Team Groupama: Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim on the podium - Nacra 17
A fine performance in the Medal Race rewards Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim with third place in the Princess Sofia Trophy, a week-long event which attracts the world's best sailors to Palma, Majorca. Although the top spot went to another French team, Besson/Riou, ahead of the Brits in second place, Team Groupama's performance - and especially their remarkable comeback in the latter stages - is ample evidence that the field is still wide open with less than a year to go before the Olympic selections.
Often compared to a diesel engine which has to warm up before it gives its best performance, Franck and Sophie made a slow start at the beginning of the week. Groupama's skipper and crew made mistakes early on, such as starting poorly, choosing the wrong side of the course and making technical errors in the handling of their Olympic catamaran. Needless to say, in an international event which brings together the top teams in the world, such faults are unforgivable. "We're aware of our weaknesses and there's nothing like a race to set them right," said Franck at the beginning of the week.
And the results certainly improved over the following days. Franck again: "In addition to Federation coach Franck Citeau, we've also brought along our own man Bertrand Pacé. Our private, one-to-one debriefings every evening, as well as those of the morning, helped us enormously. Thanks to Bertrand, our duo communicates much better. He's provided us with some shrewd tactical analysis and useful observations about placings."
And when you add to the mix Cammas's legendary never-say-die attitude, such a comeback was inevitable: "We've still got plenty of room for improvement in breezy conditions, in particular sailing down wind against a team like Besson/Riou who are technically very comfortable in that department. As for us, we're still shy when it comes to attacking. But we're improving, making progress."
Results at Palma show that Team Groupama have improved as all-rounders: "Close-hauled in a breeze, we were able to hold our own against Billy. The ten kilos we gained in the winter have been a great help. But it isn't just a question of weight. Hours of training and our desire to succeed also play a significant role."
On closer inspection, certain crews seem unable to adapt as much as they would like. For instance, in a single day's racing in lighter winds, New Zealand's Gemma Jones dropped from third to twelfth place overall and as a result missed out on qualifying for the Medal Race. That's not a problem for Franck and Sophie, although they do have plenty to work on: "I hope it's going to blow back at training in Hyères prior to the Sailing World Cup at the end of April."
Yup, Groupama's skipper is not one for taking things easy, far from it. Getting to the Olympics is too important for that. As are all the other goals he's set for himself, such as winning the Tour de France à la Voile on the Diam 24s, defending his title in the Little America's Cup which is being held in Geneva next September and, not least, competing in the big one if he can find the right partners for Team France.
Final results for the Princess Sofia Trophy
1. FRA 1 - B.Besson / M.Riou - 42 points
2. GBR 201 - J.Gimson / H.Diamond - 95 points
3. FRA 077 - F.Cammas / S.De Turckheim - 108 points
Photo : Bertrand Pace/Groupama