Sunday, 24 April 2011

VOR: Thomas Coville aboard Groupama 4

Just back from his solo round the world on Sodebo, Thomas Coville is to step aboard Groupama 4 with Franck Cammas to contestthe next Volvo Ocean Race, the crewed round the world race aboard a monohull,the start of which will be given on 5 November 2011 in Alicante, Spain

Franck Cammas (right) welcomes Thomas Coville (left) at the end of the Route du Rhum (won by Cammas) in 2010. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/

by Kate Jennings (in translation)

Decidedly the skipper of Sodebo is linking together round the worlds as readily as hissailing jaunts around the bay of Quiberon. By accepting Franck Cammas’ invitation to climb aboard Groupama 4, having barely set foot back on land after an outstanding solo round the world aboard his 32 metre maxi trimaran, Thomas Coville is committing to a fourth circumnavigation of the globe in four years.

In 2010, the sailor from La Trinité sur Mer joined Franck Cammas on the maxi trimaran Groupama 3 in a bid to conquer the Jules Verne Trophy, which we know to have been successful (new record in a time of 48 days, 7 hours on 20 March 2010).

This year it’s aboard Groupama 4, a 70 foot monohull (21.5 metres), that Franck and Thomas will do battle with the top international crews: “Franck called me three days before I completed my circumnavigation. Solo sailing features a wealth of introspection but it leaves you mentally drained. In crewed configuration though, when you’re open to the group, you feed off them and you learn a great deal. Before even crossing the finish line off Ushant, I was already keen to say yes because I’ve dreamt about the Volvo Ocean Race since I was sixteen year of age. It’s one of the most fascinating races for me.”

And the skipper of Sodebo continues: “In this crewed round the world race, there’s never been such anaccomplished project in France,and even overseas, with this culture, this accumulation of experience from the people Franck has brought together. To be perfectly honest, it’s not just an attractive prospect, I’m also incredibly grateful to have been asked to do it by a team like Groupama and by Franck Cammas in particular. There’s a small element of pride mixed in all that but is it the kind of offer you can afford to refuse when you’re an athlete?”

As one of the editors of a monthly magazine on sailing recently penned: “today the skipper of Sodebo is the most rounded sailor of his generation”. At 43 and already with eight Cape Horn roundings to his credit, Thomas Coville is an over-qualified sailor who has competed in the Mini Transat 6.50, the Solitaire du Figaro, the Admiral’s Cup, the America’s Cup, the Route du Rhum, The Transat and the Vendée Globe. Though Franck Cammas knows all too well why he’s asked the fastest solo sailor across the North Atlantic to join him, the skipper of Sodebo is also well aware that he’s joining a realm of excellence by embarking on a journey around the world with Franck Cammas and his crew, for what will be his 7th circumnavigation of the globe (including 3 with Sodebo), the 2nd aboard a monohull and the 4th as part of a crew.

For the skipper of Groupama, getting back with one of the crew with whom he won the Jules Verne Trophy is a guarantee of performance and enthusiasm: “Thomas is an excellent sailor who never gives up. His recent solo round the world attempt with Sodebo is evidence of that. He is completely familiar with the open sea, life aboard this type of boat and the weather conditions we’ll encounter. His Anglo-Saxon culture will also be very useful within our crew, which is made up of five nationalities. Furthermore, we’ve got to know each other well from the Jules Verne Trophy. As such I’m not heading into the unknown by calling upon his services”.

Watch leader and hydraulics manager on Groupama 4, Thomas Coville has no intention of leaving Sodebo, with whom he’s been sailing for twelve years: “Today I’m the skipper of Sodebo, I’ll remain so and I’ll take up the helm of Sodebo again after the Volvo Ocean Race. For me this round the world aboard Groupama 4 is an essential digression in human and technical terms when you want to make progress and perform well. This decision to join Groupama Sailing Team has been constructed with Sodebo. It’s also about the meeting of two partners who share the same vision of the sport and who respect the people they’re working with. Sodebo has understood that the experience I stand to gain with Groupama will be of use to them. I am incredibly lucky to have a partner who respects my sporting career and who knows that it’s over the long term that gains are made. Groupama is an atypical insurer which shares the same mindset” explains Thomas Coville.

As for Patricia Brochard, Co-President of Sodebo, she is delighted about this new exchange of skills with the Groupama team: “Richness often comes from exchanges with others. This permeating of projects on matters which are similar without being identical is exemplary. Groupama, like Sodebo, are comprehensive sports projects which give meaning to top level sailing. It’s no accident: both our projects are long term commitments to our respective skippers, 13 years for Groupama and 12 years for Sodebo”.

Fully involved in the preparation of the Volvo Ocean Race since his victory in the Route du Rhum 2010 aboard Groupama 3, Franck Cammas can’t wait to put in his first tacks aboard Groupama 4. With construction drawing to a close at the Multiplastyard in Vannes, the first French monohull to take part in the crewed round the world race since Eric Tabarly in 1993, will be launched on 9 May in Lorient, Brittany.

At that point Franck and Thomas will discover the joys of monohull sailing together: “Groupama 4 will be a powerful boat, capable of reaching very high speeds and able to sail flat out, even in heavy seas. That’s another reason why our crew will be made up of experienced warriors” adds the skipper of Groupama: “With Thomas, we’ll also have Jacques Caraës, who was with us on the Jules Verne Trophy. He’ll fulfil the role of Media Man on certain stages. I’m very lucky to be sailing with sailors of this calibre”.

Split into nine stages, the eleventh edition of the Volvo Ocean Race is raced aboard 70foot monohulls (21.5m) driven by eleven person crews. Setting out from Alicante in Spain on 5 November 2011, the six participants will make a stopover in Cape Town, Abu Dhabi, Sanya (China), Auckland, Itajaï (Brazil), Miami, Lisbon and Lorient, before finishing in Galway on 7 July 2012.

The participating crews are:

1. Camper with EmiratesTeam New Zealand- Chris Nicholson (NZ)
2. Puma OceanRacing - Ken Read (USA)
3. Team Telefonica– Pedro Campos (ESP)
4. Spanish Team (ESP)
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Team – Ian Walker (UAE)
6. Groupama Sailing Team– Franck Cammas (FRA)

The crew of Groupama 4 will be made up of 11 men from among the following

1. Franck Cammas,
2. Thomas Coville,
3. Damian Foxall(IRL),
4. Jean-LucNélias,
5. CharlesCaudrelier,
6. Magnus Woxen(SWE),
7. Philip Harmer(AUS),
8. Martin Stromberg(SWE),
9. Martin Krite(SWE),
10. Brad Marsh (NZL),
11. Sébastien Marsset,
12. Erwan Israël,
13. Yann Riou,
14. Jacques Caraës

The Volvo Ocean Race

A crewed round the world race with stopovers, the Volvo Ocean Race, formerly known as the Whitbread, will set out from Alicante(Spain) on 5 November 2011 for its eleventh edition. Spanning 9 months and 10 stopovers, the participating crews will cover over 39,270 miles over 4 oceans. The race will conclude in Galway (Ireland) on 7 July 2012 after making a stopover in Lorient, France, Groupama Sailing Team’s base, from 16 June to 1 July 2012. Groupama 4 is the first French boat to compete in the event since 1993.

Cammas - Groupama
Volvo Ocean Race