Rafale, formerly known as Rafale Class-C, is a student club of the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) designing sailboats that combine performance and durability. With its new prototype Burst 3the team aims to showcase their school in international competitions and inspire the industry to adopt more sustainable technologies in shipbuilding.
Since 2015, the tide has turned well. Whereas Burst 1 and 2 were Class-C catamarans where only speed was essential, the third prototype is a Moth-type monohull. For three years, Rafale has participated in the SuMoth Challenge, the student division of Foiling Week. Unlike many student competitions, sustainability is the central criteria of the SuMoth Challenge. It was therefore essential for the team to include this multifaceted aspect in its objectives from its first drafts. Durability has thus guided the design as well as performance, concluding with an analysis of the life cycle of the entire boat.
On the strength of its experience in shipbuilding with Burst 1 and 2, the club now masters a range of manufacturing techniques ranging from craftsmanship to aerospace grade. The team also benefits from the advice of its incumbent, Professor Simon Joncas, a specialist in the design of composite parts. She can rely on her expertise to discuss problems to be solved and validate potential solutions. Rafale had to rely on solid foundations in order to meet the new challenges brought by the Moth, certainly smaller but just as technical.
Burst 3the flying test piece
With Burst 3 the team does more than implement already established techniques. She also develops her own methods adapted to the innovative materials she uses. By relying on aspects that have already been mastered, it becomes possible for it to concentrate part of its resources on research and development.
For example, the materials used to ensure the recyclability of the hull are still little used in industry, whose demands for profitability can sometimes slow down the adoption of innovative solutions. It was therefore not enough to rely on the knowledge of its external partners. As part of a research project, Rafale evaluated the sensitivity of its recyclable resin to heat and humidity. Findings from this project allowed the team to adapt their methods to produce better quality parts.
In an unprecedented way, Rafale will offer a beta version of the on-board system at the SuMoth Challenge 2022. While respecting the strict rules imposed by the competition, the latter will allow the collection of valuable data concerning mechanics and navigation. The team will thus be able to better understand the structural behavior of the ship and the modifications to be made for its successor.
From an ecodesign perspective, Burst 3 will not be left out. Understanding the overall impact of the prototype forms the soul of the project and the motivations of the team. A first step was to recycle a large number of parts from its old catamarans. With this in mind, a split rudder of Burst 2 was lightened and rebuilt to form the drift of Burst 3. It is with this dynamic that the team demonstrates that it is possible to produce high-performance parts without always manufacturing new ones.
There are also several secondary innovations under development, such as 3D printing cores in partnership with McGill University. These make it possible in particular to produce complex parts without the need for a mould. From a mechanical point of view, there is also the design of a bar allowing the angle of incidence of the rudder wing to be adjusted in flight. These different developments required great adaptability on the part of the team members. They had to show ingenuity in order to overcome many technical and logistical challenges demonstrating the importance of rigour, structure and method. Needs to which the team was able to respond by establishing professional and industrial monitoring of composite manufacturing and assembly methods supported by quality monitoring and an organization inspired by aeronautics and space.
On both sides of an ocean
At Rafale, Quebec and France work side by side. There are indeed a good number of members from the other side of the Atlantic. Although this mix is the source of occasional linguistic misunderstandings, it nevertheless remains a major asset to its cohesion, motivation and reach. The members of the team were thus able to build a strong technical and cultural network on both sides of the Atlantic. A first partnership with the bar The Children of Rock based in Montreal and La Rochelle has organized various communicative and cultural activities reinforcing the historical link of Quebec to France.
Technical progress such as the use of a recyclable resin has been echoed by luminaries of French boating and naval engineering, such as Lalou Roucayrol, founder of Lalou Multi and new skill player in the team, as well as Arthur Levaillant, offshore racing professional. Important links have thus been forged by sharing a passion for sport and technology.
Rafale has also set up a partnership with the city of La Rochelle, as several renowned companies are based there. We will therefore find the names of Fountaine Pajot and Neel Trimarans in the team’s address book. Finally, a global partnership has emerged with the consulting engineering firm AKKODIS through skipper Pierre Legendre. The team thus raised significant funds while integrating AKKODIS into the directory of internships and jobs at ÉTS. At the same time, Rafale is developing transatlantic racing, internships and recruitment activities abroad.
Although Rafale has many sailing enthusiasts and a few former racers in its ranks, no one has the experience and skill required to pilot a Moth. The team therefore recruited Montrealer Zoe Roosen, a national team athlete in Nacra 17 who, out of a passion for sailing and foiling, joined Rafale with great enthusiasm. Currently in the Olympic campaign for Paris 2024, she will be at the helm of Burst 3 on Lake Garda during the competition.
Rafale 4, more performance and durability on the horizon
Burst 3 At the dawn of her launch, the members of the team are already wondering about the characteristics of her successor: Burst 4. Based on the many observations made, tests carried out and lessons learned, the team decided to begin this work with two key elements: the materials and the mould.
As far as materials are concerned, the criteria to keep in mind are durability, lightness, resistance and ease of implementation. Thus, the students plan to replace basalt fibers, which are nothing but molten volcanic rock, with natural fibers with a lower environmental balance. Among the candidates: linen, bamboo or even hybrid compositions. To bind and protect these fibers thus forming a composite material, the Elium resin is still one of the best contenders, but the difficulties encountered during its use encourage the team to consider other alternatives. The ideal resin would be a biosourced resin with more than 30% or even entirely natural, recyclable, infusable, easy to implement, but above all compatible with the fibers chosen. The work of the next few months is thus divided into several stages, such as determining the candidates, carrying out small-scale infusion tests, then evaluating the relevance of the various options for the desired performance.
At the same time, other members of Rafale are working on the design of the next mould. If the old pine wood mold presented an undeniable ecological interest on paper, its practical use revealed some difficulties, such as the absorption of humidity causing swelling and cracking requiring the use of protective coatings, an invoice salt and revaluation limited to incineration. With the arrival at ÉTS of a large-scale 3D printing machine, a new possibility is offered to students. The advantages of a printed mold are numerous and resonate with the search for sustainability. On-site manufacturing in collaboration with a polymer and composite materials research group would limit travel and promote exchanges. In addition, no coating that could compromise recyclability would be necessary. The quantity of material would be reduced by the absence of production waste. Finally, the printing could be made from plastic granules from old molds recycled and crushed by student clubs. Developing this process is a critical and relevant issue for involving clubs in a sustainable approach far from the single-use molds used today.
Finally, whether for the form, for the equipment or for the manufacturing, it is not the ideas that are lacking in the fine team and its communicative ambition. The goal is clear! New ideas on paper for this summer, new recruits for a departure to the workshop in September 2022 and finally a more durable, more efficient and ever more inspiring boat for the SuMoth Challenge 2023.
If you are curious and interested in following this adventure, don’t wait for the next article and follow the team directly on its networks Facebook and instagram or on his website. We’re heading for Italy!
By Donovan Djeddi, Louise Le Gall and Noah Ferrarotto
*This article was published in the digital magazine Flight. 45 No.2 of Quebec Yachting. Subscribe, it’s FREE!