Canting keels : A 30 years story !

30 years ago this year, while he was studying architecture, Pascal Conq, with two friends of his, invents and builds the first canting keel.

 

The canting keel dates back from 1981!

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Pascal Conq invented and built it for Urgent, the 5.50m regatta boat that he designed and built to race the Micro Cup. Aged 20, he brought a real innovation for his first steps into yacht design.

Today, canting keels are routinely installed on offshore racing boats : Vendée Globe IMOCA 60', Mini 6.50, Volvo 70, Maxi IRC, etc... But it took more than 20 years for them to be considered unmatched in performance and conquer the sailing planet. There are many explainations to this fact : their cost, their technical complexity, their bulkiness, and the fact that they were forbidden in most rules until recently.

Back in 1981, the Micro rule is the only rule that cares about innovation in yacht design, although it is more of a rectrictive than open rule. It is also a rule meant for small budgets. Not a detail for 20 year old students !

Pascal and his pals brainstorm : Like him, Paul-François Coustou studies architecture in Rennes. Yannick Dupetit is his cousin, and together they will win the Tour de France à la Voile in 1985. They start from a blank sheet of paper, and apply the new thinking methods they are learning from their studies.

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Pascal proposes to cant the keel to move its center of gravity to windward, thereby increasing the boat's righting moment. As far as they know, no one have ever done this, but they believe in their idea. They are not to be stopped !

Of course, on second thought, it is easy to see that this size of boat isn't the best to show the full potential of this innovation, because the weight of the crew has a far greater influence. But despite a few teething problems (rudder failure in Toulon, crash in Granville), they win a leg... in Granville in 1984. The same year, they take third place in the Tour de France à la Voile, and have an easy win the following year.

1985 is also the year when Pascal graduates from Architecture scholl and meets Jean-Marie Finot...