These past few weeks have seen considerable development within Groupama Sailing Team. Henceforth the team is no longer allowed to sail on its training boat Groupama 70 because, from 15 March onwards, those competing in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 must sail aboard the boat on which they'll be taking the start. Prior to the launch of Groupama 4, scheduled for May, the yard is pushing ahead and the sailors are dividing their time between the construction of the future monohull, completion of a series of practical sessions ashore and M34 training sessions on the water, with a view to competing in the Spi Ouest France.
Goodbye Groupama 70
106 days. That's the total number of days spent sailing aboard Groupama 70. The Volvo Open 70, winner of the last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, was bought by Groupama Sailing Team back in December 2009 with the aim of enabling Franck Cammas and his crew to get in some on-the-water training whilst awaiting the launch of Groupama 4. The training boat also served as an experimentation platform for innovations associated with the future monohull. “Today all the improvements on Groupama 70 are on the plans for Groupama 4” admits Pierre Tissier, construction manager.
Franck Cammas, skipper of the Groupama boats for the past 13 years, reviews the last 106 days: “When I think back to the initial sea trials, we've really come a long way. At the start it was of a journey of discovery and learning about how a 70 foot monohull handles. I also familiarised myself with the difficulties of this type of boat. Once we were able to bring the boat under control, we were able to use Groupama 70 to carry out sea trials with a view to preparing Groupama 4. We first worked on the rig and then on the sails.”
What does the future hold for Groupama 70? The optimised boat will remain tied up to Groupama Sailing Team's pontoon, where she will be joined by her successor Groupama 4 in a few months' time. The rules of the Volvo Ocean Race prohibit two-boat sailing. As such we won't see the two monohulls sailing side by side in the insurer's colours. Instead Groupama 70 will go out from time to time for some public relations operations.
Hello Groupama 4
There are phases in the construction of a boat which should not be missed. Over the past two weeks, Groupama 4 has gone through two important stages in her life at the yard, which have brought her a little closer to the launch. “We've just had two very intense weeks. The boat has had her deck bonded, the hull has been removed from the mould, the keel has been measured in Italy and the structure sampling tests were validated a few days ago. (The panels, according to their position on the hull, must not be below a certain weight)” explains Pierre Tissier, construction manager within Groupama Sailing Team.
For Franck Cammas, such moments are a cause for concern: “Bonding the deck and removing the hull from the mould are important steps so they're the tensest times for me. That's when you see the quality and finesse of the construction emerging, so you're always apprehensive that there may be a nasty shock.”
Fortunately, the team didn't observe anything unpleasant and after a brief moment of contemplation they got back down to work, ticking off the numerous jobs left to complete. “We're less than two months from the planned launch on 9 May. The major structural changes are done but there is still some grafting (carbon bonding) to finish. We then have to manufacture the fittings and install the systems: hydraulics, engine, deck hardware, galley and electronics… Part of these installations will take place at the Multiplast yard, then Groupama 4 will be transported by road to Groupama Sailing Team's base in Lorient at the end of April for the finishing touches,” explains Pierre Tissier.
As a result, the crew, free from its training commitments on the former Volvo Open 70, have been able to devote some time to monitoring the construction. Erwan Israël, who will be sailing on Groupama 4, was in Vannes, southern Brittany last week: “The most notable thing was how quickly the construction is progressing and the excellent level of the work the team has got through. Seeing the boat with the deck bonded and out of its mould is an indication that she'll soon be ready. We've also been able to see the exact shape of the hull below the waterline for the first time. I'm very happy and can't wait for the launch.”
Fire management and medical training
In order to be prepared for any situation, the crew has been making the most of the time spent ashore to undergo some practical sessions with Groupama's support. From fire management to learning about the rudiments of medical practice, every crew member must be able to respond appropriately.
New Zealander Brad Marsh, who will be racing on Groupama 4, was very attentive at the training session: “Aboard the boat, we're likely to have to face three types of fire: fuel, gas or electrical fires. We've learnt how to respond to each of these situations within the very unique universe of a Volvo Open 70.” As underlined by Bruno Le Lay, instructor at the CEPS (Survival Research and Practice Centre), “you mustn't use just any kind of extinguisher on any kind of fire. For example, the use of a powder extinguisher inside a boat will result in a stifling atmosphere and will seriously damage the equipment. It's important that sailors are trained in the different types of risk and that they know about their consequences.”
This week the Groupama Sailing Team is participating in a four-day seminar on medical care. From injections to stitches, the crew of the next Volvo Ocean Race must undergo training in all the various practices so that they are able to intervene in case of an emergency.
Groupama 34, to continue training
At the end of this training session, Franck Cammas and six other members of Groupama Sailing Team will participate in M34 training sessions in nearby Quiberon, with a view to preparing for the Spi Ouest France event aboard Groupama 34 (21-25 April 2011). “The aim of M34 sailing is to train up the majority of the members of Groupama 4's crew. The decision about the final crew composition for the Spi Ouest France will be made according to each person's availability. The main focus remains the construction of Groupama 4” recalls the skipper of the Groupama boats. The class measurement dictates that two of the crew aboard the M34 have to be under 26. Louis Viat, who is part of Groupama Sailing Team's shore crew, will be the bowman and another young talent will join the project to race. Erwan Israël will be the mainsail trimmer whilst Franck Cammas will helm. The final crew composition will be decided in mid-April. “The Spi Ouest France is a nautical festival with a high level in the series fleets. We'll be giving our all to be competitive” warns the skipper.
A communications project to support the group's internationalisation
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 25% 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.