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Semaine Olympique Française in La Rochelle - 'A very nice surprise'

by Groupama sailing team on 14 Oct 2013
Franck Cammas / Sophie DeTurckheim (FRA) - Nacra Thom Touw © http://www.thomtouw.com
These few words echo Franck Cammas' thoughts about this initial victory in the Olympic series. Tied on points with the English at the start of the Medal Race, which scores double points, the Groupama crew still had a great deal to lose given the handful of points separating the top four.

However, once again, at the finish, it was Frank that took the win. Franck and Sophie we should say... with the duo securing the France Elite champion title, against the world's top racers. This win caps what has been a brilliant year that has included the French Match Racing champion title, the French Offshore Racing champion title, victory in the Tour de France à la Voile and finally the World C-Class champion title.

On the waters of La Rochelle on Sunday morning, there was virtually no wind at all. One by one, according to a well-established order, the series headed offshore to compete in the only race of the day. It proved to be a rather special race, which was half as long as the other ten races that had been contested since Wednesday.
As time went by, a light breeze kicked in and peaked at 12-14 knots just as the Nacra's took the start.

Very much at ease in the light air, the crew of Groupama was all too aware that in this steadier wind, its rivals would be hard to contain. To take the overall win, it would need to finish ahead of the English duo of Saxton - Diamond and prevent any boats from finishing between them and Iker Martinez or Besson-Riou.

At the start Franck and Sophie lacked speed and had their progress suppressed by Besson - Riou, whilst the English and Spanish were ahead of them.

Clearly things weren't panning out well early on. However, as has often been the case since the start of the week, the crew of Groupama managed to get free of the pack and sail in clean air.

At the first windward mark, the English and the Spanish were still ahead, but not far away.

On the first downwind sprint, the French managed to get back in contact with the leaders and then opted for the far right-hand side of the race zone on the second beat, controlling the Besson - Riou duo, whilst the Spanish and English powered along down the far left-hand side of the course.

On the water, the spectators waited for the next crossing of tacks with baited breath. Quick and inspired, Franck and Sophie rounded the final windward mark in second position with a comfortable lead over their most dangerous rivals in the overall ranking.

At that point all that remained was a run under spinnaker to the finish line, something which our two racers excel at, leaving no hope for any of their pursuers.

This initial victory in the Olympic series represents a great deal for the Groupama skipper, who is more used to racing offshore than putting in tacks on Olympic courses: 'We're very happy to win in our very first year as we weren't the favourites.

Our aim was to finish in the top five, so you can imagine how great we feel! We're still a long way from getting the best out of the Nacra 17, which is a very demanding and very technical boat. We still lose a lot of ground over the start phases, the manoeuvring and the transitions. We need to manoeuvre well whilst keeping an eye on the surrounding race zone. However, down a straight line, we know just how to get the boat working smoothly and we're pretty quick. That's why we're going training in Morocco this winter with the French team.'

For Sophie de Turckheim: 'It was a victorious race and it's always good for morale to win. It's very enjoyable. This morning I was fairly relaxed. I said to myself that we had to sail our own race without worrying too much about what the others were doing. Franck was more hyper, as he is everyday, but there was no particular tension there. We tried to sail as we normally do and that paid off.'

Indeed, on listening to the Groupama crew, the racing was fairly simple; perhaps a little too simple for some. And Iker Martinez certainly won't deny that...

Overall ranking in the Semaine Olympique Française (French Olympic Week) after 11 races
1/ Cammas - de Turckheim FRA : 46 points
2/ Martinez - Pacheco ESP : 53 points
3/ Besson - Riou FRA : 56 points
4/ Saxton - Diamond GBR : 56 points
5/ Wilson - Gibson GBR : 68 points
6/ Zajac - Frank AUT : 68 points
7/ Macgregor - Walsh GBR : 73 points
8/ Vaireaux - Audinet FRA : 75 points
9. Ogereau - Vandame FRA : 81 points
10/ Bissaro - Sicouri ITA : 92 points
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