Hublot shoots for great myths of the sea with Alan Roura
While the sea world is anchored in the brand’s DNA, there needed to be an adventure as tall as Everest for it to fully enter the mythical world of boat races. Alan Roura, the Genevan navigator supported by the brand is getting ready for his third participation in the Vendée Globe, with a potential victory ahead. Our story from Lorient on Hublot’s IMOCA 60 monohull.
By Cristina D’Agostino14 juin 2022
It’s a story which goes back to the creation of the brand in 1980 with this iconic design of a boat window (...) With the Vendée Globe, our adventure continues with the most iconic of sea races
Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of the Swiss Watchmaking brand Hublot
At large near Lorient, close to the Groix island, the wind is blowing. A few hundred meters away, the IMOCA 60 Hublot is travelling fast. Its great black sail stands out, alone in the tormented horizon. On board, Alan Roura and his two crewmen navigate alongside a few members of the European press who came for the rare experience of a 60-feet boat. Three times that day, the Swiss navigator patiently embarked neophytes new to navigating at sea. Yet the Genevan sailor is happy to do so and is delighted to have found a great sponsor with the watchmaking brand Hublot, which enabled him to dream at the next Vendée Globe victory in 2024.
To Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot, “it’s a story which goes back to the creation of the brand in 1980 with this iconic design of a boat window. And today, by choosing to engage fully into the Everest adventure of the sea with Alan Roura, it is a great Swiss adventure which we are supporting. Of course, we hope to win, but it is also a way for the brand to associate further with this sustainable sport. We have been the official chronometer of the Bol d’Or Mirabaud since 2013. With the Vendée Globe, our adventure continues with the most iconic of sea races. When Alan Roura contacted us, we did not hesitate for long. It is the choice of the boat which definitely seduced me. During our last Vendée Globe, many only had eyes for Alex Thompson’s boat, a race beast, beautifully dressed to the colors of its sponsor at the time. Today, the IMOCA 60 Hublot monohull stands out with its colors black, yellow, and white which are typical of our brand. It is magnificent.”
A cutting-edge monohull
Indeed, when getting closer to the sailboat, its aesthetics with a large logo of the brand on the sail, is conceived to attract attention. An important strategy, at a time where boat races have widely adapted to social media presence. From now on, each navigator must produce videos and sound captions during races, regardless of the weather conditions, in order to make the race lively and attractive from afar, otherwise risking sanctions. The world of old seamen is also becoming more modern.
It is kind of a sea Tesla (...) I feel I have mastered it at 70% and the two years and a half that separate us from the Vendée Globe will give us the necessary time to tame it
Alan Roura, Swiss navigator
At sea, Alan Roura is expecting us, ready to welcome us, smiling. He quickly explains where we can hang on to, as the slim monohull is not made like others. At sea since 2019 for the British skipper Alex Thomson, the most extreme and most innovative flying boat of its generation is characterized by innovative foils and a closed cockpit. Its deck, entirely covered with solar panels, enables it to be 100% energy autonomous. “It is kind of a sea Tesla, tells Alan. Many curious people come to see it, since it’s been at the Lorient port. We are still learning its capabilities. The idea is to push its limits along the races, but I already have it well in hand. I feel I have mastered it at 70% and the two years and a half that separate us from the Vendée Globe will give us the necessary time to tame it.” Impressive when its foils raise, the IMOCA 60 Hublot whistles, cracks, moves along the wind knots which were getting stronger that afternoon. The crew is smiling, the passengers are not. One or two journalists attempt at holding the bar. The flexibility and reactivity of the boat are astounding. Inside the carbon cockpit, the pilot seat that serves as a bed lies in the middle of the space. Facing it, a winch, tens of multicolored ropes, computer screens, three windows which enable him to have a panoramic view on the outside. On the sides, storage spaces, food. “Comfort inside the cockpit is priceless, when one navigates at sea, explains Alan. Alex Thompson conceived it to reduce race tiredness at its maximum. And it is indeed true. To avoid navigating wet is truly an advantage, which no longer separates me from navigating sensations. In any case, we are practically spending all our time with our eyes stuck to weather screens, trying to choose the right options. As for a boat to be fast, we must have a 20-degree roost target. The only thing I still must improve is to dare pushing its limits to the maximum. But I am getting there. Rasta Rockett and I speak together (name of the boat rebranded by Alan Roura). It answers to me when I make it fly.”
A two-million yearly budget
This boat is cutting-edge. We gather data every day. Everything is measured, with a system based on ton size
Technical crew member of Alan Roura
Light and cutting-edge, the monohull can hope to reach victory. After the significant damage on the carbon hull Alex Thompson endured at sea during the last Vendée Globe, the boat was modified. While the choice of the British navigator had been to go for materials shaped as “beehives” surrounded by carbon, offering lightness, rigidity, yet a high propension to impact, eight-meter-high hulls were replaced by denser foams. His crew, the Hublot Sailing Team, a true racing team made of eight full-time employees, including his wife responsible for coordination and relations with the IMOCA class, has been setup in the Base site of Lorient since 2017. All of them wait for the upcoming races which will allow them to decipher precious data regarding the boat’s behavior. “We are especially waiting for the Route du Rhum race, explains one of the technical crew members, as in Winter the boat is taken out of the water, and we can modify what Alan Roura will have noticed.” But it is especially the electronic part of the boat, conceived with a British system, which still generates significant work for the team. “Under the pilot seat, it’s like Las Vegas, tells the IT manager, there is the optical fiber, two autopilots, the computer, electric jacks on the sides. This boat is cutting-edge. We gather data every day. Everything is measured, with a system based on ton size. The boat is about nine tons, the foils and the foil casings weigh about 700 kilos, so those that choose to be in system with derivatives gain significant weight. Our work is to decipher the speed pressure data. To give you an example, in 16 knots of wind, the boat has to go at 22 knots.”
Researching the best weigh- resistance – speed ratio is crucial in navigating. New materials are tested by the crew. And even if lightness remains of course the main objective, today, new ways are rising to find sustainable materials as to replace harmful chemical glues and try new fibers. The head of composite materials at the Hublot Sailing Team explains: “New trials are currently being done with flax fiber. We remain attentive to these innovations, as we produce constant effort on carbon recycling, and all other materials. It is important to our sector.”
Four transatlantic journeys away Alan Roura before going back for a world tour in 2024. “The Route du Rhum, Transat Jacques Vabre are important races. But I would also like to beat a few records in between two races, as the one of the North Atlantic solo journeys which I hold with a 7-day, 16 hours and 58 minutes navigation from 2019.” This planning will enable him to have a maximum of luck for the Vendée Globe 2024-2025. A program with a budget set at 2 million francs a year, including the boat rental, salaries, and insurances. As Alan Roura is not the owner of the monohull. He rents it from a company which agreed to buy it when the navigator was closing his partnership with Hublot. “Everything happened over ten days. Of course, Hublot was a brand I would regularly contact. That year was the right one.”
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