On Wednesday, for the first time in its history, the Société des Régates in La Rochelle will host the start of the SOF (French Olympic Week). Tomorrow then, Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim will get down to business in their final Olympic week of 2013. A golden opportunity to gauge how much progress has been made by Groupama's mixed crew on the Nacra 17 catamaran since the World Sailing Cup in Hyères and the European Championship, which saw the French crews pull off a blinding performance.
'Groupama Sailing Team'
Despite a lack of holiday time, though better positioned to gauge the progress made this season, Franck Cammas didn't need any persuading to come to La Rochelle. It has to be said that after the World C-Class Championship contested in the English fog and dampness, France's Charente Maritime region really smacks of the South: 'It's certainly very mild, but we're going to have to make the most of it as it won't last. Wednesday should be okay with some thermal breezes set to accompany us, but from Thursday onwards, the temperatures will drop and the wind will pick up. There may even be too much wind to race on Saturday,' the skipper of Groupama comments after monitoring how the weather is evolving on his mobile.
Under Franck Citeau's leadership, the members of the French Nacra 17 team, which includes reigning World Champions Besson-Riou, are busy training on what is a very familiar stretch of water. However, the four crews are particularly industrious right now and for good reason: they've all just received the new carbon mast, which is replacing the previous aluminium mast. Some five kilos lighter, as well as being stiffer and more responsive, this mast has to be adjusted to adapt to the old sails. 'We're making the most of the fact that there are several crews to trial the different adjustments. It's highly educational,' the Fédération Française de Voile's (French Sailing Federation) national coach explains simply.
Indeed, though there are just thirty or so competitors in the Nacra 17 series, the level is high: 'The cream of the crop are here,' says Franck Cammas. Sophie, his crewmate, questions this statement: 'Even the Dutch?' As the skipper of Groupama nods his head in agreement, Sophie continues: 'I wouldn't be surprised if they'd had the opportunity to sail with the new carbon masts before us... they may have even chosen them...' Whatever the case, the Batavians, reigning European Champions, will be keen to shine on the French race zone.
An aim shared by the French team, who are out in force and itching to perform well on home waters. Having made considerable progress since the start of the season, sixth during the European Championship contested on Lake Como in August, Franck and Sophie are fairly confident: 'Franck and I haven't even discussed our objectives. It's pretty simple in any case: he always wants to win,' says his crew, beaming from ear to ear. Besides the French team, Franck Cammas will be linking up with another good friend in the form of Iker Martinez, Olympic 49er champion and skipper of Telefonica in the last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Programme: Four races a day from Wednesday to Saturday. Medal race on Sunday
Nacra 17: 28 crews entered comprising 10 nationalities, with eight Frenchies.
by Vincent Borde
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3:54 PM Tue 8 Oct 2013GMT
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