Eleuthra 60: Master of Arts and Sciences
The same instincts that make a winning sailor make a winning boatbuilder, says Eric Bruneel--a man who knows a thing or two about both
This process employs a closed mold and the use of atmospheric pressure to draw resin through the laminate. It's more complex and expensive than the traditional method of laminating a hull by hand in an open mold; however, it has several advantages. It traps the emission of volatile organic compounds and drastically reduces the level of toxic styrene, which eliminates the need for exchanging heated air throughout the laminating shop. The laminate quality remains constant from boat to boat, and the labor and materials are reduced. "This method saves weight and produces a stiff structure," Bruneel said, "but above all, it's cleaner and healthier for the workers and the environment." The 2002 implementation of close-molded construction, beginning with Fountaine Pajot's Lavezzi 40, is still another example of Bruneel's ability to sight down the course and anticipate the shifts. In this case, he's kept a keen eye on European Union regulations and focused on one thing: being prepared.
Since Bruneel became managing director of Fountaine Pajot in 1992, there have been many shifts along the course indeed. Looking ahead, he emphasized the importance of meeting the International Organization for Standardization's coveted ISO 9001:2000 standard, a set of guidelines that measure a company's commitment to quality, process, and resource management; employee competence; product design; processes to resolve customer complaints; and monitoring customer perception about the quality of goods and services delivered. Obtaining this certification is a lengthy and expensive process, but it's a stamp of approval that carries considerable weight. "We are the first French boatyard to obtain ISO 9001," Bruneel said. "It's internationally recognized and shows our customers, many of whom are in manufacturing, how we conduct business."
Like many other businesses, Fountaine Pajot has been compelled to adapt to the global market. Indeed, his company learned some harsh cross-cultural lessons during a 2003 California product-liability court case that resulted in a $3.25 million judgment against the company. That case has since been settled, but it was bitter while it lasted. "Today more than 1,500 Fountaine Pajot cats are in operation worldwide," said Bruneel, "and our employees, even if they don't speak a foreign language, understand the international nature of our business. They have learned to deal with different cultures and demands."
Asked about the course he's charted for Fountaine Pajot, Bruneel said he plans to double the company's revenue over the next five years. He'll focus on specific market segments for production boats above and below 500,000 euros and on such custom projects as fast ferries and the buoy tenders for the America's Cup 2007.
To him, managing growth and improving processes are survival strategies in a time when cost control and stringent environmental regulations are transforming the industry.
"It's going to be difficult to be small," Bruneel predicted.
The Artist's Touch
The layout arrangements within Fountaine Pajot's lines carry such names as Duo, Maestro, Concerto, and the aforementioned Orchestra--names to which Bruneel is partial. Landlocked in Lyon, near the center of France, Bruneel's parents instilled in him a love of the outdoors and an interest in music. They sent him to a local conservatory, where he refined his skills as a flute player and recorded with the school orchestra. He still plays piano whenever he gets the chance, and he arranged to have Didier Lockwood, a renowned jazz violinist, perform at the christening ceremony for the first Eleuthera.
As any musician knows, a performance such as the one he delivered in last year's Transat deserves an encore. What will be Bruneel's? At press time, he was preparing for the 2005 Fastnet race and the 2006 Route du Rhum. "We'll take the same approach," he says. "The RdR starts in November in St.-Malo and later hooks into the trades, so this, too, will be a windy affair."
While her skipper is scheming and researching his best options, Trilogic is earning money in charter for corporate-incentive trips in and around La Rochelle. One challenge for the guests is to break the boat's top speed on record, which stands at 27.2 knots.
Until his next race, Bruneel is tending to the fortunes of Fountaine Pajot. "I love all aspects of the job," he said. "The design, the construction, and the sailing. It's an art, because you are really creating. But it's also like racing. It's a very important and serious race, one you can't afford to lose."
Dieter Loibner is a CW associate editor.
LOA 60' 0'' (18.28 m.)
LWL 53' 6'' (16.30 m.)
Beam 28' 0'' (8.57 m.)
Draft 4' 9'' (1.45 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 1,509 sq. ft. (140 sq. m.)
Displacement 39,600 lb. (18,000 kg.)
Bridgedeck Clearance 3' 0'' (.9 m.)
Water 227 gal. (860 l.)
Fuel 158 gal. (600 l.)
Mast Height (vertical clearance) 78' 9'' (24.0 m.)
Engine Two 75-hp. Yanmars (100 hp. optional)
Designer Berret-Racoupeau Yacht Design
+33 546 35 70 40