A titanium keel for Safran

For the first time a Vendée Globe boat is benefit from a keel made of titanium, which is aimed at improving reliability and hydrodynamic performance.
© François Van Malleghem / DPPI / SAFRAN
By making their staff and technical means available, the Safran Group is once again innovating on the monohull aboard which Marc Guillemot will be setting off in the next Vendée Globe on 10th November 2012.
Since losing her second one in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe, Safran has been sailing with her initial keel and it was time for it to be changed. Three materials - steel, carbon, and titanium – were studied taking into account three criteria: reliability, cost and performance.

“Very early on, titanium appeared to be the best solution, particularly as there was a block available at Messier-Bugatti-Dowty," explained Jean-Marie de La Porte, project leader. “In the Group, we are used to working with titanium, as it is used in aeronautical engineering to build the landing gear, turbine blades and engine casings. Leading experts from the Safran Group became involved, like Jean-Michel de Monicault (Snecma), who monitored the technical aspects of the project and Sandra Andrieu (Messier-Bugatti-Dowty), who contributed her knowledge of this material.”
The lead keel bulb was mechanically attached to the titanium keel blade.

For the designer Guillaume Verdier,
“As we always do, we weighed up the various criteria and ratios before choosing this aeronautical titanium.” Above all they needed to “take into account the qualities of the material and think of how to work with it. For example, with welding techniques using machines, which bombard it with beams of electrons. After that, this hollow keel meant we could lower still further the centre of gravity.”

Among the criteria the designer is referring to, there is one that is key for Marc Guillemot:
“For me, the uppermost priority was reliability. That’s why we opted for a titanium keel. After that, and only after that consideration, we of course tried with Guillaume Verdier to find ways to improve hydrodynamic performance, reducing drag from the bulb and lowering once again the centre of gravity. That’s what we all attempt to do on our monohulls, as to keep it simple, the greater the weight down below, the better the performance and the more power we obtain. If we could, we would put it down below the keel!”
A titanium keel for Safran A titanium keel for Safran Reviewed by Panos Douros on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 Rating: 5

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