Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim competing in Hyeres. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/Groupama
by Vincent Borde
For its debut performance in an Olympic sailing event aboard a Nacra 17 catamaran, the Groupama crew has demonstrated its fantastic potential over the medium term, as well as its lack of actual time on the water during the new Sailing World Cup in Hyères, southern France.
We review this event, where the other French crews won great renown for their performances.
Based in Hyères for nearly three weeks before the first race, sadly Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim weren't able to make the most of all this time to get in some training. There are two reasons for this: a very busy schedule as a student of physiotherapy for Sophie, then an injury to the sacrum while training in blustery conditions: "The boat's bows buried violently into a wave. I was thrown and projected forwards. When the boat powered up again, one of the bows crashed headlong into my back", explains Sophie.
However, not the kind of person to complain, the triple World No.2 on the Laser had to ease off the pace during the training sessions, with the onus on avoiding sailing in breezy conditions.
Despite this unfortunate hitch, Groupama's crew was positioned in fifth place in the provisional overall standing after the first three races contested in light airs.
Leaders of the French clan, Franck and Sophie made the most of the second day of racing to make progress and settle themselves into position on the second step of the podium after the six qualifiers. It's a performance, which observers appreciate for what it is. Among them is the President of the French Sailing Federation, Jean-Pierre Champion: "Franck Cammas is a superb champion, synonymous with the honour and glory of French yachting. His approach is very professional. To see it up close is even better than we'd imagined".
Nacra 17s in Hyeres. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/Groupama
On Wednesday, on the third day of racing, the weather wasn't quite what it was before: the steady easterly wind picked up a nasty chop, which really put the crews to the test. Less at ease having had less time on the water, less at ease due to Sophie being injured, Groupama made a stand and returned to the ring: "We're suffering and on this type of boat that really is a handicap. You suddenly find that you're not going as fast, you're back with the chasing pack and you're constantly losing ground". Whilst the other French crews, and Besson-Riou and Vaireaux-Audinet in particular, shone, Cammas and De Turckheim were struggling.
Over the ensuing days, Groupama remained on her trailer, on shore: "It wasn't reasonable to sail. We'd have risked making Sophie's injury worse, without any chance of a good result. We certainly lost time on the water, but sometimes you have to be patient," said the skipper of Groupama.
Without the ability to rack up points and a long way off the top of the ranking, Franck isn't veering away from his objective: "The Olympic Games is a dream. All athletes say the same thing. I have an opportunity to do it, even though it certainly won't be an easy challenge."
This sentiment is echoed by Franck Citeau, French Nacra 17 coach: "Franck and Sophie aren't getting any special treatment. Given their skills and their track records, it was only logical for them to join the France Elite team".
It's down to them to try to be the top French crew during the selection rounds in 2014 because, as is the case in the other Olympic sailing series, just one crew will represent its country ...
The next important events in the Nacra 17 series for Groupama: the European championship at the end of August in Italy and the International Week in La Rochelle in October.
Cammas - Groupama