Thomas, Mechanical Engineer at Syroco
The Syroco team opens the doors of their workshop, where the speedcraft prototype is being built. We asked Thomas to explain what he does at Syroco and why it matters. Here is what he told us.
Sea and speed have always found an echo in me. With a 42.71 knots performance over 500 m in windsurfing, my mechanical engineering studies at INSA Lyon have been rocked by the successes of Alain Thébault on Hydroptère and Paul Larsen on SailRocket. In 2019, when Alex offered to join a project aimed at bringing the world sailing speed record back to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, my decision was quick.
I joined the Syroco team at the very beginning of the project. My main mission is to bring my expertise to all the design cycles of mechanical and mechatronic systems.
Whether we are working on the speedcraft or on a subsystem, the development cycle always begins with an ideation phase that allows us to create innovative solutions to our problems. This phase requires the implementation and development of specific decision support tools, ranging from a simple yield spreadsheet to a multi-body VPP (Velocity Prediction Program) to select the most promising idea (this VPP was at the origin of Syroco EfficientShip). The very first development loop of the Syroco project allowed us to choose the concept of the aile d’eau. Once a concept has been decided upon, we then enter a new loop that involves all domains of expertise.
With all mechanical studies being internalised, I am in charge of 3D modelling phases, of structural validation using finite elements, all the way to the drawing of parts to be produced. This is the case for example of the radio controlled kite control system. Then work continues with Victor, our electronics engineer, and software developers in order to validate the hardware and software integration of the system.
My expertise in hydrodynamics also allows me to work with Catherine, our cavitation expert, on the R&D of components linked to performance of the speedcraft such as the nacelle and the appendages. The design loop in this case is significantly different, with the addition of studies of the hydrodynamic and aerodynamic performance of the objects, obtained by coupling CFD studies, analysis of the overall balance of the boat in the VPP, and - not to be neglected - the aesthetic design of the boat! These studies make it possible to validate that the systems are in line with expected performance.
Once the parts have been manufactured and the systems assembled by Sinbad, who coordinates the construction of the speedcraft, it is time to confront the theory with the reality through test campaigns, which always start in a unitary way in the workshop and continue through navigations of the radio-controlled prototype. During tests at sea, I am at the helm (or rather at the joystick!) of the prototype, managing the kite and the foil that allow stable flight. In order to speed up this process and figure out the operating manual of our machine, with Chloé, our experimentation and data manager, we are carrying out extensive analysis of navigation data and developing data-driven navigational aids for piloting the kite and the foil.
Routine seldom settles in! With sequences of design phases and navigation phases, it is not uncommon to spend half the week at sea. Many people have dreamed of it, and it is incredible to be able to contribute to the realisation of this new type of craft. I am proud to see the birth and progress of our prototype, which brings us closer every day to the world sailing speed record. The road is long but it is beautiful!