From a dream to « it’s my job »

Grad­u­at­ing in 2019, major­ing in Mechan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing from UTC, Tom Laperche received a great deal of sup­port from UTC to rec­on­cile his stud­ies with high-lev­el sail­ing activ­i­ties. In 2022, at the age of 25, he won the Soli­taire du Figaro and is now skip­per of the SVR Lazar­tigue tri­maran (32m long, 23m wide). On August 29, he deliv­ered an inau­gur­al lec­ture at UTC.

The main theme of his lec­ture? «Mov­ing from the dream to ‘this is my job’,» he says. A mantra he would like to share with all stu­dents. Accord­ing to him, the most impor­tant thing is not to cen­sor your­self. «Take the direc­tion you want to fol­low, make your dreams come alive and true, cul­ti­vate your pas­sions, all the more so that the UTC ecosys­tem allows you to do so,» he exhorts them. 

A native of La Trinité-sur-Mer in Mor­bi­han, France, Tom Laperche was nat­u­ral­ly drawn to the open seas. His par­ents enrolled him in a sail­ing club from the age of 7. Pas­sion­ate about wide open spaces, he found the Atlantic to be the ide­al ter­rain. «I was also lucky enough to rub shoul­ders with the big names in ocean rac­ing, to see their impos­ing tri­marans, some of them 18 m long, ‘sail­ing’ some­where, bal­anced between air and water. I was fas­ci­nat­ed by the Route du Rhum and the round-the-world mul­ti­hull races,» he explains. 

So, why did he choose UTC? «Even if it took me away from my beloved ocean, UTC was the obvi­ous choice because it was one of the best post-bac engi­neer­ing schools. I chose mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing because I thought it could serve my pas­sion for sail­ing, but I had no idea that this pas­sion would become my pro­fes­sion. For the first two years, I con­cen­trat­ed on my stud­ies, but as soon as I fin­ished my sec­ond year, I start­ed to get a few boat­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. I was select­ed on sev­er­al occa­sions to be part of cer­tain crews. So, from the third year onwards, the UTC enabled me to rec­on­cile my stud­ies with top-lev­el sport by arrang­ing my study sched­ules and train­ing times. For the last three years, thanks to the sup­port of most of my lec­tur­ers, I’ve been able to take 7 to 10 days off a month to train at the Ecole Nationale de Voile in Quiberon,» he assures us. One meet­ing was to prove deci­sive in his career. It was with François Gabart, whom he first met dur­ing a regat­ta in his third year. A grad­u­ate of INSA Lyon, the sailor Gabart saw in Tom a sort of repli­ca of him­self at his age. It was only nat­ur­al that Tom Laperche should turn to him for his end-of-study intern­ship at Mer­Con­cept, the com­pa­ny found­ed in 2006 by François Gabart for the pur­pose of devel­op­ing an ocean rac­ing team at the cut­ting edge of inno­va­tion and per­for­mance. «My intern­ship focused on the design and improve­ment of mechan­i­cal sys­tems to facil­i­tate sail han­dling on the new M101 pro­to­type tri­maran, which fore­shad­owed the cre­ation of the SVR Lar­tigue. In addi­tion to the tech­ni­cal aspects, the course also includ­ed oth­er aspects such as men­tal prepa­ra­tion, sophrol­o­gy and nutri­tion, all of which are essen­tial in ocean rac­ing. In fact, Pro­fes­sor Marc Monetti’s UV SP22 ‘S’apprendre pour mieux gér­er’ (Learn­ing to man­age bet­ter), which I took, is devot­ed to men­tal prepa­ra­tion», he points out. 

His expe­ri­ence proved con­clu­sive, as three years after his course, he won the ‘Soli­taire’ du Figaro. 

Oth­er races to come? «François and I will be tak­ing part in the Transat Jacques Vabre, which cel­e­brates its 30th anniver­sary in 2023. The start is sched­uled for Octo­ber 29, with a record num­ber of par­tic­i­pants. François is also giv­ing me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sail sin­gle-hand­ed on the SVR Lazar­tigue in the Arkea Ultime Chal­lenge in Jan­u­ary 2024 (solo round-the-world mul­ti­hull race). I also hope to be on the start­ing line for the Jules Vernes Tro­phy to be held in win­ter 2024/2025,» he describes. 

But as a com­pa­ny with a mis­sion, Mer­Con­cept pur­sues objec­tives that go beyond boats for ocean rac­ing. «At Mer­Con­cept, we want to make a con­crete con­tri­bu­tion to high­light­ing the inno­va­tions and high tech­nolo­gies of ocean rac­ing, which could play a role in reduc­ing envi­ron­men­tal impact, par­tic­u­lar­ly in terms of mar­itime mobil­i­ty. To do this, we rely on a team of experts in the fields of com­pos­ites, ener­gy, elec­tron­ics, aero­dy­nam­ics, hydro­dy­nam­ics… Hence our unique abil­i­ty to inno­vate, test and share our advances thanks to our float­ing test­bed plat­forms. One of our major objec­tives is to achieve more sus­tain­able trans­port in the future, focus­ing on two key areas of our exper­tise. These are mak­ing boats fly and using the wind to move goods around on a large scale,» he explains.

Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

Faire face aux enjeux environnementaux

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