Franck Cammas and Groupama sailing team have once again embarked on an ambitious sailing season in 2015.
This is not the year that the skipper of Groupama is going to spend less than 320 days on the water thanks to a programme that includes an Olympic preparation, the America's Cup World Series, the Tour de France à la Voile and the Little America's Cup.
In this way, from 12 January to 10 February, Franck and crew Sophie de Turckheim could be found training and racing the Nacra 17 in Florida. Eighth in the Sailing World Cup, then victorious in the North American championships, the French crew have been reaping the benefits of a new physical preparation: "For the past two years, we've been too light. We were 15 kilos or 10% down on our crew weight. The minute there was more than twelve knots of breeze, we got eclipsed in terms of speed. This winter, together with Sophie, we've gained 7 kilos and the difference that makes is massive. As with all sailboat races, you need to go fast in a straight line and then you can begin to race. In Miami and Clearwater, we got back in the match, we regained our confidence and that feels good, because after the World Championships in Santander last year, we were at risk. It was tough, but it's the kind of episode you have to know how to move on from and that's what we've done".
As part of the French team, there will be a succession of international competitions across Europe and also in France, with Hyères in April and La Rochelle in October. At the back of everyone's minds will be the selection of a single crew to represent their country at the Olympic Games. This selection will be made at Clearwater in fact, which is where the Groupama duo secured a win early this year...
Another of this year's objectives is the 38th edition of the Tour de France à la Voile, which will be contested for the first time on a multihull: "Beyond the budgetary aspect, the switch from the monohull to the multihull has created a real infatuation for the Tour. There will be around thirty of us on the start line, with some very fine helmsmen and some very good tacticians. The races will be dense and we can expect a lot of jockeying for position among the leaders throughout the event".
As they wait to take possession of the Diam 24, Franck and his crew will explore the delights of the AC45 bought off Russell Coutts by Mer Agitée and chartered to Groupama. However, before they sail the new edition one-design flying machine, the black carbon catamaran will undergo a refit of nearly two months at the Lorient base so that the daggerboard casings can be replaced by foil casings: "Our participation in the ACWS circuit is important as it's the result of several months' work with Team France. Groupama is loyally supporting me in this quest for excellence, even though we know that the America's Cup is not one of their objectives. Thanks to them, we're going to do battle with the best crews in the world on tomorrow's flying boats. It's going to be thrilling. Together with Louis Viat, we have a wealth of experience thanks to Groupama C and that should help us, even though the other teams are already training right now. It's the highest level in the world and it's important to be there and to perform well to show that the French are at ease on this type of boat using a format that is similar to that of the Cup, which is our end goal".
As such, in Cagliari, Portsmouth, Gothenburg and finally Bermuda, the French crew of Groupama will battle it out with rivals from America, New Zealand, Italy, the UK, Sweden and Japan.
Whilst the three aforesaid multihull types are one-designs and hence not favourably disposed to innovation, it's thanks to the C-Class that Franck Cammas' team is able to get its grey matter turning in their bid to find the means to fly faster, higher and further. Reigning champions of the Little America's Cup, otherwise known as the `Little Cup', Franck and Louis Viat will be defending their title on Lake Geneva in September: "We got in some training on the lake last September so as to do a recce of the site. We had a very warm welcome from the locals, who are interested in the technology and the innovations developed by our design office. With regards to the race zone, it's really well suited to this type of boat".
In order to defend its chances in the best possible conditions, Groupama sailing team's design office has essentially made further developments to the foils and the ergonomics of the trampoline. Research and innovation are the very essence of this competition and the benefit of the techniques developed on the Groupama boats is bound to be an asset in this quest for performance. One question remains though, which is ever more motivating: What is the very secret international competition working on of which the Swiss host team Hydros forms part?
However things pan out, Groupama sailing team just has to continue with its work, day by day, mile by mile and tack by tack.
Diam 24 Program
Spi Ouest France (La Trinité-sur-mer) - from 2nd to 6th april 2015
Le Grand Prix de l'Atlantique (Pornichet) - from 17th to 19th april 2015
Le Grand Prix de l'Ecole Navale (Lanvéoc) - from 15th to 17th may 2015
Le Mult'YCO (Bénodet) - from 23rd to 25th may 2015
La Normandy Sailing Week (Le Havre) - from 11th to 14th June 2015
Tour de France à la Voile - from 3rd to 26th July 2015
America's Cup World Series (Cagliari, Italy) - from 5th to 7th June 2015
America's Cup World Series (Portsmouth, England) - from 24th to 26th July 2015
America's Cup World Series (Göteborg, Sweden) - from 28th to 30th august 2015
America's Cup World Series (Bermudas)- from 16th to 18th october 2015
Class C Program
Little Cup (Suisse) - from 12th to 20th septembre 2015
Nacra 17 Program
Trofeo Princesa Sofia (Palma, Spain) - from 30th march to 4th april 2015
Sailing World Cup (Hyères, France) - from 20th to 25th april 2015
Delta lloyd Regatta (Medemblick, The Netherlands) - du 26th to 30th may 2015
ISAF Sailing World Cup (Weymouth, United-Kingdom) - du 15th to 21st june 2015
Championnat du monde (Aarhus, Denmark) - from 6th to 10th july 2015
Championnat d'Europe (Barcelona, Spain) - from 26th september to 4th october 2015
Semaine Olympique Française (La Rochelle, France) - from 6th to 11th october 2015
Photo : © Groupama/Yvan Zedda