Tour de France à la Voile - The low-down from the Groupama 34 crew

2014 Tour de France a la Voile
Of the 49 coefficients that count towards the 2014 Tour de France à la Voile ranking, 26 have been distributed between Dunkirk and Roscoff, where the northern section of the event rounded off this Monday. Second in the provisional overall ranking with a 19-point deficit in relation to Courrier Dunkerque, three of the mainstays of Groupama 34’s crew give us the low-down on the races and cast their minds forward to the second half of the Tour, which will kick off in a few days’ time in Roses in Spain. This upcoming section will be coloured by the long awaited return of Franck Cammas.

Selected by the skipper of Groupama to stand in for him during his absence, Fabien Henry is an experienced, high performance sailor. A member of the Groupama sailing team that secured a win in last year's Tour, the sailor from Hyères gives us an uncompromising judgement on his performance: 'Being labelled as favourite following our domination last year and at the start of the 2014 season hasn't been easy to bear. It's put pressure on us. We've made few errors, but those we have made have been important in terms of points, particularly in one of the three offshore legs between Dieppe and Granville, where we lost 25 points in one blow, having only won six in relation to six in relation to Courrier Dunkerque during the two others we won. It's frustrating and that's having an impact on our level of confidence and our calmness aboard. We discuss things a lot between ourselves; we're trying to find solutions and we will do it,' he says before concluding: 'It's going to be a cracking story.'

Alongside him, having just completed the coastal course around the bay of Morlaix, which concluded with a lowly sixth place, Tugdual Becquemie is now leaving his post on Groupama 34 as scheduled. Having performed the role of helmsman in place of Franck Cammas since Dunkirk, the sailor from Hyères cannot hide his disappointment: 'I'm obviously gutted by our two counter performances, here in Roscoff and on the offshore leg between Dieppe and Granville. The rest of it has been very solid though. With the arrival of the one-design sails, the boats are a lot closer in terms of performance, which wasn't the case last year. As such it's even harder to make a difference and to snatch back points. Making silly mistakes like we did today is obviously stupid and I could kick myself (Courrier Dunkerque inflicted a penalty on Groupama 34 prior to the start). Sometimes, out on the water, you annoy yourself a bit too much by not being content to go as fast as the others. We're always striving to go faster and you lose sense of what's essential. It's rather as if we're lacking confidence in ourselves.'

Heading off to Lake Garda to train up young Swiss racers, Tugdual will follow the second part of the Tour from a distance: 'Franck's return will bring confidence and calmness to the boat. The crew is really motivated to give its all. We can still win this.'

Also close to Switzerland, Tanguy Cariou is the tactician on Groupama 34 as well as Groupama 40. He has sailed with Franck for over ten years. Clear-headed, he gives us his equally uncompromising views on Groupama 34's position at the midway mark: 'We've put Courrier Dunkerque in a fairly comfortable position. With a 19-point lead, they are tending to stay in our zone. They're not taking any risks and are managing to successfully negotiate the few tricky situations they find themselves in. For them, we're really `the' competitor to beat and they don't think twice about aggressing us. Since the start in Dunkirk, they've slapped four penalties on us. That's the name of the game, but we're not going to let them walk all over us. Franck's return will be decisive in every domain. He loves a good match and he loves pressure. He's a real leader'.

Whilst the crews make the most of the boats being transported to the Mediterranean by road to get some rest, everyone's minds are focusing on Roses and the very special seas there, which could well play a few tricks on some of the competitors: 'The offshore races between Roses, Gruissan, Hyères and Nice are going to be decisive. We love this sea, as does Franck. It's down to us to show what we're made of now and we need to raise our game in every domain,' concludes tactician Tanguy Cariou.

Overall ranking after 16 races
1. Courrier Dunkerque 3 with 574 points
2. Groupama 34 with 555 points
3. Team Omansail with 538 points
4. Bretagne Crédit Mutuel with 533 points
5. Ville de Genève with 505 points
6. Normandy Acerel with 487 points
7. Toulon Provence Méditerranée - COYCH with 474 points
8. Nantes Saint Nazaire with 448 points
9. BE.Brussels Bienne Voile with 419 points