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Groupama Sailing Team - Nacra 17 : A major season
For the past two years, Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim have been involved in preparations for the Rio Games 2016 in the Nacra 17, the new Olympic catamaran for mixed doubles. Putting up a very solid performance in the first season with victory at the Semaine Olympique in La Rochelle then a second season dominated by the other French pairing Besson - Riou, the crew of Groupama is tackling this third season at the Sailing World Cup in Miami with keenness and determination.

On being a part of this demanding Olympic preparation, the Groupama skipper was very much aware of the main rules of the game: a single crew will be selected to represent its country in Rio in 2016. Reigning double world champion, the French pairing of Besson - Riou appear to be unbeatable. In such conditions, why continue when you're also targeting the 35th America's Cup in 2017, the Little America's Cup in 2015 with Groupama C and the Tour de France la Voile on the Diam 24?
By competing in the Sailing World Cup in Miami against some 55 competitors, who represent sailing's international elite, Franck Cammas gives us the first part of the answer: it's through racing that we progress, not by remaining on shore.
Having headed off for nearly a month to Miami with three other French crews, Franck and Sophie have made the most of the local training sessions and races to gauge how well they're performing against the top sailors: "Things are going pretty well for now. In the medium wind and breezy conditions, which were our main weakness, we've made considerable progress. Both of us have gained weight, seven kilos, as well as strength. We still have some work ahead of us, but we're doing better, notably in terms of speed and mark roundings," Franck explains.

In the preparatory races contested at Key Biscayne, the French crews finished 7, 10 and 12th respectively: "The first thing we noticed was that the general level was much more evenly matched. A crew that wins one race can very easily finish twentieth in the next. Aside from the Dutch, who secured the top two places even though we hardly saw them last year, the points are very evenly distributed. Besson wasn't as good as usual and finished 10th. We finished 12th despite some poor starts and two disqualifications, which isn't too bad," continues the skipper of Groupama.

The situation with regards to the venue for this first event of the World Cup 2017 circuit is very interesting: "It's a very open race zone, without a compulsory gate. Tactically, we're going to have to be very skilful to really make the most of it. The sea is pretty flat and there is set to be between 10 and 15 knots".

Though it's always difficult to make forecasts, Franck and Sophie have set themselves some objectives: "We want to qualify for the Medal Race, which means finishing in the top ten. There will be two fleets of 28 boats representing 21 nations for the first three days then the Gold group and the Silver group as per usual. We're fast upwind and we need to make progress downwind under spinnaker," Franck explains. "Our main rivals, besides the French, are the New Zealanders, the Australians, the Danish, the Germans and the Dutch. We haven't seen so much of the Italians and I'm watching out for Iker Martinez too. He's switched crew so he'll probably need a bit of time to adjust, but he's a champion".

So the scene is set for this first international event of the 2015 season, which promises to be of capital importance with a view to the Olympic selection: "We're gaining confidence," concludes the skipper of Groupama. Watch this space from Monday 26 January.

Fellow French crews:
Billy Besson and Marie Riou
Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet
Flora Laugier and Valentin Bellet

Photo : Groupama
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