Le Defi Areva’s Xavier de Lesquen has played down the controversy surrounding France’s nuclear-funded America’s Cup challenge
Le Defi Areva’s Executive Director Xavier de Lesquen has played down the controversy surrounding France’s nuclear-funded America’s Cup challenge. Earlier in the week, Lesquen told Agence France Presse: “There are some people who are a bit hot-headed, but you shouldn’t be misled by all that.”
De Lesquen hopes that the public will – given time – differentiate between domestic nuclear power, as supplied by Areva, and the French military’s testing of nuclear weapons in the South Pacific. And, since the defenders have specified that only tobacco money is banned, de Lesquen knows that “the teams are free to choose their sponsors as they see fit.”
With memories of Mururoa still very much alive in antipodean minds (many French-made cars in Australia were vandalised at the time of the tests) some non-violent protest is all but inevitable, but Le Defi’s main protagonists are French. Alain Rivat, spokesman for the organisation Sortir du Nucleaire, has demanded that Areva’s finance should be handed back and another company found to bankroll the challenge.
“We support the boat, we are behind its sailors, but we oppose the fact that it is going to be slowed down by the ambitions of the nuclear industry,” said Rivat. He now envisages a “symbolic and non-violent” protest, relying mainly on showing that Areva “trails a nuclear trash can behind it” – strong, but a far cry from last week’s ominous pledges that the boat would “never arrive” in Auckland.
De Lesquen confirmed that security at the Multiplast Yard in Vannes, where their raceboat is in build, has not been stepped up, nor will a fleet of chase boats be used to deter potential protesters. Indeed, Lesquen said protesters would be “welcome” to try keeping up with the team’s six-hour race training days.
He added that the 32-crew currently under selection will be announced in March and the boat will undergo builder’s trials shortly after launch in May.