Franck Cammas: Defending the (Little) America’s Cup

Published on September 10th, 2015

When Frenchman Franck Cammas sets himself a goal, he puts everything in place to achieve it. In 2012, after winning the Jules Verne Trophy, the Route du Rhum and the Volvo Ocean Race in quick succession in the colours of Groupama, the French skipper set himself the medium-term goal of the America’s Cup.

Entirely logically then, he also began by preparing for and winning the Little America’s Cup contested in Falmouth, England, the following year. Today, competing in the real America’s Cup in the colours of Groupama Team France, Cammas will defend the Little America’s Cup title he secured in 2013. Starting this coming Monday 14 September, the competition on Lake Geneva promises to be hotly contested.

Designed by Groupama sailing team, who had just taken victory in the crewed round the world race, the ultra-fast fixed wing catamaran Groupama C sailed through the competition in every sense of the term, outpacing its Swiss rival Hydros during the final of the Little America’s Cup.

Two years on, a quick glance at the French catamaran suggests that very little has changed. And yet: “Since our victory and our involvement in the America’s Cup, Groupama C has been our test boat. The design team is very lucky to have such a tool at its disposal. Everything we’re developing on this boat must be able to be applied to the craft with which we’ll be competing in the America’s Cup.”

Present at the Port Noir technical base since last week, Groupama sailing team is carefully preparing for kick-off: “Together with Louis Viat, we’re progressing a little more each day on how to make best use of the boat. With the more substantial trimming systems we developed over the winter we can better control the boat’s flight and this technology can be directly applied to the boat we use in the America’s Cup itself,” continues the trusty skipper of Groupama.

Another area that is being developed for this Little Cup relates to the appendages and notably the foils: “It is faster and much cheaper to develop a set of foils for a 7-metre long catamaran than for an AC45, which is twice as long. In Lorient, our port of registry, we’ve been able to test several sets. It’s highly informative,” Cammas continues.

Equipped with a single sail, which takes the form of a fixed wing, Groupama C can go three times faster than the wind speed: “She’s an exceptional boat and Louis Viat and I really enjoy piloting her. She’s very sensitive. In addition to the appendages, we’ve refined the control system for trimming the wing, which switches over to each side. We’re able to trim everything whilst out on the wire, though it’s a bit lively at times.”

On the race zone on Lake Geneva, the crew of Groupama C will be battling it out with seven fellow competitors over five days and they’ll be going all out to make it into the top two, who will compete against each other in a conclusive series of duels on Sunday 20 September.

“There are fewer competitors than in 2013 but the standard seems higher and above all more uniform,” explains Louis Viat. “In the light airs, we’ll have to watch out for the boats that don’t have foils, like Axon Racing, the boat helmed by Frenchmen Benoît Marie and Benoît Morelle. And when there’s more breeze, we’ll inevitably have to keep a careful eye on Swiss boat Norgador, aboard which Groupama Team France’s tactician, Arnaud Psarofaghis, will be sailing, and finally Gstaad Yacht Club helmed by Besson and Vandame.”

Added to these key players is the Canadian unknown in the form of Team Rafale aboard a foiling catamaran designed by the Ecole de Technologie Supérieure (a public engineering school) in Montreal. Helmed by the Canadian champions of the Olympic 49er series, this team will need to be closely monitored.

After a scheduled training race this Sunday, the eight selected crew will do battle on the lake each day from 10:00am: “It’s still a bit early to say what weather we’re going to be graced with. What’s amazing is that even when the lake is motionless, there’s still gradient wind and hence a bit of breeze at altitude. In training this week we’ve had some fantastic sailing conditions,” adds Louis Viat. “The organising team has really done a good job and the landscape is magnificent.”

It’s a conclusion, which steers the crew away from making predictions. That said though, at the bookmakers, it would seem the odds in favour of the Cammas – Viat crew on Groupama C are excellent…

Those competing in the 27th Little America’s Cup:

• Groupama C, France: Franck Cammas and Louis Viat
• Axon Racing, Switzerland: Benoît Marie and Benoît Morelle
• Cogito 2015, USA: Steve Clark and Michael Costello
• Norgador, Switzerland: Jean Pierre Ziegert and Arnaud Psarofaghis
• Rafale, Canada: Mark Farmer and Trevor TejParekh
• Sentient Blue, Germany: Thomas Paasch and Filip Walczak
• Gstaad Yacht Club, Switzerland: Billy Besson and Matthieu Vandame

The dimensions of the C-Class:
LOA: 7.62m
Beam: 4.26m
Wing height: 13m
Wing area: 27.8m2

Event websiteClass informationGroupama Sailing Team

Report by Vincent Borde.

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