Thursday, 22 October 2009

Ten sailors on a mission to conquer the Jules Verne Trophy aboard Groupama 3

Perss conference at the TJV HQ in Paris. Supplied image.

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

Today, at the Race HQ for the Jules Verne Trophy in Paris, Frédérique Granado, Director of external communications at Groupama and Franck Cammas, skipper of the maxi trimaran, presented the crew who will be setting off on their latest adventure from 1st November onwards. Their mission is to break the round the world record under sail, held since 2005 by Bruno Peyron on Orange 2 with a time of 50 days and 16 hours...

Tanned, cheerful and smiling broadly, the crew aboard Groupama 3 are keen to get going and rediscover the three oceans for which they have been actively preparing for several years. Back from a 7-day preparation session in the Mont Blanc massif under Eric Loizeau, Franck Cammas' crew made a stopover at the Groupama Press HQ, 21 Bld Malesherbes in Paris' 8th district, in order to present their challenge to the press.

This challenge crowns a twelve year partnership with Groupama since it was back in 1997 that the first sailing contract with Franck Cammas was signed:
"We have assessed the benefits of sailing sponsorship for the Group. Today, the French brand Groupama is one of the most ingrained on people's minds within the sailing universe and its image has made huge steps in terms of daring, opening and modernity. The human adventure and forward thinking of this project has also increased the cohesion of our 38,500 employees and our 70,000 representatives" explains Frédérique Granado. "Competitive sailing is the perfect illustration of the tenacity, the taste for action, controlled risk and the sense of innovation that form part of Groupama's identity. Now, sailing plays an important role in the influence of the brand in France as well as overseas, as we were able to witness during this year's Route of the Subsidiaries".

A familiar face in its Paris premises, the skipper of Groupama 3 presented his crew one by one. Among its ranks are a whole score of champions of international renown, such as Stan Honey, Stève Ravussin, Lionel Lemonchois as well as Thomas Coville: "I put my crew together by naturally favouring competence, as well as performance and motivation. These three qualities are dependent upon the ability to live together for around fifty days in a small space and in a fairly hostile universe. Initially this is what the success of our attempt revolves around" analyses Franck Cammas.

"In relation to our previous attempts, four new crew members have joined us. Stan Honey is replacing Yves Parlier in the navigation, Bruno Jeanjean is replacing Yann Dekker who's aboard Alinghi, as is the case for Franck Proffit who's replaced by Lionel Lemonchois and Sébastien Audigane by Thomas Coville. On paper and above all onboard during training, it's the dream team. The remaining six crew, which might be described as the elders, have been aboard Groupama 3 since her launch in 2006: Stève Ravussin, Fred Le Peutrec, Loïc Le Mignon, Ronan Le Goff and Jacques Caraës".

With an average of two victorious circumnavigations of the globe per crewman, with the exception of Cammas, Ravussin and Jeanjean, Groupama 3's crew may be described as experienced. If we add to the mix the fact that three of them are already Jules Verne Trophy holders, that three of them have also won the Route du Rhum, one the Volvo Ocean Race and that together they broke the Trans-Mediterranean record this year, it can safely be said that performance goes hand in hand with their experience and competence.

There are now just two elements remaining to be victorious in their quest for the Holy Grail: to benefit from favourable weather conditions before setting off from Ushant and rounding the three capes, as well as to conserve Groupama 3 to ensure she makes it to the finish after sailing over 40,000 kilometres at high speed in what are often difficult seas, at times bordering on zones of ice, far away from any inhabited land: "In relation to our first round the world attempt, we've made a great deal of progress. This has been achieved by significantly reinforcing Groupama 3's floats as well as covering a vast number of miles with two aims: to test the structure so as to gain confidence and get to know the boat better so as to go faster" continues Franck Cammas.

With ten days until the start of the stand-by period set for 1st November, the skipper of Groupama 3 can count on Sylvain Mondon, an expert router at Météo France, to analyse the forecasts on a daily basis and detect a good window sufficiently early to enable the crew to get to the boat: "To set off in good conditions, we'll need 20 to 25 knots of NE'ly breeze, which will enable us to reach the equator in five to six days. Unfortunately we cannot anticipate how things are going to pan out after that, particularly as regards the position of the Saint Helena High. However, it's the same scenario for all the challengers".

Thanks to the colour code system put in place (red, orange, yellow and green), the crew don't have to wait in Lorient or Brest for the fateful hour. Based in the United States, Brazil, Switzerland and France, the crew are given at least 72 hours' warning before a probable departure. They have to be onboard 24 hours before the boat leaves the quayside on her way to the start line off Ushant.

Such organisation plays on Franck Cammas' mind: "Experience has taught me that stand-by periods are tricky to handle as you can't make any plans or organise anything for longer than three days. Analysing the weather forecasts is a good thing, but we prefer action. As such, if a good window presents itself early on, all ten of us will be very happy to set off on this extraordinary adventure that is a circumnavigation of the globe under sail. We have an exceptional boat in Groupama 3. It's up to us to get the best out of her to beat the record set by Orange 2 and Bruno Peyron four years ago".

The crew and organisation aboard Groupama 3:
• Watch No.1: Franck Cammas / Loïc Le Mignon / Jacques Caraës
• Watch No.2: Stève Ravussin / Thomas Coville / Bruno Jeanjean
• Watch No.3: Fred Le Peutrec / Lionel Lemonchois / Ronan Le Goff
• Off-watch navigator: Stan Honey goes up on deck for manoeuvres
• Each watch lasts three hours
• One watch on deck, one watch on stand-by ready to perform manoeuvres, one watch totally resting

The record to beat
Held since 2005 by Bruno Peyron on Orange 2 in 50 days 16 hours 20 minutes at an average speed of 17.89 knots. Lionel Lemonchois, Ronan Le Goff and Jacques Caraës were aboard.

Cammas - Groupama

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