After serious injury, Cammas is back
Published on June 11th, 2016
by Christopher Clarey, The New York Times
(June 10, 2016) – The first concern was whether Franck Cammas would be able to keep his foot.
Cammas, who is France’s most successful sailor in recent years, had just had a gruesome training accident, falling off a catamaran into the waters of Quiberon Bay in northwestern France and getting struck by the yacht’s rudder.
Bertrand Pacé, a veteran America’s Cup sailor who is part of Cammas’s team, was driving the chase boat that rescued Cammas from the Atlantic Ocean.
“When I put him on board, I thought he was going to lose his foot, truly, because it was broken very low, very close to the ankle,” Pacé said in an interview last week. “I was afraid that the tendons and the nerves had been cut, because the foot was really detached.”
Despite the severity of the wound, there was virtually no blood. “That’s because the water was cold, and when the water is cold, there’s a reflex in which the blood vessels close,” Pacé said.
But on that frightening day in November, Cammas would soon be reassured. When the paramedics on shore cut away his shoe, he still had feeling in the sole of his right foot. The risk of infection was real, but he said the artery and primary tendons were intact.
“In the midst of my bad luck, I had some good luck,” Cammas said. “And what I wanted most of all was to get on the operating table as fast as possible. The helicopter thankfully came quickly.”
Because of the injury, his 2016 Olympic campaign was over. But his 2017 America’s Cup campaign was still a possibility, and last month, after months of rehabilitation, he returned to competition with Groupama Team France in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in New York.
This weekend, he will be back at he helm for the world series event in Chicago, part of the preliminaries for the main event next year in Bermuda.
“I really had to be patient this winter and work hard physically to try to get my capacities back enough that I could get back on board and compete,” he said.
In the old-model America’s Cup, with its stately monohull yachts, mobility would not have been much of an issue for a helmsman. But this new age of high-speed maneuvers in foiling catamarans is much more physically demanding and athletic.
“It’s true that I still have a little bit of pain when I jump and move around the netting, but I don’t think about it much when I’m sailing,” Cammas said. “I’ve lost some agility, but the netting absorbs some of the shock and now I’m getting my confidence back in terms of pushing off with my foot. What’s clear is that if I have to go the Alps and hike, I will not be as good as I was before.”
He still cannot run normally, but Cammas, a small and intense 43-year-old, is back to road cycling and is putting in long hours in an attempt to make Team France a factor in the America’s Cup.