For a number of years now, Franck Cammas has been stringing together a series of successes aboard the Groupama boats: Jules Verne Trophy, Route du Rhum, Volvo Ocean Race, Tour de France à la Voile, C-Class and finally Olympic preparation on the Nacra 17.
Franck Cammas / Sophie DeTurckheim (FRA) - Nacra
However, there is one series where the Frenchman has never become an established name: the Extreme 40. In signing up for his third year on this professional circuit, after 2009 and 2010, the Groupama skipper is asserting his determination: to do battle against the top players in order to make progress.
Contested aboard 40-foot (12 metres) one-design catamarans, the Extreme Sailing Series is gathering together twelve teams, who will battle it out in eight stages spanning France, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific: 'This is most definitely the circuit with the highest level of competition in the world this year,' Franck Cammas says from the outset.
To take the start of the first event of the year in Singapore (20 to 23 February) in the best possible conditions, the Groupama skipper began by calling upon the services of a regular addition to his team, Tanguy Cariou. A project manager and top-flight tactician, Tanguy successfully led the Tour de France project in 2013 that we are all familiar with. Indeed, Groupama 34 secured victory in all three rankings (overall, inshore and offshore), securing what proved to be a truly unprecedented lead over the second placed team in the event's entire 36-year history.
Together, Franck and Tanguy have called upon Thierry Fouchier, one of just two Frenchman to win the America's Cup (BMW Oracle in 2010) and a true ESS expert, Devan Le Bihan (crew aboard Groupama 34 in 2013) and finally Sophie de Turckheim, who is also preparing for the Olympic Games with Franck on the Nacra 17.
Suffice to say that it's a very fine crew, who will be sailing aboard Groupama - Team France. However, Tanguy Cariou remains very prudent when you bring up the subject of forecasts: 'We'll only be able to draw up an initial report after the first three events (Singapore, Oman and Qingdao). One thing we are sure about is that it's going to be tough as we did virtually no training prior to the boat's departure for Singapore in a container. As such we'll be lacking the points of reference of our rivals, who have been sailing on the circuit for years.'
Alongside him, Franck Cammas shares a similar view: 'There's a fantastic line-up with Team New Zealand and Dean Barker, JP Morgan and Ben Ainslie and also the Australian team, which is preparing for the next America's Cup. And we mustn't forget the familiar faces on the circuit, like Alinghi and The Wave Muscat.'
Realistic, the Groupama skipper certainly isn't resigned and is already casting his mind forward: 'The special feature of the circuit lies in the brevity of the races, which don't even last ten minutes. We're always in transition, never on a straight line. The most important thing is to manage the positioning and anticipate each upcoming passage and action in line with the rules, particularly at the marks. It's a long year though and I hope that we'll make good progress,' Cammas concludes.
In order to help them to up their game in the necessary way, France's double Olympic champion, Thierry Péponnet, will take up the post of coach, as he's done over recent years in the Volvo and the Tour de France à la Voile: 'The races are so intense that it's hard to analyse them after the event and gauge what was and what wasn't done well. This is where Thierry will help us. He's familiar with the circuit and has been following us for a long time'.
With two weeks to go until the 2014 season kicks off, the seventeenth season for Franck in the colours of his loyal partner, Groupama, and the first under the Team France banner, everything is in position. The green catamaran will arrive in Singapore shortly as the crew hones its physical fitness and the OC Sports teams ready themselves for the organisation. In order to track the performance of Groupama Team France, you'll notably be able to follow their progress on the Canal+ group's stations (Infosport, Sport+ and I Télé), Team France's audiovisual partner.
The crew on Groupama Team France
1. Franck Cammas, skipper and helmsman
2. Tanguy Cariou, project manager and mainsail trimmer
3. Thierry Fouchier, headsail trimmer
4. Devan Le Bihan, bowman
5. Sophie de Turckheim, tactician and observation of the race zone
6. Matthieu Vandame, replacement
The competing crews
1. Team New Zealand, Dean Barker (New Zealand)
2. JP Morgan BAR, Ben Ainslie (UK)
3. Alinghi, Ernesto Bertarelli (Switzerland)
4. Real Team, Jérôme Clerc (Switzerland)
5. Gac Pindar, Steve Jarvin (Australia)
6. Gazprom Team Russia, Igor Lisovenko, (Russia)
7. Oman Air, Rob Greenhalgh (Oman)
8. The Wave Muscat, Leigh Mac Millan (Oman)
9. SAP Extrem Sailing Team, Jes Gram Hansen (Denmark)
10. Red Bull Sailing Team, Roman Hagara (Austria)
11. Team Aberdeen Singapore, Nick Moloney (Sing)
12. Groupama Team France, Franck Cammas (France)
The competition sites
1. Singapore from 20 to 23 February
2. Oman from 19 to 22 March
3. Qingdao from 1 to 4 May
4. Saint Petersburg from 26 to 29 June
5. Cardiff from 22 to 25 August
6. Istanbul from 11 to 14 September
7. Nice or Marseille from 2 to 5 October
8. Sydney from 11 to 14 December