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Volvo Ocean Race skipper Franck Cammas reviews dismasting of Groupama

by Franck Cammas on 6 Apr 2012
Groupama Sailing Team, skippered by Franck Cammas from France, suspend racing from leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil, after the mast broke just above the first spreader around 60 nautical miles south of Punta del Este. Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team © /Volvo Ocean Race
Volvo Ocean Race skipper Franck Cammas and his crew tied Groupama 4 to the dock in the port of Punta del Este at 0455 UTC this morning. That equates to twelve hours after their dismasting, which occurred on Wednesday 4 April at 1502 UTC, some sixty miles offshore of the coast of Uruguay.

Contacted by telephone during the weekly link-up with Groupama HQ in Paris, Franck Cammas reviewed the circumstances leading to the dismasting, the possible options for heading back into the race and making Itajai and his ambitions for the Volvo Ocean Race.

The current situation:
'We made it into Punta del Este around 0400 UTC this morning, in a big storm with big winds of up to 40 knots. We were under power, which is permitted once you've suspended racing as we have.

We were welcomed by the members of the Punta del Este Yacht Club, who opened the club for us. We ate and got in a few hours' sleep.

We're awaiting a crane. Groupama 4 is on the dock, with the mast in two pieces.

We're waiting to see what solutions there are and which rig and sail configuration to choose to make Itajai.'

The circumstances surrounding the dismasting:
'At the moment the dismasting happened, there was nothing particular to report in terms of the sea state. The mast didn't even fall as a result of an impact. We'd had up to 32 knots of breeze earlier in the day. The wind was easing. We'd shaken out a reef two hours beforehand.

I didn't see what was the first thing to break. The mast fell on the aft corner of the boat, not outside it.

We were 60 miles from shore. We took a fair amount of time to recover the sections and limit the impact. We had to cut the mainsail in two so as to recover the top section.

Brad cut his arm as he climbed onto the end of the mast.

Four to five hours after the dismasting, we quickly carried on our way as a strong northerly wind was kicking back in and we wanted to be near the coast so as we were protected from the worsening sea state.'

The various options possible:
'Our aim is to finish the leg with a third place in Itajai and hence to quickly head back out to see as the weather is favourable for the next three days and less so after that time.

When the incident occurred, it was necessary to look at all the options.

The fact that we were close to land enabled us to consider the option of returning quickly so as to keep all the options open and remain racing, whilst heading back out with the best possible jury rig.

Returning to shore was essential to fill up with diesel, which provides us with power, as well as stock up on food. We also had an injured party aboard so it was the best solution all round.

It's also important to be sure that the option of sailing with the small section of mast is a valid one, as well as decide on the sail configuration. You have to know how to take your time so as to work confidently.
All the options are still open to us. We must reinforce the jury rig, to be sure it'll hold. Brad Marsh has a large dressing on his hand. He'll have to be careful that it doesn't get infected and we don't yet know if he'll be heading off with us to Itajai.

The boat has been damaged at the back, but it's not very serious. With a small dressing, we'll be able to sail very nicely as far as Itajai. A few stanchions have folded but nothing serious, aside from the mast!

Under jury rig, such as it is today, we can achieve an average of eight knots at best in downwind conditions. If we're sailing into headwinds, we won't be able to make any headway at all. We may have to make for Itajai in several stages.'

The causes for the dismasting:
'I don't yet have a very precise idea of what caused the dismasting. It has to be related to a spreader or a diagonal. We'll carry out an analysis later on using the sections we've managed to recover. In any case, it's very surprising to have dismasted in conditions such as these.'

The reliability of VO 70s:
'There has been a great deal of breakage on this leg.

In the storm, you had to find the balance between slowness in relation to the race and speed in relation to the sea. It was the first time since leaving Alicante that prevention was a major consideration and it's never easy to find this balance. The boats are no less strong than before, quite the contrary. However, at certain times, the structure cannot match up to nature and the waves, which were horrendous. We're always on the limit, but for our part we've never exceeded that limit.'

Our spirits and our ambitions for the race:
'It's very difficult to be in the battle for victory, to have sailed superbly well in the Pacific and then end up like this in the last 24 hours. It's not too horrific in terms of points, but the stakes are no longer the same.

We're very sad. It was a fantastic leg, which was action-packed throughout, and one we could have won.

Now is not a good time clearly, but it could have been worse. We're going to use the fact that the fleet is partly decimated to finish in third position.

We had high hopes of finishing well placed at the end of the race, but it's a great opportunity wasted. We all want this third place and to forget about the rest of it, leave our ambition for this leg behind us and get to the finish as quickly as possible, so as we can get Groupama 4 shipshape again and get some rest for the following legs as we're very tired right now. This twist of fate questions our ambitions as regards our hopes for ranking well on this leg. Between yesterday and today, there's a difference of twenty points. We were right back in the action in terms of the overall standing. This whole episode has taken a fair bit of our hope away, but we'll still be giving it our all and taking our chances whenever they present themselves and win some points. Anything could happen between now and Galway. As long as we're not too far off the pace, and that will be the case if we manage to complete this leg, anything's possible. However, clearly this dismasting takes away a fair old dose of our chances for outright victory.'

At 1600 UTC this Thursday, six members of Groupama sailing team's shore crew were ready to get down to the job at hand in Punta del Este. The technical solution consists of rigging the longest section of mast so as to be able to make Itajai aboard a Groupama 4 which is manoeuvrable and capable, albeit at a low speed, of making headway in headwinds. Four other members of the shore crew, two of whom are master sailmakers, are making their way towards Punta del Este to participate in setting up this new jury rig.

Groupama 4 won't leave Punta del Este before tomorrow, Friday.

Groupama Sailing Team website

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