03. VPLP - Two men who draw boats
by Bill Ando published in YTM #1, Spring 2010.
Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot Prévost are known for designing
fast yachts that usually have more than one hull. Say the letters V-P-L-P.
You’ve just said the name of the most successful designers of multihulls
on the planet. Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot Prévost, the French
design team known as VPLP, the acronym from the combination of the initials
of their last names.
Fast friend since they met during their studies at Southhampton Institute, they nurtured their passion for the sea by frequent sails aboard the Val 38-foot trimaran Elle -- a Dick Newick design, which they helped to build on the banks of the Hamble. It also turned their eyes toward mutihulls as the way to go fast under sail. The lifelong sailors were fresh out of college when they founded VPLP in 1983, launching the enterprise with a racing trimaran design commissioned by Vincent Levy for the OSTAR, (Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race) now known as the English Transat. The 50-foot foiler Gerard Lambert was the first in a long line of racing trimarans that created a name for the firm and established the young designers as innovators in the field of naval architecture.
Although the BMW ORACLE 90-foot trimaran that recently won the America’s cup is perhaps the most visible boat they have designed, and certainly the most innovative, it is not the largest boat they have drawn. Their boats have set and hold more records than any other designer or design team. Arguably no other multihull designers have dominated in the various fields of yacht design: record setting trimarans: Geronimo, the 34-meter (112-foot) trimaran for Olivier de Kersauson set five records in the pacific and took the Jules Verne trophy in 2004. Currently the 40-meter (131-foot) trimaran, Maxi Banque Pouplaire V, holds the 24-hour sailing record of 907 miles that was set as it claimed the east to west transatlantic record in three days 15 hours. There hasn’t been an offshore multihull race in the last ten years that has not had a VPLP design at the starting line. Douce France, launched in 1999, at 140-feet is still the worlds largest sailing catamaran. Soon though it will be eclipsed by Hemisphere a 145-footer that will launch in about eight months from Penndennis. Production cruising catamarans: Lagoon maintains the most successful global sales in their market. They have also gladly drawn monohulls, including two 60-foot racers. They say the boats they remain fondest of are the their first, Gerard Lambert, Douce France, which Marc says was 10 years ahead of its time and, of course, BMW Oracle. They say there hasn't been a great deal of notoriety as a result of the AC challenger—some in the racing field but it has not been overwhelming. They have enjoyed some brand recognition in the luxury cruising market, “but only by aficionados.”
Now with the concern over climate change and energy usage the team is once again thinking ahead. At the design Symposium in New York City held in October of 2009 Van Peteghem presented a design manifesto on a practical ocean sailing catamaran. It is, “a yacht designed to voyage—simple, functional, fast, reliable and easy to maintain.” It’s interesting to note that there is no length mentioned on the manifesto. That is because the ideas put forth are applicable to any size yacht. A split schooner rig is indicated “to limit the loads during manoeuvres and enable them to be manually operated.” The hulls will of course contain the staterooms. “Laid out according to a plan which avoids the costly procedure of having to shape the furniture to meet the curve of the hull.” Van Peteghem states in the Manifesto. The main deck, it continues, can be laid out freely according to the needs of the client, but the core of the realization stays the same. “We will use flat panels and angled elements to enable a better utilization of space. It also insists that it be “an ecologically clean and an economically functioning yacht.” It will safely handle containment and treatment of used water and lower the energy consumed by reverting to alternative solutions. A natural ventilation system that will, to a large extent, substitute for air conditioning. Minimize the use of lights and reduce hydraulic functions as much as possible. Also, ensure simultaneous access to renewable energy: solar, thermal and photovoltaic and wind energy and a large bank of new generation batteries.
As the world changes and people realize the benefits of catamarans and trimarans, the VPLP brand will no doubt grow to enjoy a notoriety beyond that which it has today—deservedly so. Anyone who has sailed a trimaran or catamaran across an ocean knows the subtle details that it takes to make a multihull work day after day in the elements. Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot Prévost have that figured out. So the rest of us can go out and enjoy their work.