America’s Cup World Series format to help Team France
Published on October 14th, 2015
Following on from Portsmouth and Gothenburg, the French challengers for the 35th America’s Cup are heading westwards to Bermuda, which will host the third event of the America’s Cup World Series on October 17-18.
Aboard the AC45 Groupama Team France, Franck Cammas and his crew will be trying to shake up the global hierarchy on the very race zone that will accommodate the qualifying rounds in May and June 2017, which will see the winning teams earn the right to challenge the America Defender, Oracle.
Since securing third place in the final race run in Sweden, the crew of Groupama Team France has had little opportunity to sail together, with the exception of three days racing a GC 32 in Marseille in early October. In such conditions it’s tough to envisage making up part of its deficit in relation to the top international crews from America, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
“Since the races in Gothenburg in late August, we’ve all done a lot of sailing but unfortunately not enough with all of us on one boat,” notes Cammas. “However, in four short, intense races, anything can happen. We’ve seen that we perform well in the start phases, but we were lacking references for trimming the foils. It’s a problem that should have been sorted now.”
September saw the French skipper take the win in the Little Cup in Geneva, otherwise known as the Little America’s Cup, before going on to finish 9th and top French crew in the European Nacra 17 Championship in Barcelona in association with Sophie de Turckheim.
“Despite all that, thanks to the three days of training in Marseille, the Bermuda stage will be the one we’ve prepared the most for,” Cammas explained. “That said, we’ll have to make sure we make good use of the time on the water on Thursday and Friday to line-up at Saturday’s start with our reflex actions firing on all cylinders. I feel confident as we have a solid crew.”
With Arnaud Psarofaghis fully fit again in his role of tactician (he suffered from a bout of food poisoning in Sweden), the crew of Groupama can really be on the attack: “There are always opportunities to be snapped up in this type of course and we’re beginning to get a handle on what we need to do. We just have to focus on putting it into practice now.”
In order not to take any chances, the French crew has taken on an assistant coach to work alongside Bertrand Pacé. Pierre Pennec, a talented helmsman and former member of the Olympic squad, takes up the new post: “Pierre competed in the Tour de France à la Voile with us,” Cammas adds. “He’s an excellent helmsman, who works intuitively. He’ll be keeping a close eye on our trimming, as well as those of our rivals. He’s an excellent complement to Bertrand, who’s very rational and very technical. We’ll see how they get along.”
In terms of the weather conditions, the skipper of Groupama Team France isn’t building castles in the air: “The models are evolving quickly. Indeed, Bermuda is quite far North so it’s influenced by the lows rolling across from Boston or New York en route for Europe. To the South of these lows, depending on whether a front rolls through or we’re influenced by a ridge of high pressure, the wind varies from 5 to 25 knots. For the weekend, we’re likely to be racing in a 10 to 15-knot breeze.”
However things pan out, the two days of racing are likely to be very intense, with Groupama Team France very close to the Swedish team on Artémis and the Japanese team on Softbank in the battle to snatch back the fourth place they secured in Portsmouth. Whatever the result, the French team will be putting in an eight-day training session with the Japanese team on the Cup site itself. It’s a great opportunity to up their game, whilst getting three new crew to integrate the Team: Hervé Cunningham, Olivier Herledant and Thomas Le Breton.
The crew of Groupama Team France:
Franck Cammas, skipper and helmsman
Arnaud Psariofaghis, tactician
Thierry Fouchier, wing trimmer
Arnaud Jarlegan, headsail trimmer
Devan Le Bihan, bowman
Team website: www.groupamateamfrance.fr
Report by Vincent Borde.