EXCLUSIVE. Olivier Racoupeau: “All sailing yachts have to be different, but all have to be totally safe”

Although he was not born at the seaside, Olivier Racoupeau was passionate about sailing as a teenager, in dinghy and offshore sailing. Very soon he discovered the regatta where he quickly became involved at national and international level. Graduated from the Toulouse University in mechanics and aeronautic technologies he joined Jean Berret in 1983. Their designs won 4 world champion titles, the Admiral’s Cup in 1985, the BOC in 1989-90 and 3 times winner of the Mini-Transat. 

In the same period, they designed many production boats for Beneteau and the range of “First” and their first catamaran in 1991 for the shipyard Fountaine Pajot. In 1994, Olivier and Jean became partners and created Berret-Racoupeau Yacht Design, the office quickly increased simultaneously with the number of boats drawn, more than 15000 sailing today.

Berret Racoupeau Team

At the end of 2007 Jean Berret decided to retired from the activity of the office, and since, through an eclecticism cleverly constructed, mixing production, superyacht, mono and multihull, seconded by his wife Isabelle, in charge of interior design, Olivier manage the design Office, surrounded by a team of ten to twelve people.

Isabelle Racoupeau

Very involved in French nautical industry designing many production yachts for the most renowned yards: Bénéteau, Amel, Wauquiez, Allures and Garcia for the monohulls, Fountaine-Pajot for the catamarans. They also design custom Superyachts worldwide. We met Olivier to talk about his last project with French yard Amel Yachts, the new Amel 50

Amel 65, Amel 64, Amel 55… and now the Amel 50. What about the characteristic that connect all these boats? 

Amel, of course, much more than a brand name. Externally, a silhouette, a strong style, a deep attention for the simplicity of maneuver, safety as well as comfort and the ergonomics.

We wrote that the Amel 50 will conquer a new category of clients. What are her greatest strengths?

The preceding generation that we had drawn was still impregnated with classicism. Amel 50 is pushing the limits of the concept even further. She is still a real Amel, but more modern,
Sloop designed, twin rudders, powerful hull shape, she is able to be pushed a bit more when sailing, but always easily and still well protected in the central cockpit and under the iconic rigid protection.
Inside the evolution is perhaps more drastic. The new style we developed for AMEL is really refined and modern but still with all you need for a comfortable offshore cruising.  Isabelle has just developed 3 different atmospheres with 3 very different veneers.
The traditional Amel mahogany and white light oak but introducing something really new with Indian Rosewood.

A number of sloops have already left the shipyard in the past, anyway these design appears as a novelty. Why this choice?

Different inputs pushed us to a sloop. First of all, the size: the ketch sail plan has been introduced at Amel to reduce the sails size and make them easier to manoeuvre.
The fundamentals at Amel are safety and easy sailing, which is already the case on the Amel 55 and 64. In that 50 ft length, also equipped with electric winches and furlers, we thought that the client don’t need a ketch to easily and safely handle the boat.
The other one was the position of the mizzen that was difficult to set without disturbing the general arrangement.

The hull has been redesigned with powerful bow. What are the benefits?

It is a new tendency for offshore hull shape, this is giving more powerful in breeze when sailing specially when reaching.

Amel models are perfects “easy sailing examples”. But what does it mean easy sailing for Olivier Racoupeau?

Of course, a full motorized deck gear and rigging. But that mean also “safe and protected cockpit” with all controls centralized to sail offshore in all conditions without unnecessary efforts in perfect comfort, but also mooring system perfectly sized and  many details to make sailing easy.

What must always be on a sailboat?

It is a very difficult question,  all sailing yachts have to be different, because all sailors are different and all use their sailing yachts in so different programs. But all offshore sailing yachts have to be totally safe, reliable, efficient and from my point of view, easy to sail to enjoy!

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