The Lorient-based SEAir start-up has just raised €1 million to back it its R&D programme.
“We raised funds in several stages through a French family office, Arts et Métiers Business Angels, the SFLD fund in Lorient and several other business angels, ” explains Richard Forest, chairman and co-founder of SEAir in early 2016 with Bertrand Castelnérac. The two partners have complementary profiles. One is an engineer and a company director and the other is a professional skipper.
SEAir stands out in the boat industry in having both a design and test office. “What’s our goal? To become the outfitter for foiling boats. We are not just interested in the hydrofoil itself but the whole of the foiling system and the boat’s components.” The start-up intends to offer global solutions to get sailing yachts and motor boats foiling stably and maintain them airborne in the ocean. “Foiling is now more mainstream thanks to the Vendée Globe. But boats do not skim over the water at all speeds and they only stay near the coast,” says the managing director.
On 25 January 2017, SEAir demonstrated the technology it has already patented. It succeeded in getting its Mini 747 to skim over the waves at a speed of 15 knots with a true wind of 8 knots. “This offshore racing monohull is our development platform. This world first has increased our visibility in France and especially abroad.” SEAir has developed a foiling system with a unit that controls it in four directions. “It is also equipped with eight distortion sensors. The data collected will feed our knowledge base on the hydrofoil and the impact its use has on the entire boat.”
Other sea trials will be carried out in 2017 to test the various lift-off configurations and foiling stability at sea. SEAir’s technology has two markets in the short-term: the installation of foils on boats for offshore racing and technological sponsoring, similar to projects like Solar Impulse. It has already received the backing of Kala, which manufactures large sized laminators in Rennes. “In the long term, our goal is to market our outfitting solutions to boatyards and motor boat builders. Since this is essentially where the market lies,” says Richard forest.
Together with its two founders, SEAir now has a workforce of 10. The start-up has just moved into new premises on the quays of Keroman Harbour. “We have 150 sq. m of offices and 600 sq. m of workshops equipped with numerically controlled machines and 3D printers.” SEAir is also conducting two R&D projects approved by the EMC2 cluster. The start-up has raised €300 K of funds to finance them.
Source : API Newsletter by Maureen Le Mao
Visual : SEAir during the Bretagne brand campaign in April 2017