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GJW Direct 2024 Dinghy

The dream becomes reality as Orient Express Racing Team christen their AC75 race boat

by Orient Express Racing Team 29 May 18:10 BST 29 May 2024
Orient Express Racing Team christen their AC75 race boat © Alexander Champy-McLean / Orient Express Racing Team

Orient Express Racing Team opened a new chapter in their remarkable and inspiring America's Cup story today with the christening of their elegant new AC75 race boat, a notable milestone for the French team — representing the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez — which is united in its dream of bringing the world's oldest sporting trophy, the America's Cup, to France for the first time.

The official reveal of the dramatic looking midnight blue hull with a thin gold stripe flowing from bow to stern was greeted with delight and applause by the members of the entire French team, gathered at their Barcelona base alongside partners, sponsors and the many supporters of this America's Cup challenger.

The stylish foiling yacht was first glimpsed on Saturday when her 26m mast was fitted, followed by her launch on Monday. At almost 23m in length the AC75 is a remarkable sight and will soon go on to reach speeds of around 50 knots when fully powered up on her foils in competition.

The celebratory christening ceremony was carried out by Manon Audinet, the skipper of the French Women's America's Cup team, Enzo Balanger, the skipper of the Youth team, Quentin Delapierre, skipper and pilot of the AC75, and Gilda Perez Alavarado, Orient Express CEO and Accor Group Chief Strategy Officer, with the traditional breaking of a bottle of champagne over the foil.

"This is a remarkable moment on our journey, one where the dream shared by myself, Bruno Dubois and the entire Orient Express Racing Team has become a reality," said Stephan Kandler, Founder of K-Challenge and co-CEO of Orient Express Racing Team.

"It is an emotional one as well as so much dedication and effort has gone into reaching this important milestone, the christening of the AC75 here in front of so many people who have made this event possible in so many different ways.

"Thank you to everyone involved as we look forward to the start of the America's Cup and the part we aim to play racing for France."

For Stephan this marks his second America's Cup campaign, having spearheaded the K-Challenge project in the 2007 Cup series. This time around Stephan set the project's wheels in motion with co-CEO Bruno Dubois in 2022. Moving at pace with a clear vision they were able to quickly gather together a highly experienced race and shore team which includes sailing legend Franck Cammas as Head of Performance, Benjamin Muyl as Head of Design, Antoine Carraz as Chief Technical Officer, Louis Viat as Chief Operating Officer, and race skipper Quentin Delapierre, and announce their challenge for the 37th America's Cup in February 2023. At the same time it was decided to agree an AC75 design package with New Zealand, which allowed the team to make up valuable ground leading to today's gratifying moment.

Today's christening also marks the culmination of nine months and 46,000 hours of dedicated and focused work, first at the Multiplast site in Vannes, France, followed by two months of fitting out at the French base in Barcelona, Spain - home to the Louis Vuitton 37th America's Cup.

Bruno Dubois, co-CEO of Orient Express Racing Team, said: "What a remarkable yacht this is, a testament to the exceptional talent we have been so fortunate in having involved, both here in Barcelona and at Multiplast in Vannes. This moment is a celebration of their commitment.

"Now the focus moves to the race and shore teams who have the opportunity to apply all that they have learned in the simulator and on the AC40 to the AC75, with the big challenge ahead for us all."

For the moment at least the team and their partners can reflect on a successful new chapter, not least the Title Partner. Speaking at the launch celebration Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO of Accor, said: "All of us at Accor are proud to see Orient Express and on this impressive racing yacht, and proud too that we have been able to contribute to the success of this remarkable project.

"As the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup, as well as the Youth and Women's America's Cup competitions, comes ever closer our support is unwavering and we send the racing sailors and their support teams best wishes for their success."

The final Preliminary Regatta will be held in Barcelona from 22-25 August, before the main event kicks-off in earnest with the Louis Vuitton Cup from 29 August. A series of round robin races will determine who goes forward to the Cup's semi-finals and final, before the Louis Vuitton 37th America's Cup itself starts on 12 October.

Gilda Perez Alavarado, Orient Express CEO and Accor Group Chief Strategy Officer: "We are immensely proud at Orient Express to represent the official French challenger for the 37th America's Cup, Orient Express Racing Team. Our teams, composed of talented women, men, and youth, embody the link between human and technological excellence. More than just a sport or competition, sailing represents the sense of passion and commitment which we honour and celebrate through today's christening ceremony of the AC75."