Volvo Ocean Race- Groupama arrives in Alicante

Groupama Sailing Team, skippered by Franck Cammas arrives into the start city of Alicante, prior to the start of the Volvo Ocean race 2011-12.
Volvo Ocean Race/Paul Todd©

Having covered nearly 1,500 miles over the past five days, the crew of Groupama sailing team arrived in Alicante at 1850 hours on Monday 26 September.

They sailed along part of the French and Portuguese coasts in downwind conditions and rounded Spain via the Straits of Gibraltar. They then entered the Mediterranean in light winds, prior to the beat up the south-east coast of Spain in a well-established headwind, to make the city which will play host to the start of the 11th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The Mediterranean climate, glorious sunshine and Spanish utterances quickly disorientated the newcomers, especially after beginning their journey in Brittany, where the seasonal temperatures are cooler and wetter. The crew of Groupama sailing team seem to have got used to it already though… Franck Cammas, Damian Foxall, Jean-Luc Nélias, Martin Krite, Martin Strömberg, Thomas Coville, Philip Harmer, Brad Marsh, Charles Caudrelier, Erwan Isaël and the media crew Yann Riou have just spent five days on the same boat and: '… The atmosphere aboard was excellent!' says Franck Cammas.

Having unloaded the sails with his team, the skipper of Groupama 4 reviews the journey with a satisfied air: 'Groupama 4 handled well and everything went without a hitch with the crew. We took less time than planned to get to Spain: the wind wasn't as light as all that, though we had to make headway under power at Gibraltar'.

The weather conditions were ideal for carrying out sail trials, going through all the manœuvres and checking Groupama 4's reliability. The skipper: 'We experienced the whole range of conditions, with a mixture of downwind at Cape Finisterre and upwind on the final night of the trip: we were slamming a fair bit on Sunday!' Furthermore, there weren't any surprises: nothing broke! Even after putting Groupama 4 to the test in the Mediterranean.

Sébastien Marsset, the reserve sailor aboard Groupama 4, has been in Alicante for the past week to support the short team responsible for assembling the Spanish base. At the very beginning, there were eight people on site. Since Sunday evening the team has doubled in size in order to see in the boat and prepare for her arrival in the best possible manner. Sébastien Marsset: 'Since our arrival, last Tuesday, we've certainly had our work cut out: we've shifted the containers, erected the marquees, assembled the cradle and the two towers which enable us to get onto the boat. We've also taken delivery of two small tents and installed the electricity. We're good to go now, ready to accommodate the guys!'

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Groupama 4 will have her mast unstepped and be lifted out onto the hard, where she will undergo the final scrutineering tests this coming weekend. As such, on Groupama 4's arrival dockside, the different members of the shore team began to empty the boat.

Franck Cammas: 'Right now we're going to have to prepare the boat for her measurement tests. There's a fair amount of work involved and it's an important moment. She is scheduled to be refloated in a week's time: we're eager to go sailing alongside the other boats. Since our arrival here in Spain, the race start date has felt even closer'.

Telefonica Blue and Team Sanya are already in their cradles, ready to undergo the measurement tests.

Still absent from the roll call is Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand which is set to arrive over the course of today, then it will be the turn of Puma Ocean Racing Team and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Team, who will make the port of Alicante at the end of the week.

For more than 13 years, Groupama has chosen sailing sponsorship as a lever to support its strategy for growth in the service of its clients. One of the France's leading insurance firms and the 15th largest insurer in Europe, the Group boasts a turnover of 17.6 thousand million Euros (2010). Groupama is accelerating its international development and aims to become one of the top 10 European insurers.

Established in 14 countries, the Group comprises 39,000 employees, including 11,000 overseas, where it achieves 30% of its turnover. The commitment to a more international sporting project through until 2015 has to support the construction of a European insurance group and a bank which is a creator, a humanist and something that lasts.

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The Volvo Ocean Race
A crewed round the world race with stopovers, the Volvo Ocean Race, formerly known as the Whitbread, will set out from Alicante (Spain) on 5 November 2011 for its eleventh edition. Spanning 8 months and 10 stopovers, the participating crews will cover over 39,270 miles over 4 oceans. The race will conclude in Galway (Ireland) on 7 July 2012 after making a stopover in Lorient, France, Groupama sailing team's base, from 16 June to 1 July 2012. Groupama 4 is the first French boat to compete in the event since 1993.