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Groupama Race : a tough race says Franck Cammas
For his first participation in the Groupama Race around New Caledonia, Franck Cammas and the crew of the 35-foot monohull Keel Bill secured a fine second place astern of the New Zealanders on Crusader after some four days at sea. Questioned on his return to the dock, the Groupama skipper gives us his impressions.

The course: "It's a big 600-mile windward-leeward course on paper but in reality it's nearly 900 on what was often chaotic seas and a pretty powerful breeze of 25 to 30 knots. The very least we can say is that tacking on an 11-metre boat in these conditions is very uncomfortable, a lot more so than on a Volvo 70 like Groupama 4 in any case. I also have a better grasp of why there were only seven boats at the start compared with around twenty some two years earlier. That said the Groupama Race is clearly more interesting than the Fastnet. Tactically and strategically, there's really something to get your teeth into, as much downwind along the island's eastern seaboard as on the beat up to Nouméa. Added to that, the scenery is so beautiful it takes your breath away".

The rivals: "I don't know them very well, as we were sailing on our own pretty quickly. On the first section, we were racing against the future winners. They sailed really well, whilst we were slammed by a 30° wind shift the wrong way round downwind, which was completely the opposite of what the grib files announced. The separation between us became too big for us to catch up, though I think we sailed very well, particularly on the long beat. Essentially, Crusader is real little jem made entirely of carbon. Even her shrouds were streamlined, which is something we weren't allowed to do in the Volvo. She really is a superb boat, which was well helmed and very quick downwind, and she made the most of it to break the event record with a time of 3 days and nearly 19 hours".

The crew of Keel Bill: "Everyone remained focused during the race, despite the length of the course. Some got seasick, but that didn't affect the smooth running of the boat. At night we weren't really at our full potential on the rail, but they all played the game. It was really hard as she's a small boat and she's not designed to live aboard for four nights in a row. She was wet down below and it was hard to sleep. In these conditions, we're all happy to make it back to port and return to the gentle life back on shore in New Caledonia".

The boat Keel Bill: "She's a good boat, though I expected her to be quicker downwind. At that point of sail, she's a little bit slower than the M34 in the Tour de France à la Voile. Upwind, she's a bit better. We didn't suffer any major technical hitches (blocked winch and indicator failure), despite the conditions, which is quite a bonus as the sea state was hard, as much for the sailors as the gear".

The organisation: "The Groupama Race is very well organised by the local Cercle Nautique. It's an important race for them as they're a bit cut-off. As such it's a good thing to see a New Zealand crew take the win and it should encourage others to come and compete in 2016 for the fifth edition. I must also say what a very warm welcome I got and that is always a nice thing".

Overall ranking in elapsed time:

1. Crusader finished in 3d 18h 54mn 6s
2. Keell Bill Groupama 3d 23h 49mn and 5s
3. Mange Mieux Bouge Plus 4d 4h 8mn and 28s
4. Catch me OPT
5. Chairman Pao Production
6. BCI Radical Concept
7. XLR8 Province Sud

About Groupama
Boosted by its various brands, Groupama, Gan and Amaguiz, the Groupama group, France's top mutual insurance company is expanding its insurance, banking and financial services in eleven countries. The group comprised 13 million clients and 34,000 representatives around the world, with a turnover totaling 13.7 billion euros.
For further information please visit: www.groupama.com

Photo : Groupama Race
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