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With K-Challenge Racing the France is back on the America’s Cup

K-Challenge Racing is challenger of France now back to the America’s Cup. The new challenge with the colors of the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez joins Ineos Britannia, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, American Magic and Alinghi Red Bull Racing, bringing to five the number of Challengers in the 37th America’s Cup scheduled in Barcelona in autumn 2024.(Here all our posts about America’s Cup)

The K-Challlenge poster for the 2023 season with logos of the America’s Cup and SailGp.

K-Challenge a new challenge for Stephane Kandler

A French team thus returns to the America’s Cup and does so eight years after the participation of Groupama Team France in the Louis Vuitton Challenger Trophy which in 2017preceded the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda. The team’s CEO is Stephane Kandler who is joined by French-Canadian Bruno Dubois. For Stephane Kandler, the new challenge is part of a project born in 2002 from the meeting between him, his father Ortwin Kandler and Dawn Riley, winner of the 1992 America’s Cup aboard Bill Kock’s America3. With that meeting, first a charter company gets under way, then a team which in 2004 becomes the K-Challenge and launches the challenge to the America’s Cup in Valencia 2007. In those regattas which marked Alinghi’s second victory, the K-Challenge participates (not without some controversy from the environmental movements) with the name of Areva Challenge for sponsorship of the French multinational Areva specialized in nuclear plants which had already supported the 2003 challenge: Defi Areva team. But Stephane Kandler led also the participation of the French-German team ALL4ONE in the Louis Vuitton Trophy of 2009-2010 and was part of the challenge promoted by Franck Cammas, Michel Desjoyeaux and Olivier de Kersauson at the Cup in Bermuda 2017.

Areva (ex K-Challenge) racing at the 32nd America’s Cup in Valencia. ©ACM 2007/Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Stephane Kandler is an old enthusiast. The father, Ortwin had been the owner of Krazy K-Yote Two the big boat projected by Juan Kouyoumdjian who was part of the French team at the 1999 Admiral’s Cup and which, with its mast without rigging and “rotating” by backstays, caused much controversy, a protest and the decision of the Offshore Racing Congress of a new and more penalizing tonnage (which led Kandler to withdraw the boat) for a boat which, unfortunately for the opponents, had proved to be as innovative as it was exceptionally fast.

One of the few images of Krazy K-Yote Two drawn for Ortwin Kandler by Juan Kouyoumdjian.

Sail factory, oceans and circuit for the organizer Bruno Dubois

Bruno Dubois has many experiences gained in various worlds of great sailing. Starting with that as a sailor with participation in the Whitbread Race of 1989-90. He was also director of North Sails France for 20 years, team manager of the Chinese team Dongfeng at two editions of the Volvo Ocean Race (won in 2018), collaborated on the challenge of Groupama Team France and with Russell Coutts in the organization of the SailGP. For Dubois, the new role joins the manager of the Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team engaged in The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint which started on January 15 from Alicante, Spain.

Close up for Bruno Dubois as team manager of the France SailGp Team.

K-Challenge, the 13th French Sailing Assault

With K-Challenge Racing, the French yacht is attempting the assault on the Auld Mug for the 13th time but its challengers have never managed to get to The Match. Despite this, France has a special place in the history of the America’s Cup. And not only for the four attempts that Baron Marcel Bich carried out between 1970 and 1980, but because his stubborn desire to participate managed to force New York Yacht Club to organize, in 1970, the first selection of challengers. What was to become the Louis Vuitton Cup. And here is another French bookmark by Bruno Troublé who, in addition to being the helmsman of France III (the first non-Bich challenge) which in 1980 reached the final of the challengers (best French result ever), was also the inventor of the Louis Vuitton Cup. An event that from 1987 to 2021 celebrated all its events, ça va sans dire, with a symbol of France: Moët & Chandon champagne.

Bruno Troublé, inside the “Bruno bouy” created to give exciting points of view to the photographers of the Louis Vuitton Cup which preceded the 32nd America’s Cup in Valencia

France protagonist with innovations and great champions

But France for the America’s Cup also meant the first boat practically designed only on the computer. It was French Kiss, later changed its name to France – K due to trademark and copyright issues. To impose the choice of computer design for that 1987 challenge in Fremantle, Australia, thanks to the collaboration of the computers of the design giant Dassault, a young yacht designer, Philippe Briand, who will then sign all the French challengers until 2000. Alongside the technical innovations French participation in the America’s Cup also boasts a record: that of two brothers at the helm of as many boats in the same Louis Vuitton Cup. It took place in Fremantle 1987 with Marc Pajot at the helm of French Kiss and his brother Yves of Challenge France. Together, it should be remembered, they had won the silver medal at the Kiel regattas of the 1972 Olympic Games. The Pajots, as well as other coxswains of French challengers at the America’s Cup, had training on dinghies and Olympic classes. We need to get to Franck Cammas, and the 2017 edition (last French participation) to have an “ocean” not only at the helm but also among the promoters of the challenge. The others were Michel Desjoyeaux and Olivier de Kersauson.

France Kiss, designed by Philippe Briand

The last assault with Franck Cammas and Groupama Team France

The Cammas-Desjoyeaux-De Kersauson trio attracted the public who had always been in France more attracted by regattas and by the world, and above all by the personalities, of ocean sailing represented by skippers who were protagonists of great feats. In the case of the 2017 challenge, however, there was someone like Franck Cammas, who at the time had in his palmares, among other things, the victory on the Route du Rhum, the transatlantic (made in France) symbol of solo sailing, the record around the world with crew (both obtained aboard multihulls) and, if that weren’t enough, also the one at the Volvo Ocean Race with a monohull. Furthermore, Cammas arrived with the experience gained on the GC32, a full foil cat perfect training bench for the AC50 which was the protagonist of the 35th America’s Cup. Franck Cammas and Groupama Team France did not pass to the second phase of the Round Robins, finishing with only two regattas won in qualifying for the final round of the Louis Vuitton Challenger Trophy.

Groupama Team France in the Louis Vuitton Challenger Trophy regatta in Bermuda.

From France SailGp Team the crew for K-Challenge

France is back in the race for the Auld Mug thanks however (and at least for now) to the initiative of an individual and this when there are many French companies that have focused, and a lot, on sailing. And with significant investments. Just think of the two Ultim 32-23 class foil trimarans, SVR-Lazartigue by Francois Gabart and Banque Populaire XI by Armel Le Cléac’h, launched in 2021 or the eight Imocas by French teams out of a total of nine launched in 2022. Thus in France, which has great designers (think of Marc van Petheghem and Vincent Lauriot Prévost and above all Guillaume Verdier who designed the AC50 winner in Bermuda and the AC75 winner in Auckland 2021) which is home to great skippers, leading companies in the world of design development (Dassault Systèmes joined BMW Oracle in the victory in San Francisco 2013) and of many companies that believe in sailing, it would seem that the America’s Cup doesn’t warm hearts very much.

France SailGp Team engaged in the third season of the 2002-2023 circuit.

Who knows if Stephane Kandler and Bruno Dubois will succeed with a team that has to make a really big race to recover against teams that have already been working for years. Not an easy task even for team manager Bruno Dubois who, however, precisely for one of his other roles, perhaps has the solution ready at least for the crew. In fact, since 2020 Dubois has been leading the France SailGp Team, successfully engaged in the SailGp circuit. From this crew with the helmsman Quentin Delapierre could come the team for the new French participation in the America’s Cup.

Emilio Martinelli

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