damage: Armel, Alex and Vincent are leading the way at the front of the fleet, fuelling the debate between the daggerboards and the foils. Meantime, the first mechanical incidents occur: breakage of the masthead on Tanguy De Lamotte’s boat, collision and loss of the starboard foil tip for HUGO BOSS, then more collisions with UFOs for PRB, SAFRAN and later SMA. The atmosphere at the yard is a little sullen: 4 boats retire in a short space of time and the UFOs form the essence of conversations on the pontoons. Jean Le Cam, relatively silent since the start, posts a very humorous video in which he describes how difficult he finds it to use the means for shooting footage placed at his disposal by Pollux, the legendary filming ace. The Le Cam video show is up and running and will seemingly never stop.
Armel’s burst of speed in the South: Armel silences the rumours about the performance of his boat, which it is supposed is not as good as HUGO BOSS. The few snippets of information revealed by the very secretive Ronan Lucas, BANQUE POPULAIRE’s team manager, during meetings to monitor the build of BP IX, suggest that the team’s skipper has things very much in hand and put pedal to the metal just at the right point. Alex Thomson seems tired and Armel manages to move up into a different weather system to that of his rivals. The break is made at this very point it would seem. With an 800-mile lead at Cape Horn, the die is cast. At CDK Technologies, the dream of victory and 3 CDK boats in the top 5 takes concrete form.
Jean Le Cam continues his show and during a conversation with Yann Eliès on 28 December, he pays homage to CDK Technologies: “we fell into the resin when we were young”.
The climb up the Atlantic, Armel’s ordeal: Armel is hit by a series of unfavourable weather situations and the Briton digs deep. Those who bet he would break his boat are surprised to witness a tenacious skipper from across the Channel posting a solid performance. Alex Thomson is gradually reeling in Armel, a feat assisted by a new singlehanded monohull record for the greatest distance covered in 24 hours. We start to get a little concerned, reservedly asking around a bit among Armel’s entourage as to the condition of the boat: “There is no major problem preventing him from sailing his boat at virtually its full potential… but it’s high time he was back in port”. The last few days are stressful for one and all with HUGO BOSS’ comeback the hot topic. We keenly await each ranking, reassuringly reminding ourselves of his reputation as a fighter. Indeed, the Jackal (Armel le Cléac’h’s nickname that alludes to his fighter instinct, a character that never gives up) is bound to come good, even if he crosses the finish line just 30 seconds in front!!
19 January - deliverance! BANQUE POPULAIRE VIII is first across the finish line, after 74 days 3 H 35 m 6 S at sea, giving CDK Technologies its 4thvictory in 8 editions of the Vendée Globe, thus confirming the yard’s status in the exclusive preserve of this race.
The members of the CDK staff and a handful of associates who participated in the construction of BP VIII have been on site since yesterday. The smiles say it all as the debrief beckons and stories about the end of this race are retold hundreds of times. It’s a fantastic reward for the teams at CDK Technologies, the news of which will spread like wildfire at the yard, giving added drive to the teams dedicated to the construction of the trimaran BANQUE POPULAIRE IX.
To parody a famous footballing maxim, we’re tempted to assert that “The Vendée Globe is a race practised in solo configuration and ultimately it’s a CDK boat that wins”.
In any case, experiencing such moments as these is why we at CDK Technologies do what we do.