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Groupama Sailing Team: Tour de Belle-Ile : a bracing tour
With nearly 500 boats at the start, the 2015 edition of the Tour de Belle Ile has been a great success, a giant jumble of monohulls and multihulls heading off together to circumnavigate what is such a beautiful island. Major players on the racing scene for the 18th consecutive year, Franck Cammas and Groupama entered the race aboard two catamarans, of which the main focus was the flying AC45.

At 10:00 hours, as the starting gun released the fleet, Groupama 45 was the first to cross the start line. Hot on her heels, the MOD 70 trimarans battled it out with the older generation multihulls. A little further to leeward, the monohulls soon became little white dots on the horizon.

Setting a course for La Teignouse lighthouse, which marks the exit from the bay of Quiberon, before making for the headland of Les Poulains to the west of Belle Ile, the crews gave their utmost, all too aware that the tour would be in the wake of the fastest boats in just over two hours. Aboard Groupama 40 and Groupama 45, the atmosphere was damp to say the least. Constantly being hosed down by the waves, which were making the most of the speed to lash at their faces, the crews dug deep, more focused than ever on their speed.

Outdistanced by the boats which were nearly twice the size of them, Franck Cammas and Julien Villion weren't about to let themselves get discouraged: "The Tour de Belle Ile is a great opportunity for our partners to discover our passion, our craft. Aboard Groupama 40, three of Groupama's associates and partners got a taste of our world and they greatly enjoyed it, even though we were soaked and nicely stirred up by what were fairly heavy seas, especially upwind of the island," explains Julien, who was driving the Extreme 40.

Far from being ridiculous in terms of performance after posting a fine eighth place, the local of the leg made the most of his time on the water to watch Groupama 45, the flying boat: "It's fabulous. You're entering a whole new dimension with these boats, which lift up out of the sea".

For Franck Cammas and his crew, the day was as marvellous as it was full-on: "We got really drenched. My eyes are shot. Prior to the start, we weren't sure whether we'd stick to the course upwind of Belle Ile given the big waves crashing onto the coast. In the end we did go for it but we were very cautious. This flying boat is a real journey of discovery, even though we already boast a solid experience of it thanks to Groupama C. It's a bit like making the transition between a propeller aircraft and a jet plane. We have a lot to learn and that's why it was interesting to participate in the Tour de Belle Ile".

With their delighted faces somewhat haggard by the end of the day, the five crew of Groupama 45 will remember the final run between La Teignouse and the finish line marked by the Tara Expeditions boat for a long time to come: full flight, powering down at 32 knots.

And no matter if the boat designed for July's America's Cup World Series circuit wasn't ranked because it didn't comply with the measurement rule in force on the Tour de Belle Ile: that's the price of innovation.

Heading back to their home port of Lorient via the sea late this afternoon, the two crews have stowed the AC 45 in the shed and it's now time for a debriefing. Meantime, the bulk of the 500 competitors are still tacking around Belle-Ile...

About Groupama
Boosted by its various brands, Groupama, Gan and Amaguiz, the Groupama group, France's top mutual insurance company is expanding its insurance, banking and financial services in eleven countries. The group comprised 13 million clients and 34,000 representatives around the world, with a turnover totaling 13.6 billion euros.
For further information please visit: www.groupama.com

Photo : Yvan Zedda/Groupama
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