At the ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres (formerly referred to as the Semaine Pré Olympique (Pre-Olympic Week)), Franck Cammas and teammate Sophie de Turckheim will be doing battle for the first time with the top international Nacra 17 crews. After two weeks of strenuous training on the race zone in Hyères, they are pretty keen for hostilities to commence.
World Sailing Cup in Hyères
As announced during the conference on 7 December 2012, Franck Cammas is tackling his first international competition, giving shape to the announcement of his bid for Olympic gold.
In the history of Olympic sailing, it's rather unusual to witness the arrival of a forty-year old rookie. In fact it must be pretty exceptional. However, it'll take more than this to ruffle Franck Cammas.
Tempted by the Olympic adventure following Groupama 4's victory in the Volvo Ocean Race, the French skipper quickly set to work to give himself a chance to represent France at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
Having teamed up with the World No.2 in Laser, Sophie de Turckheim, Franck began training at the Ecole Nationale de Voile (National Sailing School) in Quiberon before his one-design Nacra 17 catamaran had even been delivered.
Following that up with some sailing around the bay of Quiberon in Brittany then La Grande Motte in southern France, under the leadership of Franck Citeau from the Centre d'Entrainement Méditerranéen (Mediterranean Training Centre), the mixed crew has learnt how to handle a small catamaran, which flies along with its curved daggerboards, that play the role of foils the minute the wind picks up a bit.
entrainement sof 2013 - World Sailing Cup in Hyères
Like their French teammates, Franck and Sophie alternate between high-speed tacks and vertiginous bow burying: 'As soon as there are quite big seas or chop, it's hard to keep the boat balanced. That's how Sophie hurt her back as the boat's bows ploughed quite violently into a wave a couple of weeks ago', admitted the Groupama skipper.
Based in Hyères for nearly three weeks, the native of nearby Aix en Provence has been champing at the bit a little as he waits for his crewmate to get back on her feet. 'I hope there won't be too much wind, as she's still got back trouble. She's incredibly motivated though and she's not the kind to complain', continues Franck.
It has to be said though that this incident, to which sessions with a Physio have added to what is already a busy schedule, will have somewhat slowed the learning curve of this new crew.
No matter though: 'We're here to learn to sail together and discover the Nacra 17. We're also here to discover our rivals. I'm familiar with some, like Iker Martinez, who recently participated in the Princess Sophia Trophy in Spain. When I look at his result (18th), and take into account the fact that he's very familiar with the Olympic circuit after securing a gold medal in the 49er, that gives you an idea of the general standard.'
This standard shouldn't embarrass the French crews though, who managed to show what they were made of with third place for Vaireaux - Audinet and fourth for Besson - Riou, behind two Dutch crews.
It now remains to be seen how this new Groupama crew will fare when racing against the top international crews.
Sophie de Turckheim, 31 years of age
Track record: World number two in Laser 2005, 2006 and 2009
Franck Cammas, 40 years of age
Track record: Winner of the Volvo Ocean Race 2012, the Route du Rhum 2010 and the Jules Verne Trophy 2010. World number two in Formula 18 in 2008.