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Groupama Sailing Team: Nacra 17: kick-off in Hyères today
For the 47th year in a row, Hyères' harbour is playing host to the entire Olympic sailing series. And for the third year, the Sailing World Cup is the designated context, proof that this race zone is quite simply one of the finest and most technical in the world. For Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim, this stage of the World Cup is an opportunity to confirm how much progress they have made in the upper echelons of the mixed Nacra 17 series, even it means shuffling up the French and overseas hierarchy.

When the skipper of Groupama decided to launch upon an Olympic adventure, onlookers were torn between admiration and doubt. Admiration for the ambition demonstrated by a skipper specialising in offshore racing, who is determined to challenge the super pros on the dinghy sailing circuit. At times though doubt is voiced with regards a forty-year old athlete's ability to adapt to the pace and technical skill of a sports catamaran over a course that has little in common with that of a round the world race like the Volvo Ocean Race.

Three years on, Franck Cammas has earned the respect of his new peers and rivals. Teamed up with Laser champion, Sophie de Turckheim, the Groupama crew is very much in the running for a selection in the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. Having pulled off a fantastic start to the season (8th in the SWC in Miami, 3rd in the Eurosaf in Palma), they are pinning their hopes on this French stage of the World Cup to confirm their progress: "We're really on top of our game. We've made gains in terms of versatility and speed. We're hungry for it," confirms Sophie, who is preparing to take to the water to compete in the training race, which precedes Wednesday's official start to racing.

In conjunction with the French Team with whom they're working, Franck and Sophie have also called upon the services of Bertrand Pacé to coach them. A passionate inshore racer boasting extensive international experience as well as being an engineering graduate, Pacé and Cammas get along famously. Back on shore, after each day spent on the water, the debriefing can roll on and on sometimes, the domains of technical, tactical and strategic observation having no bounds.

On the race zone in Hyères, which provides varied racing conditions according to the direction of the wind, the latter set to be light for the first two days (10-12 knots), filling in slightly later (14 - 18 knots), there is a fierce week of racing on the cards.
In each of the ten series, outside the Paralympic category, solely the top 40 crews will be retained. Suffice to say that everybody who's anybody in international Olympic sailing is in attendance. Among them, the French contingent is feeling relaxed. Indeed, if we are to believe the Director of the French Team, the aim is to secure a win in five series. That equates to one in two. Naturally Franck and Sophie would be delighted to help make that goal a reality...

The French Nacra 17 crews:

• Billy Besson and Marie Riou
• Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet
• Flora Laugier and Valentin Bellet
• Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim

Photo : Yvan Zedda/Groupama
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