Like many of his compatriots, British skipper Iain Percy is as much a dab hand at humour as he is at taking the helm of his ultra-fast catamaran. The bewhiskered sailor spoke affably about the partnership that now unites Artemis Racing, one of the challengers in the next America’s Cup, and watch manufacturer Ulysse Nardin, part of Kering group. The two will sail side by side until 2017 under an agreement that will go beyond simply procuring visibility and boosting the brand’s credentials. This, in substance, was the announcement made by Patrik Hoffmann, CEO Ulysse Nardin, at Baselworld where he was joined by Percy and by Loïck Peyron, a member of the Artemis design team.
Ulysse Nardin’s maritime connections are well-known, not least among sailors themselves who are familiar with the quality of the marine chronometers that the brand was, until recently, still producing. That it should take once more to the seas was therefore only a matter of time. However, sound management principles dictated that Patrik Hoffmann and his team wait for exactly the right opportunity. After all, Ulysse Nardin will be more than just a logo placed prominently on a boat that will race in one of the world’s most hotly disputed regattas; it intends being very much part of the action. The craft that compete in the America’s Cup are literally flying machines with hydrofoils that easily take them to speeds of 90 km/h. They are the nautical equivalent of a Formula 1 racing car and, unsurprisingly, demand extraordinary resources in terms of R&D and design. Which is where Ulysse Nardin will step in. The performance of the boat often makes the difference, and Artemis Racing is delighted to welcome onboard these innovators and experts in micro-engineering, as Iain Percy explained.
Iain Percy: We were in Le Locle to discuss a possible partnership and the conversation naturally turned to technology and innovation. Patrik Hoffman is definitely product-focused and so is Artemis. Ulysse Nardin designs and builds complicated watches, and we do the same with high-speed sailboats. We each talked about what we do, and realising how much we had in common really made us want to work together.
Each boat must comply to strict specifications known as class rule. These can disallow the use of certain electronic systems, for example. Our engineers will meet their counterparts at Ulysse Nardin to develop technical solutions that can be used on the boats. We have a great deal to learn from watchmakers, who are well-versed in the art of simplification and use their expertise to create reliable and efficient systems. At sea, we have to be able to move parts quickly and precisely. Ulysse Nardin’s expertise will be extremely useful in developing ingenious solutions.
Today’s boats are replete with high-tech materials that could interest Ulysse Nardin. We’ve also thought about taking watches onboard for testing. But no firm decisions have been made as yet.
The America’s Cup World Series begins this year and will continue into 2016 with events in Portsmouth in Great Britain, Gothenburg in Sweden, Hamilton in Bermuda, and Chicago. These regattas help crews train in real-life conditions in preparation for the America’s Cup. They will be an opportunity for Ulysse Nardin to discover first-hand the world of competitive sailing and share it with its partners.