Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Lorient Grand Large, Part Three : Volvo Ocean Race Stopovers (2/2)

From an interview with Christophe Baudry in French in 2013

Cammas and Groupama won the leg into Lorient and the last Volvo Ocean Race overall. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race/Ian Roman

by Anne Hinton
Lorient Grand Large was set up to organize the centre for offshore racing that is based in Lorient and coordinate the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Lorient. Lorient Grand Large acts to organize everything directly in relationship with local businesses and the community and, side by side with that, to encourage events and international sailing projects to be based in Lorient. It is run by Christophe Baudry and his team from offices near the Base des Sous-Marins, and main sailing team bases, in Lorient.

The Lorient stopover during the last Volvo Ocean Race, in 2012. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race
The Volvo Ocean Race is changing to up to eight one design boats, rather than prototypes, for the 2014-15 race, so one hopes that there will be that many on the starting line. “Today, I am not sure whether there will be a French boat. The budget has been considerably reduced, but I am not sure that there will be a French boat. What I am certain of is that there will be teams with a strong French presence. This is people with competencies, as has been shown by the Groupama Sailing Team, who proved that France is not just a nation of singlehanded [or multihull!] sailors. I think that the example set by the Groupama Sailing Team was not that they were the best prepared at the start, but that they learnt things rapidly and had the ability to continue to improve during the event,” said Christophe Baudry.

Crowds at the BSM during the Lorient stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race 2012. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race/Paul Todd
You know, I believe that if Eric Tabarly had won the Whitbread in 1973, which he had to pull out of due to dismasting, France would have been a lot more interested in racing in teams, whereas it is Eric Tabarly’s fault, due to his winning the Solitaire Anglaise twice, that he gave the French public a strong interest in singlehanded offshore racing,” explained Baudry. There are, however, French teams in discussions concerning participating in the race, and Groupama Sailing Team may possibly make a comeback to the Volvo Ocean Race at some stage.

Cammas and the Groupama Sailing Team : first into Lorient. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race/Paul Todd

Many of the IMOCA skippers, such as Michel Desjoyeaux, Bilou (Roland Jourdain, Vincent Riou and Jean-Pierre Dick, are moving into the MOD70s, although the higher financing of individual campaigns in this class has led to concentration of several skippers into one team. This represents a change from singlehanded to crewed racing. However, more Lorient-based sailors are also taking part, once again, solo racing Figaros in La Solitaire du Figaro in 2014, with Alain Gautier and Isabelle Joschke both returning to the fray under the colours of Generali. After this, Isabelle Joschke is seeking sponsorship for the 2016 Vendée Globe.

Jeremie Beyou’s Maître Coq chases François Gabart’s Vendée Globe-winning Macif IMOCA in the Defi Azimut Tour de Groix, off Lorient, September 2013. Jeremie Beyou is another Lorient skipper with sponsorship to compete in the next Vendée Globe. Image copyright Anne Hinton; all rights reserved

“These people have given a lot to singlehanded sailing, but now want to do something else,” explained Christophe Baudry. “We are also lucky to have people like Franck Cammas in France – who win something and then pass on to the next thing. At present he is working towards the Olympic Games, because this is something he hasn’t won to date, before moving on to the America’s Cup. We are lucky to have skippers who are ambitious and that is very positive.” 

The Lorient-based Gitana Team and Oman Sail competing against each other in the MOD70s off the Brittany coast. In 2013 Seb Josse's Gitana always gained the upper hand over Sidney Gavignet's Oman Sail. Image copyright Gitana Team/Yvan Zedda.

In 2014, Jean-Pierre Dick has announced that he has sponsorship and will also compete in the 2016 solo IMOCA monohull Vendée Globe, once again. Armel Le
 Cléac'h is building a new Banque Populaire IMOCA for the 2016 raceSimilarly, Seb Josse will enter the 2016 Vendée Globe with the Lorient-based Gitana Team. Seb Josse and Gitana Team won the MOD70 Route des Princes racing around western Europe in 2013, ahead of Sidney Gavignet's Oman Sail, also Lorient-based. The two repeated the same positioning in the Transat Jacques Vabre double-handed race to Brazil last November, and will complete against each other, singlehanded, in the Route du Rhum this coming November in the MOD70s.

Groupama wins the 2013 Tour de France à la Voile. Image copyright Morgan Bove/ASO
After winning the Volvo Ocean Race for France, Franck Cammas has taken his Groupama Sailing Team towards the Olympics, with a Nacra 17 campaign with Sophie de Turckheim. They are proving a strong challenge to the other French Nacra 17 Olympic competitors, who are all at the top of the Olympic sailing week results, winning the 2013 Quiberon Raid ahead of their strongest fellow Olympic campaigners, with Franck Cammas then also beating Billy Besson to take the C-class Little America’s Cup in Cornwall, England, in September 2013. In addition, Cammas found time to win the Tour de France à la Voile in 2013, and is returning to defend his title in 2014. There is still stiff competition to be overcome before Cammas and de Turckheim qualify to represent France let alone take Gold in Rio 2016… after which Cammas’ attention will be turned fully to the America’s Cup, for which he is already preparing on the side, by winning the French national match racing championships and competing in the wing-sail development C-class Little America’s Cup, as well as foiling on an F18… and has announced the creation of Team France as France's America's Cup team, to be run along the lines of Emirates Team New Zealand.

Franck Cammas and Louis Viat sailing the Groupama C-class cat. Image copyright Groupama/Yvan Zedda

The Director of Operations of the Volvo Ocean Race, Tom Touber, commented that they are now celebrating 40 years of this race around the world in teams. “The race started as a joke in a UK bar in 1973, but it could just as easily have been in France, due to the interest in ocean racing.” The Volvo Ocean Race is a non-profit organization and reinvests in its business. It is backed by Volvo trucks and Volvo cars. “A first for the next edition of the race is the one design aspect. Whereas several boats arrived within 10 minutes of each other last time, will we see all arrive within one minute next time around?” wondered Tom Touber. There are girls now competing, and very strongly too, with at least one local Brittany-based international sailor on board this boat, Team SCA. “Groupama was a low budget [10 million Euros] programme in the last edition, but won the race”, commented Touber.

Team SCA. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Team SCA
The Volvo Ocean Race leaves Alicante on 4th October 2014 and arrives in Gothenburg, the home of Volvo, on 27th June 2015. The race is 39,895nm, a little under 40,000nm, but the mileage can be made up by circling around the islands off Brittany, commented Touber! The Volvo Ocean Race will arrive in Lorient on 9th-10th June 2015, with a Pro-Am race on Saturday, 13th June, the In-port race on 14th June and the start of the final leg, to Gothenburg, on 17th June. There will be the same points to be gained on the short leg from Lisbon to Lorient as on all other legs of the race. With the one design nature of the boats, an exciting and tight arrival into Lorient is on the cards.

Volvo Ocean Race route 2014-15. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race
The strong interest in offshore racing in France will continue and the next Lorient Volvo Ocean Race stopover will undoubtedly attract a large and enthusiastic public following in the home of the Cité de la Voile.

Lorient Grand Large
Volvo Ocean Race