Groupama have revealed further details of their Volvo Ocean Race campaign for the next two editions of the event.
The French entry will be skippered by offshore specialist Franck Cammas. Speaking at an official event at Eric Tabarly's Cite de la Voile in Lorient, Cammas confirmed that the team already has a strong core of people working on the project.
"The challenge we've committed ourselves to is a sizeable one," says Cammas. "Since 1993 and Eric Tabarly, not a single French team has participated in the Volvo Ocean Race.
"Up against the top crews from New Zealand, America, Spain and Ireland, it's going to be an intense battle. We're just rediscovering monohulls and we still have a lot to learn.
"However, we're going about it with as much enthusiasm, seriousness and humility as possible. Thanks to Groupama's commitment, we were the first to put our team together."
Cammas's squad comprises a blend of experienced Whitbread/Volvo specialists and established members of the Groupama sailing programme. "Making up my entourage are Volvo specialists like Damian Foxall, Ben Wright, Luc Gellusseau, Herve Le Quilliec and Killian Bush who are joining together with long-term stalwarts of the Groupama team like Stephane Guilbaud, Pierre Tissier, Loic Dorez, Yann Riou and Olivier Mainguy," Cammas said.
Argentinean Juan Kouyoumdjian, the designer of the winning boats in the last two editions of the Volvo - ABN AMRO ONE (2005-06) and Ericsson 4 (2008-09) - has been chosen as designer for Groupama's new Volvo Open 70 - Groupama 4.
With the purchase of Ericsson 4, winner of the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race, the Groupama team has an ideal platform for training and development. Re-christened Groupama 70, the Koujoumdjian design is performing intensive sea trials off Lorient.
"Unfortunately we didn't have the time to involve the excellent French architects in the work, as they are also only just discovering the restrictions of the Volvo Open 70 rule," said Cammas.
"As such we opted for Juan Koujoumdjian, who is based in Valencia. However, it's actually in nearby Vannes, at the Multiplast yard, that Groupama 4 will be built. This will represent 40,000 man hours and we know the team there well because we built the maxi trimaran Groupama 3 with them."
Earlier this year, Cammas and his crew aboard the maxi trimaran Groupama 3 claimed the Jules Verne Trophy for sailing non-stop round the world - and broke through the 50-day barrier in the process.
Groupama 3's circumnavigation took 48 days 7 hours, 44 minutes and 52 seconds to beat the previous mark, set by Bruno Peyron's Orange 2 in 2005, by 2 days 8 hours, 35 minutes and 12 seconds.
With work having started on the new Volvo Open 70 in the last few days, construction will take 10 months until her scheduled launch on 15 March 2011.
In the meantime, Cammas will also take part in the Route du Rhum La Banque Postale aboard Groupama 3 but adapted to solo sailing, as well as the Extreme Sailing Series Europe aboard Groupama 40.
Groupama's entry extends a rich history of French links with the Whitbread/Volvo. In total there have been 21 French boats in the race and nearly 300 French sailors down the years.