I am particularly moved, this is the culmination of 6 years of work with my team, 6 years of our lives developing the MADBrain pilot. Since the arrival of the two skippers, we have received a lot of congratulations, it is a great satisfaction!
Like all innovations, our pilot is the result of an intuition: we can do better than what exists. At the beginning, we were developing our wind calculation unit, and we were trying to understand the black box of our competitors, which was an ordeal... Fortunately, and we thank them for this, skippers, demanding and crazy about technology like us, trusted us to design a new pilot, like Jérémie Beyou or François Gabart, in 2015, with a view to making gains on his round the world voyage. Our advantage is that we started from scratch. But above all, we are a great team, with talented people like Benoît, Hugo, Clément, Jérémie, Nicola, Mathilde... After that, it's also an entrepreneurial adventure, with a fund-raising in 2016 which allowed us to innovate.
A good pilot is first and foremost a pilot in whom you have confidence. We entrust him with the helm 99% of the time! The electronics can support performance, but they can also make you lose ground. So we have no right to make mistakes. We are developing quite complex hardware and software, far removed from an application for selfies or an electronic box to open a gate! The sailor must be able to sleep soundly, without bugs.
Secondly, a good pilot has to make the boat fast, reaching his target speeds. This is the challenge we have met. According to all the skippers, our custom MADBrain driver steers better than them in most situations. As boats get faster and faster, the MADBrain's steering finesse, reaction time and concentration are often better than the human hand and brain.
ATLANTIC OCEAN, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 2: French skipper Charlie Dalin is training on APIVIA for the Vendee Globe sailing race on the Atlantic ocean, France, on September 2, 2020. (Photo by Vincent Curutchet/Alea)
This does not mean that ocean racing has become a race for drones. It is still the sailors who choose their route, who manage these cathedrals of carbon, canvas and bits. I am really impressed by the human commitment that this represents. The skippers in the Vendée Globe are real modern heroes. They make us dream.
We are very happy with the sporting performance of Yannick and Charlie, not forgetting Thomas and Giancarlo. At one point in the race we had 7 boats in the top 10!
My greatest satisfaction is that I was able to sleep... The 24-hour emergency number we set up hardly rang at all. The pilot and the computer centre worked without interruption for over 80 days. We had anticipated sensor problems, such as overheads, by offering automatic detection and switching between redundant sensors. For this first Vendée Globe, it's a great success for our pilot.
We will continue to improve fault tolerance. We have to find a solution with the aerial suppliers, the wind measurement suppliers, to avoid malfunctions. We have some ideas...
And above all, we have to ensure the safety of the sailors! I'm very angry about Boris' collision (who is not a client, editor's note). Today, this type of accident should no longer happen! On-board technologies such as AIS and radar work perfectly. At Madintec, we have developed an obstacle avoidance solution, specially adapted to sailing boats. The pilot changes course to avoid an accident. I hope that our solution will become widespread for the next Vendée Globe.
You only have to sail a new generation boat with big foils once to realise that we will never go back. On the surface, the average differences between the new and old foilers are not obvious, but the top speeds of the new foilers are impressive. You can double the wind speed.
What's missing now is flight stability. It's a very exciting challenge that we're going to achieve. I can't tell you much about it at the moment, but it's based on brainwaves, complex algorithms and the exploitation of a large mass of data collected on board.
The context is not easy, but there are still many projects to come. Madintec continues to innovate in the safety and performance of sailboats. I hope that the budgetary restrictions of the classes, in particular in Imoca, will not penalise us. The electronics budget for a team is relatively small compared to other items. If the rules had been too restrictive four years ago, Madintec would not exist today. The Imoca has always been a fabulous laboratory.
I hope that the innovations developed for the Vendée Globe will continue to benefit as many people as possible, as we are doing now by offering our products to the Class40s and IRCs for example.
Voiles & voiliers talks about Madintec...
The 9 boats equipped with the Madintec pilot on the Vendée Globe 2020: Maître Coq, Apivia, LinkedOut, Prysmian Group, DMG Mori, Initiatives Coeur, MACSF, Arkea PAprec, PRB.
Image credits (from top to bottom): Jean-Louis Carli/Alea/Maître Coq, Yannick Bestaven, Vincent Curutchet/Aléa Disobey/Apivia, Vendée Globe 2020 cartography, Vincent Curutchet/Aléa Disobey/Apivia