Volvo Ocean Race
Groupama sailing team at the summit of sailing Everest
Wednesday 4 July 2012
Franck Cammas and his men are crowned the outright winners of the eleventh edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. With a second place in the leg from Lorient to Galway and a final In-Port race still to contest on 7 July in Galway, Groupama 4 has gained a sufficient points-lead to be assured of first place in the overall event standing, whatever the result this coming Saturday!
Groupama in the Volvo Ocean Race
Franck Cammas and the crew of Groupama 4 can already savour their victory and join the great names of past winners, alongside Lionel Péan and his French crew, who were crowned in 1985-86.
This memorable victory in Ireland is the fruit of a long period of collective work, great determination and progress, which hasn’t stopped throughout the duration of a race, that began on 29 October 2011, the day of the first In-Port race in Alicante, and lasted all the way to the finish.
On her return to Europe, Groupama sailing team took the head of the overall standing in this legendary competition, leaving no possibility for a counter-attack from the other five adversaries… “The ‘steamroller’ Groupama sailing team”, as Thomas Coville calls it, simply couldn’t be stopped in its majestic tracks and made Ireland, the final race stopover, in second place behind the New Zealanders on Camper. The result was sufficient to hold onto the top spot in the overall standing with 250 points.
A taste of victory
Franck Cammas’ men had already had a taste of victory when they topped the overall Volvo Ocean Race leaderboard in Lisbon. However, the French boat didn’t stop there and continued to lead the way: In Lorient the French team won the eighth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, after a very bracing 1,950-mile course. This success on home waters showed, once again, that the French complexes in relation to Anglo-Saxon sailing were unfounded. And yet there was still everything to play for: two In-Port races and one offshore race could very easily have reshuffled the cards by shaking up the positions of their rivals.
A masterly In-port
However, the crew of Groupama stood tall against their rivals on home waters, during the Lorient In-Port race in the Coureaux de Groix, on Saturday 30 June. After a mediocre start, the French crew capitalised on the manoeuvring errors by the Americans (Puma) and the New Zealanders (Camper) and came out on top. The delight of the crew members, the members of the shore team, Groupama and their numerous fans, was palpable. The skipper from Aix-en-Provence, satisfied with his team’s performance, remained humble on arriving dockside. Franck Cammas: “Obviously we couldn’t have hoped for better than to win this In-Port race here, in Lorient, particularly as this wasn’t our aim at the start: we’d have been happy to finish 2nd or 3rd! Unfortunately for them, the New Zealanders left us an opening, which we quickly snapped up. The result is a real delight for the whole team, especially as there were loads of people on the water to encourage us. It’s a huge pleasure to receive this welcome, here, where we prepared for this race for months on end. And it’s good to have a 25-point lead in the overall standing: that enables us to be more serene for the next stage. However, it has to be said that it was extremely close today between the top three!”
The icing on the cake
The ninth and final offshore leg between Lorient and Galway promised to be closely-fought: spanning just 550 miles the course was framed by some compulsory passages around Belle-Île, the Breton headland, the Fastnet lighthouse and the Aran Islands.
The separation between the top four never exceeded four miles and the leader was constantly changing amidst the numerous manoeuvres. The Spanish led the way as far as Raz de Sein, then the New Zealanders took control before being outmanoeuvred by the Iberians, then the Americans on rounding Fastnet, whilst Groupama was constantly on the attack.
After the Blasket Islands the match seemed to virtually be in the bag for Puma but, just fifty miles from the finish, the Kiwis snatched back control, thanks to a well-timed gybe in a southerly breeze of around twelve knots.
Chris Nicholson’s crew thus won their first offshore leg since the race start in Alicante. Thousands of Irish sailing fans enveloped the basin in Galway with extraordinary enthusiasm, which reached fever point when the French boat was tied up to the dock, congratulating the first Irish winner of the Volvo Ocean Race in the form of Damian Foxall, watch leader on Groupama 4!
Franck Cammas, on his arrival in Galway: “To win the Volvo Ocean Race is a very fine challenge when you’re a novice in this format and French to boot! That’s what is motivating and exciting for a team: achieving what nobody expects of you. We weren’t a favourite or even an outsider at the start in Alicante. We were also in an easy position, especially as this first crewed race around the world was about learning the ropes prior to a planned second participation. We were here to discover the scene without any pressure on our shoulders, but to win was a surprise to everyone… despite putting a huge amount of work into the race over the past three years. We entered a tunnel where all we thought about was the race and we didn’t think beyond that: our world may well be a bit empty for a few days after this coming weekend. However, after a victory such as this, we’ll have many great memories and such trust in our way of working and in our strategy that we can cast our minds forward to lots of other challenges. This is an epic dream, which has come true today and I can honestly say that I didn’t think we would win on our first attempt! We’ve become a good crew over the miles. Initially we thought that the Spanish were going to walk away with the race win but we knew that it was still very close between four boats, which all had a chance of winning. It’s been an extraordinary race as there have never been so many uncertainties in a round the world race. And we’d still very much like to win the last In-Port in Galway on Saturday, just as a thank you to Thierry Péponnet, who told us to finish in front in the short races: we need to round things off in style! We’re very happy to be able to compete in the last race without any pressure on our shoulders…”
Overall standing on 4 July 2012
1 – Groupama sailing team – 250 points
2 – CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand – 226 points
3 – PUMA Ocean Racing – 220 points
4 – Team Telefonica – 209 points
5 – Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – 129 points
6 – Team Sanya – 50 points