Thursday, 19 March 2009

Groupama 3: The First Mediterranean Campaign

The 2009 Groupama 3 team. Image copyright Yvan Zedda.

by Caroline Muller and Vincent Borde

For this initial Mediterranean campaign, Groupama 3 is heading for Istanbul in Turkey, where France's number one mutual insurance company goes by the name of "Basak Groupama".

The sun has just risen as Groupama 3 leaves her base in Lorient, Brittany on 17th March. At the helm, Franck Cammas gives his orders to his ten crew with a mixture of precision and good humour. All eyes turn to the team back on land and Lorient's Cité de la Voile, which the maxi trimaran won't see again before the summer, after covering over 13,000 miles and performing two record attempts.

With a little less than 3,000 miles to the gateway to the Orient, it's a beautiful course which awaits the crew of Groupama 3: "We're going to be discovering some new navigation zones, particularly in the East of the Mediterranean with the Aegean Sea, the Ionian islands, the Dardanelles Strait and finally Istanbul. It's going to be an excellent training session for the crew and a good test for the new version Groupama 3 because the image we have of a calm Mediterranean Sea is often mistaken. The sea can be short and nasty" explains Franck Cammas, a sailor born in Southern France.

During this initial stopover in Istanbul, the Groupama sailing team will be showing its guests the joys as well as the tribulations of sailing on the fastest yacht in the world (record for the greatest distance covered in 24 hours of 794 miles): "We are proud to be in a position to give the staff and clients from our branches a tour of the maxi trimaran sporting our colours. When we began our partnership with Franck, some twelve years ago now, we didn't have a presence in these countries. As such they will be able to discover Groupama 3 and her crew, who share the Group's values. Together, our goal today is to become one of the top ten European insurers between now and 2012" announces Frédérique Granado, Director of External Communications at Groupama.

This international development is a theme echoed aboard Groupama 3 since, in addition to Yann Dekker, a South African who was on the bow during the last record attempts, an American sailor by the name of Stan Honey will also be joining the crew this year. An engineering graduate from the prestigious American universities of Yale and Stanford, Stan held the Atlantic and 24 hour record with Playstation before going on to win the last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race aboard ABN AMRO: "I am very happy to be joining the Groupama team. The boat is very fast and I like the rational approach of Franck Cammas. I've begun to work with Sylvain Mondon from Météo France who is based in Toulouse. We get on well and he's very competent. All that's left is to see how the crew work at sea. I can't wait to get going and I know that I'm really lucky to be here. I know a lot of people who'd like to be in my place".

Another newcomer aboard Groupama 3 is Pierre Pennec. Selected to race in the Tornado category in the Olympic Games in Sydney, Pierre has already adopted the role of tactician aboard Groupama 2 during the ORMA Grands Prix in 2005. This time around the young racer will be trialling in the role of helm in a bid to form part of Franck Cammas' crew during the next attempt at conquering the Jules Verne Trophy: "It's a new challenge for me to head offshore. I've got a lot to learn both from a human and a technical aspect. However, I do like this very professional and also very endearing team. Added to that, it's a very rich and very varied course to Istanbul. We're going to have to constantly adapt to the highly variable conditions".

As regards weather, the start promises to be quick with downwind conditions as far as Gibraltar. After that it will be a different story, particularly in the Mediterranean. Whatever the situation though you can rest assured that Groupama 3 will be in `race' mode: "I've known Franck for years as we've often sailed against each other in the trimaran category. I know that he's got tremendous drive and I also know the quality of the organisation behind Groupama team. We've already begun to exchange ideas since my return from my solo round the world aboard Sodebo. It's really nice to be able to collaborate with such an open team. You can see further evidence of that with the arrival of Stan Honey who's a real legend amongst the Anglo-Saxons" concludes Thomas Coville.

Suffice to say that with such a crew, Groupama 3 will be driven hard and, hopefully smoothly!

The crew
Franck Cammas, skipper, watch leader and helm
Stève Ravussin, watch leader, media man and helm
Fred Le Peutrec, watch leader, helm and boat manager
Stan Honey, navigator
Bruno Jeanjean, trimmer
Loïc Le Mignon, second helm and manager of deck fittings
Jacques Caraës, bowman and media man
Ronan Le Goff, bowman and medical manager
Pierre Pennec, second guest helm
Yann Riou, guest manager of electronics and computers
Thomas Coville, second guest helm

The three record attempts scheduled for 2009:
1. From 6th May to 2nd June: Mediterranean Crossing between Marseilles and Carthage held by Orange 2 in 17 hours and 56 minutes
2. From 7th July to 19th August: North Atlantic Crossing, held by Groupama 3 in 99 hours and 57 minutes
3. From 1st November: Jules Verne Trophy held by Orange 2 in 50 days, 16 hours and 20 minutes

The six Groupama branches visited:
Basak Groupama in Istanbul in Turkey from 25th to 29th March
Groupama Phoenix in Athens in Greece from 3rd to 7th April
Groupama Assicurazioni - Nuova Tirrena in Venice from 16th to 19th April
Groupama Assicurazioni - Nuova Tirrena in Genoa in Italy from 25th to 27th April
La Star in Tunis in Tunisia from 5th to 7th June
Groupama Seguros in Valencia in Spain from 12th to 14th June
Groupama Seguros in Lisbon in Portugal from 19th to 21st June


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