Normandy Sailing Week - Victory for Franck Cammas, Groupama

Groupama Sailing Team - 2013 Normandy Sailing Week
Normandy Sailing Week is underway with a fine victory for the crew of the M34 'Groupama'. Franck Cammas’ team came out on top after 32 hours of racing, outpacing 'Courrier Dunkerque 3' and 'Bretagne - Credit Mutuel Elite'. Despite a difficult rounding of the Isle of Wight last night, the nine competing boats were relatively quick to cover the 230 compulsory miles.

They began on a reach for the first Channel-hop, with no less than 20 knots of breeze, before hoisting their spinnakers as they punched tide in light winds in the waters of the Solent. On exiting the Needles they were back on a run last night for a second express Channel-hop before linking onto a beat for a tough home straight along the tactical Norman coastline. The crew of 'Groupama 34' survived repeated attacks from the Bretons on 'Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite', 'Courrier Dunkerque 3' and the youngsters on Fédération Française de Voile (French Sailing Federation), the latter proving to be a real revelation. Tomorrow, the M34s will continue their battle with a series of round-the-cans races and the J111s will also put in their first appearance as they begin their European Championship within the context of Normandy Sailing Week. On Friday, a total of over 100 boats and their crews will be fighting it out on Le Havre’s race zone.

Franck Cammas, skipper of the M34 'Groupama 34': 'The race scores five points in the overall ranking so it’s good news that we took the win in the long course in Normandy Sailing Week. We set out from Le Havre with good speed on a reach. Soon after that though, the wind dropped right away as we made it into the Solent. At that point the race effectively started over again and, by the Needles, I reckon every competitor had taken a turn at the top spot! Last night conditions were good under large spinnaker and then masthead spinnaker. The youngsters from the FFVoile were in front as we arrived at the Cotentin headland, but then we managed to get past them and held onto our lead to the finish'.

Daniel Souben, skipper of the M34 'Courrier Dunkerque 3': 'A great battle! It’s a shame we finished second as this race is so important for the provisional overall ranking. It’s not going to be easy to catch up with 'Groupama 34' as the short inshore races are only worth one point. There were some very tricky stages in this race, especially in the Solent, but we came off well. The difference was made along the home straight. Franck and his crew had a slight bonus under masthead spinnaker'.

Nicolas Troussel, skipper of the M34 'Bretagne Credit Mutuel Elite': 'This really is great training for the Tour de France à la Voile. It’s good to secure third place. We’re now going to try and win the short inshore races tomorrow and through to the rest of this week in Le Havre'.

Martin Le Pape, skipper of the M34 'Dispositif France Jeune – FFVoile': 'We’re pleased that we were able to hold out on the circuit’s top players. We’ve only been preparing for this for two weeks! Had we escaped the issues with our electronics today, the podium could have been ours. We gave it our all. We’re still lacking a bit of experience, but it was fantastic to have been leading the pack so frequently in this long race'.

Tomorrow will see a fresh element being showcased at Normandy Sailing Week as the J111s will be contesting their new European Championship. Seven crews will be on tomorrow’s start lines, which are due to be set on the same circuit as the M34s. The championship will come as a welcome addition to the event as, over the years, the J111 has become a very popular racer-cruiser. Built by the 'J Composites' yard in France’s Vendée region, the boat switches effortlessly from a racing thoroughbred, in events like NSW, to fast, comfortable cruising.

Unfortunately the formidable inshore racer from La Rochelle, Didier Le Moal, who just so happens to be the boss of 'J Composites', has had to pull out of the competition due to overly feisty weather conditions in Brittany for the two sailors delivering his boat to Normandy. However, the battle is still sure to be intriguing. Among the line-up are four British teams, IRC race specialists, as well as Belgian and Dutch crews.