It was an outstanding conclusion to the Volvo Ocean Race with the final In-Port race swept by a dozen knots of breeze around Galway Bay! The three leaders in the overall standing enjoyed an incredible battle to the finish after three laps of the racetracks… Groupama 4 finished fourth behind Puma, Camper and Telefonica after some fierce jockeying for position.
Groupama 4 - Volvo Ocean Race
Franck Cammas and his men didn't manage to top the In-Port race leaderboard, but they sailed a great race after a somewhat original start, since Groupama 4 set off with Puma at the pin end of the startline on port tack, whilst the rest of the fleet were all jostling about the Committee boat on starboard tack. The aim was to only put in a single gybe to reach the first mark under spinnaker, and at the leeward mark, the Americans were the first to make the rounding, just ahead of the French boat, who headed off down the right-hand side of the race zone, in contrast to the leader and Camper…
Meantime, Sanya rightly protested Abu Dhabi, which was slapped with a penalty turn (360°) as redress, whilst Telefonica was bringing up the rear… The end of the beat to round the following mark was superb with the New Zealanders, who just squeezed ahead of Franck Cammas and his men, whilst the Americans were beginning to steal a march at the front of the fleet. And it was during the second run that Groupama 4 managed to slip along faster than Camper, forcing her into a gybe and thus gaining an edge at the leeward mark, behind Puma.
However, the match was far from over as the Spanish were coming back very strong on the Chinese boat, whilst the Emiratis were struggling to make up the ground they lost due to their penalty. Thanks to their choice of tack on the opposite side of the race zone to the Americans, Franck Cammas and his men were beginning to put pressure on the leader, who tacked on top of them to cover them! Hindered by the wind shadow, the crew of Groupama 4 saw Camper gain on them and even force the helmsman to let them past, but the French boat still managed to slip inside them to round the mark in second position…
A final lap of the racetrack meant there was still some chance of modifying the hierarchy, as the dozen knots or so of breeze was fairly irregular in direction amidst the rain clouds dotted about the race zone. The third run under spinnaker was high voltage indeed because though the Americans were virtually assured of victory, the Franco-New Zealand duel reached a head when Groupama 4 gybed just a few boat lengths from the leeward mark, but experienced some issues dumping the spinnaker and unraveling the genoa…
Groupama Sailing Team, skippered by Franck Cammas from France, sailing up the Irish coast to the finish line, on leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Lorient, France to Galway, Ireland. (Credit: IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)
On starboard tack and hence with priority, Franck Cammas was able to push Camper away by rolling the mark, but the latter was quicker to manoeuvre and managed to slip under them. A final upwind sprint then forced Groupama 4 to strike out towards the left-hand side of the race zone, whilst the Spanish continued on their tack to the right, benefiting from a steadier breeze…
On the finish line, Telefonica managed to slide past the French boat on a different angle whilst Puma reigned supreme and moved up to the top of the In-Port leaderboard. And even though the crew, who secure outright victory in the Volvo Ocean Race, was a little disappointed by this finale, this last race provided a grandiose spectacle to conclude this eleventh edition of the crewed round the world.
Thomas Coville: 'It's not just a story, it's not just a round the world adventure which is coming to an end! We've all been together for nine months and we've ended up with victory in the overall standing: nothing can replace a victory… There is great emotion in all that, but it's also a building block for the future, because it increases the value of everything that has been achieved by Groupama sailing team. It was touching to feel how happy the whole crew was, happy too at the incredible opportunity we've had to be able to do this circumnavigation of the globe. A big thank you to Franck!'
Damian Foxall: 'I'm happy that the Volvo Ocean Race is over: it's a whole chapter of life which is coming to an end! I've come home, to Ireland, and I'm back with my family… It was a great final race, even though we didn't too well on the final tack. But there were so many people on the water: it's imperative that the next round the world race returns to Galway!'
Charles Caudrelier: 'It's a joyful finale! But it's not as easy as all that to stop racing… We've all been living for this project for three years and it's been nine months that we've been racing flat-out. We're going to have to switch to something else now…'
Volvo Ocean Race website