Home > Yacht Racing - Ocean & Coastal > Caledonia Groupama Race

Groupama Race : A rock named desire
This Sunday will see the start of the fourth edition of the Groupama Race in Nouméa in New Caledonia. In the line-up, seven boats measuring 11 to 12 metres will head off on a circumnavigation of the island, which equates to some 600 nautical miles in total: 300 miles downwind along the eastern seaboard and 300 miles upwind along the western seaboard, which amounts to three to four nights at sea. Aboard Keel Bill, a high performance 35-foot monohull with a canting keel, Franck Cammas will be going for gold against a formidable New Zealand competitor, Crusader, which is intent on getting the better of the Frenchman who beat Team New Zealand in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Insatiable Franck Cammas: only just back from Morges on Lake Geneva to train on the flying catamaran Groupama C, reigning champion of the Little America's Cup, and here he is in Nouméa to participate in the Groupama Race: « I have been patron to this race since it started back in 2008, but I'd never had the time to take part in it. This year, my schedule is such that I can fit it in and I'm making the most of it. I like wide, open spaces and I've got plenty of that here. The island is fabulous and the sailing conditions are pretty boisterous with a breeze of between 20 and 25 knots. The long downwind run will be magical. The beat promises to be more uncomfortable though. However, tacking our way along the most beautiful lagoon in the world, which is one of the world heritage sites, will make things more pleasant » comments the skipper of Groupama.

Owned by Patrick Baldi and designed by the naval architect Robert Shaw, Keel Bill is a solid boat: « She's the same length as the boats in the Tour de France à la Voile, but she's more seaworthy and slips through the water better on a beat, which won't be a luxury when you're tacking for two days. There will be eight of us aboard and the crew is highly motivated. They all gave me a very warm welcome, which was really nice. They are enlightened amateurs, who are very familiar with offshore sailing having brought the boat over from New Zealand and they've also raced around Port Vila in the Vanuatu islands. One of the crew, Yann Rigal, has participated in the Tour de France ».

A competitor through and through, Franck Cammas nevertheless remains prudent as to his chances of victory: « We're going to need to keep the boat fully powered up and not break anything, which isn't easy in a strong wind. We have a new set of sails and some of the mainsail cars broke during training. I hope we won't have any other nasty surprises during the race. The crew is very familiar with the area, which will help us negotiate the wind shadows to leeward of the island. As far as the rest is concerned, we're optimising what we can. We'll replace certain halyards with tracers to lower the rig's centre of gravity on the long beat. On top of that we'll need to be tactically skilful. It's a very fine course, a sort of 600-mile windward-leeward, the likes of which exist nowhere else in the world ».

Enthusiastic, the skipper of Groupama is a happy man: « New Caledonia is really magical. For a sailor, nothing beats racing in the sunshine, with breeze and a superb backdrop ».

Track their progress in the race at http://yb.tl/groupama2014 from Sunday at 1010 hours local time, 1110 GMT.

Photo : Jean-Baptiste DESPREZ/Groupama
gr_arriveekb_gal_b.jpg gr_arriveekb_gal_a.jpg IMG_0962_cpgroupama-race.jpg e303e2027514497aaa0603a129a3eb42_XL.jpg 8ee107fb8e11fa27c5eb0c84c03d7dff_XL.jpg