America’s Cup, SailGP, and France

Published on February 18th, 2019

Franck Cammas is legendary in France with a career bursting full of world records and historic offshore multihull victories. He proved able in monohulls too by winning the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, though his quest to bring the America’s Cup home to France has fallen short.

Cammas finds himself now a spectator as the 2021 America’s Cup ramps up, and also as the newly launched SailSP circuit gets underway. In an interview with Tip & Shaft, Cammas offers some interesting observations about the events and his country.

The SailGP circuit has a French team skippered by Billy Besson. Were you contacted to take part in the circuit?

With SailGP CEO Russell Coutts, we had some contact early on just after the 2017 America’s Cup, when things started to fall in place with Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli. But it was clear that there was a lot of tension between them and Larry ended up saying he would take it all and do what he wanted. After that we didn’t have any further contact with him.

I think that Russell wanted to change the leading players away from figures best known for the America’s Cup. We must remember that in Larry Ellison’s mind, this was something that will compete against the Cup and he wanted to separate the two worlds by using young skippers.

I’m pleased for Billy, and the young guys in his team who did the 2017 Cup with me – Matthieu Vandame, Devan Le Bihan and Olivier Herlédant. I’m not at all inclined towards competing against them. The aim is to beat the other countries, so it’s better if we all pull together in France.

Talking about the Cup, you didn’t manage to keep going with the Team France adventure. Why do you think it is so hard finding partners?

I thought the way we set things up with leading French hi-tech firms coming together in this project made a lot of sense and was attractive. A lot of people wanted to help us, but they weren’t all willing to put their hands in their pockets.

In France, people don’t like showing they have a lot of money, but a project like this creates a lot and generates business. It’s not true that firms don’t have money. It’s more that they don’t like taking risks and doing something out of the ordinary.

Today, I feel that reticence, the fear of how they are seen. In France there is only money in French sailing in French events and not international sailing.

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