Ecology. Sail’s Grain cargo ship on its way to New York. The maritime transport of tomorrow?

After years of work, the cargo sailboat Grain de Sail finally sets sail for its first transatlantic. For the managers and employees of the company present in Saint-Malo that day, it was the culmination of a long-term project! The story begins in 2010 when Olivier Barreau, founder of Grain de Sail sets himself a challenge: transporting merchandise by sail. To achieve this, he first chooses to create a business that would directly benefit from the investment. This is how he established a coffee roasting in 2013, then opened a chocolate factory in 2015 and finally launched the construction of the boat in 2019. “ In that order, insists Olivier Barreau. Even if the starting point remains the desire for a sailing business, funding had to be secured “. A well thought-out strategy because coffee and cocoa are two raw materials that necessarily come from overseas and have high added value once processed. Products Grain de Sail have conquered the consumer since after a few years of operation, the annual turnover of the company amounts to 5 million euros. Sufficient in the eyes of Olivier and his brother Jacques, general manager of Grain de Sail, to inaugurate a first boat.

A cargo ship to transport 20,000 bottles

The chocks are the raison d’être of the boat. With a maximum capacity of 50 tons, they are stabilized in temperature and hygrometry (humidity, note). ” It is the first floating wine cellar under sail in the world »Exclaims Olivier Barreau proudly. The aluminum hull is sampled to hold the load and inside: cladding, pad-eyes and straps allow efficient stowage of the goods to avoid any shifting. ” If you start to create liquid hull in a boat, in principle it ends upside down Olivier half jokes.

14,500 bottles of organic wine will be sold to New York wine merchants and restaurateurs. Particular care is taken in securing the pallets. | DELPHINE MASSON

This 22-meter vessel is fitted out with two single cabins and a double cabin, a shower / toilet compartment and a fitted kitchen. ” It is important to eat well on board a boat. The crew is lucky because the captain cooks very well Olivier smiles.

The captain, in fact, is much more than a captain. Loïc Briand joined the team in 2019 after discovering the project on the back of their chocolate bars. When he decides to invest 100% in the adventure, the site begins to fall behind. ” Loïc managed to redesign and redesign the boat design. He is very very good »Says Olivier Barreau.

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A sailboat but not for boaters

The boat is merchant marine approved, so it is a real freighter in the sense of equipment and safety but it is a pure sailboat which makes it unique. On this day of great departure, Loïc Briand is serene: “ The crew is trained in crisis management “. In terms of communication, the boat is equipped with everything you can find on a freighter. For safety, the standards are strict. There are three bilge pumps, three fire pumps and all the equipment in case of damage on board. ” A boater is not used to dressing as a firefighter »Loïc Briand tells us. It even details the medical equipment ” We really have enough to operate someone on board and we are trained for it “. By “on” he designates Faustine Langevin, also from the merchant navy, Goulven Josse, from professional yachting and François Le Naourès, photographer amarine on board.

From left to right: François Le Naourès, Jacques Barreau, Goulven Josse, Loïc Briand, Faustine Langevin, and Olivier Barreau. Four sailors will set sail while the Barreau brothers will oversee the trip from Morlaix. | DELPHINE MASSON

One navigation, many challenges

When heading towards the lock, Loïc Briand takes the time to talk to us about navigation. ” I am not very maneuverable because the boat is heavy and there is no bow thruster »Explains Loïc. It makes ” The engine makes only 115 hp. And with its two rudders, it’s never easy at low speed. “When asked why there is no thruster, Loïc has fun” Because it is useless on a boat less than 50 meters, it is for those who do not know how to maneuver. It adds a bit of challenge ».

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Loïc Briand, captain of the ship, had several years of experience in the merchant navy before joining Grain de Sail and supervising the end of the work. | DELPHINE MASSON

The challenge, Loïc likes it and that is precisely what drives him by taking the helm. “ Depending on the trips, we will not have the same boat Enthuses the captain. ” The very light boat, we saw that it was working well. In 20 knots of wind, we are reaching 12.5 knots. But loaded, he doesn’t have the same reactions at the helm “. According to Olivier Barreau, the loaded sailboat can withstand an average speed of 8 knots upwind. It must be said that it is a very canvas boat with a sail area downwind of 520 m2. With seven sails – mainsail, foremast, staysail, ORC, solent, genoa and asymmetric spinnaker – the crew will be able to adapt to the wind conditions. ” It’s funny because it will take a long time to get to know the boat »Rejoices Loïc.

This is not an offshore race

On this big start day, Gilles Lamiré, winner of the last Transat Jacques Vabre on Multi50 was present. There is little in common between this boat and his, apart from a few high-level technologies such as UpSideUp, an automatic sheet release system when the list becomes important. “ We focus on safety and reliability “Recalls Olivier Barreau,” the goal is to do everything by sail, we are working with a router and we have a little leeway to reach New York “. The trip could last between three and five weeks. Gilles Lamiré, whose last crossing lasted less than 12 days, could not help commenting “ I would still advise Loïc to lean the motor against the current ».

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Loïc Briand and Gilles Lamiré. The two Cancalais have been friends for a long time. | DELPHINE MASSON

When it is time to hoist the sails, Gilles also gives us his weather analysis ” There is 20 to 30 knots of southwesterly wind so they will be crossing along Brittany. There is not too much sea, they will be sheltered but the wind is there so as good sailors they reduce the sails ». Grain de Sail moves away from Saint-Malo hoisting the foresail and with 2 reefs in the mainsail. Caution is the mother of safety !

A second freighter sailboat already in the pipeline

For the Barreau brothers, this boat is just a “first try”. The next one, already in design with several architects, should be 50 meters and five times the capacity of the first. They leave themselves another six months to finalize the plans and start contacting the yards. The launch is scheduled for 2023 but according to Jacques Barreau, they would need it next year to meet their need for raw materials.

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Grain de Sail bound for New York. He will have to return to Saint-Nazaire because Saint-Malo is not approved as a community entry point for organic food products. | DELPHINE MASSON

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Sail's Grain cargo ship leaves Saint-Malo, its home port.  A hell of a nod to this city, a hub of maritime trade in the 18th century.Ecology. Sail’s Grain cargo ship on its way to New York. The maritime transport of tomorrow?

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