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Technology transfers have become a reality in the world of composites. For the case in point, aerospace technologies have been applied successfully to ocean racing, resulting in a sailboat circumnavigating the globe in under 50 days. This success was made possible thanks to the use of high-performance composite materials.
(Published on August-September 2010 - JEC Magazine #59)
On March 20 of this year, the Groupama 3 trimaran of Franck Cammas set a new round-the-world sailing record of 48 days 7 hours 44 minutes, slicing 2 days 8 hours and 35 minutes off the previous record held by Bruno Peyron on Orange 2. This record earned Franck Cammas the much-coveted Jules Verne Trophy.
The Multiplast shipyard in Vannes, which manufactured and prepared these two super boats, called upon the expertise of Structil, as did the Lorima shipyard in Lorient which provided the mast for Groupama 3.
On 7 June 2006, the launch of this maxi-trimaran measuring 31.50 m marked the launch of the 6th maximultihull to Multiplast’s name since 2000, and confirmed its status as world leader in the manufacturing of maximultihulls for trans-oceanic racing. Groupama 3 was designed by the naval architects, Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot-Prévost.
The carbon prepregs, adhesive film and pultruded profiles used for the hulls, floats, crossbeams, deck, internal fittings, mast and boom were manufactured by Structil using high-resistance, high-modulus carbon fibres from Mitsubishi Rayon.
A gigantic puzzle
Groupama 3 was, and still is, a sophisticated boat that required the manufacturing of over 400 different parts, both large and small: flat parts such as flooring and bulkheads; shaped parts such as hulls and fairings; multiple parts such as crossbeams, mast foot and fittings. The trimaran is an all-carbon sandwich construction using a Nomex honeycomb core and epoxy resin. All parts were oven-cured at between 100 and 120°C, with multiple curing steps for certain parts. To this end, Multiplast has several ovens, one of which – measuring 50 m – was the biggest of its kind in Europe in 2006.
The reliability of Multiplast products derives first and foremost from its ongoing quality control: control of raw materials, the technical characteristics of which are checked prior to use; then, the production of samples to confirm the mechanical characteristics of the composite; and finally, control by means of non-destructive ultrasound testing.
This boat is the result of efficient collaboration between three entities: the naval architects, the Groupama 3 technical team and the Multiplast yard. No fewer than 50 people worked on the production of this 22.5 m boat – the world's largest trimaran – that also features curved foils. What is more, the fittings are for the most part made of carbon and built into the boat (as opposed to add-on fittings). Hence, the centreboard well has been designed to receive different appendages in line with developments, without being modified. The mast foot on the central hull is made entirely of carbon, whereas it was made of titanium on previous-generation boats. For reasons of performance and weight saving, Groupama 3 has never needed a primer prior to being painted.
The race goes on! The products developed by Structil can also be found on the Banque Populaire 5 maxi-trimaran, onboard which Pascal Bidégorry will attempt to improve still further on this record in autumn 2010.