Volvo Ocean Race team Groupama finally made it over the leg one finish line, in Cape Town, in third. The eleven men on Groupama 4 have been warmly welcomed by their nearest and dearest, by the organisers of the Volvo Ocean Race and by a well-informed public in South Africa.
Having laboured a bit in the final throes of the high pressure system in this first leg and somewhat disappointed by the lack of close-contact racing with their rivals, Franck Cammas and his crew are very much aware of the fact that this is just the first of a series of sprints ('In-port' races) and marathons (oceanic races). The result in Cape Town is encouraging for the next stage and the only blip on the horizon is that the crew now have but a short stopover in South Africa. Quotes:
Franck Cammas, skipper:
'We're happy to have made the finish because the last few days have been a bit long! The weather has been such that we haven't been lucky enough to get back in contention. This is especially true over the past three days behind the front where we had to head South again. It was funny at the same time as we had albatrosses and we were able to get in some training in the roaring forties... This wasn't such a bad thing, but we weren't really in race mode at that point. However, we were keen to ensure a high level aboard the boat at all times because we have a lot to learn about Groupama 4 and that enabled us to push the boat as hard as possible in lots of different conditions.
I think we're stronger today than we were three weeks ago at the start in Alicante and that's the most important thing. Ultimately we ended up in third place and the odds are stacked in our favour for the next stage.
Furthermore, we've finished with a boat at full potential and when you see what's happened to some of the others, it's an important element! In terms of pure performance, we were happy with the first few hours of racing where Groupama 4 demonstrated that she had excellent boat speed when sailing in boisterous conditions with eased sheets. We have what could be a winning boat, even though victory comes down to other things too.
The stopover in Cape Town is going to be shorter than planned and that's a shame because South Africa seems very welcoming. We only have a four-day break before getting back down to it on Monday. However, we've been better served than certain crews, who are still in validation phase!'
Thomas Coville, watch leader:
'I didn't expect the first leg to be like that because to my mind it was going to be a more winning strategy. Today though, arriving at the 'Table Top' is just as beautiful as ever (Table Mountain), it's still an emotional time. For the past few days I've said to myself that the technical team, the design team, all the team that have imagined and built this boat have scored a very fine third place and they could have won by a country mile, whilst the sailing team came last! We brought the boat home in one piece, we've known how to utilise it but we weren't correctly positioned to be as good as the boat in first place.
I'd like to congratulate Telefonica who sailed a great race, with a perfect trajectory. Fortunately it's far from over and that's why, psychologically as a group we have built up a lot and learnt a great deal. On a technical level we'd have preferred to have been up there doing battle with the others to learn more and offer better results to the team which has helped this boat evolve. In terms of points, it's a pretty fruitful operation.'
Jean-Luc Nélias, navigator:
'The first leg wasn't very windy and was a bit long. We messed up a bit with the option we took down the African coast, which we didn't manage to follow through to the end as the wind wasn't in our favour. Neptune wasn't very kind to us and we ended up in some poor conditions, which basically involved us having no wind. Last night we weren't making any headway. Two nights ago we weren't making any headway. That dragged things out a bit which has caused us to finish three days after the leader. We are still third though.
We're still on the attack and still have eight legs to sail. We could be third nine times and win the Volvo Ocean Race, couldn't we? There are times when you have to make choices: some boats headed right, others like us headed left, and another didn't make a decision, came with us for a while and ultimately switched back to the right! We can't always keep an eye on our rivals and you have to take options, fly with your own wings... Spirits remain high though: we've arrived in Cape Town! On the podium...'
After a hearty dinner and a glass of beer or wine according to taste, the crew of Groupama 4 enjoyed a good night with their families and a sleep wrapped in nice clean sheets, which was a real luxury after 24 nights at sea.
Following that and prior to benefiting from four days off, a thorough debriefing with the shore crew responsible for Groupama 4's upkeep, the design office and the `sail' cell, is taking place today. The idea behind this is to enable them to attack the next In-port race and the second offshore leg in the best possible conditions, against some formidable competitors. Ranking at the end of the first two races (In-port in Alicante and Alicante-Cape Town):
1. Team Telefonica (Iker Martinez) 1+30 = 31 points
2. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson) 4+25 = 29 points
3. Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas) 2+20 = 22 points
4. bu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker) 6+0 = 6 points
5. Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg (Ken Read) 5+0 = 5 points
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson) 3+0 = 3 points Groupama Sailing Team website