The crew of Groupama back at their base in Lorient
It was during the night of 25 January that Franck Cammas and his men made it into the port of Lorient aboard Groupama 70. After two months' training in Spain (Alicante and Lanzarote) the sailors have returned to their base in Lorient, SW Brittany, where they'll continue preparing for the Volvo Ocean Race until September.
After benefiting from some virtually perfect conditions comprising a steady breeze and a mild climate enabling them to go out sailing nearly every day, the return to the Breton coast wasn't easy. Indeed the eleven men encountered some difficult, varied and uncomfortable weather conditions for nearly five days. Franck Cammas: "At the very start of our delivery, we set off downwind without much breeze and trialled the spinnaker. During the first night, once we were setting a course towards Madeira, a stormy front closed in on us dishing out unstable headwinds. As such the first night aboard Groupama 70 was pretty complicated as we performed numerous sail changes. However, it was the rounding of Cape Finisterre, a few days later, which was the most difficult to negotiate, with 45 knots of breeze and heavy seas."
These particularly harsh conditions nevertheless generated a productive atmosphere within the Groupama Team: "I'm happy because we're in the process of creating a good group dynamic. Furthermore, it's already been very positive to get together on an island, in the middle of nowhere, so as we could focus on the Volvo Ocean Race together. It's still work in progress but we're beginning to get to know each other increasingly well. It's the process of dealing with both the good times and the hard times that you establish a fine team" affirms Franck Cammas.
Early on 25 January the wind finally calmed down: "It was a cruise... albeit a polar cruise!" admits the Groupama skipper with a smile.
The delivery enabled some of them to test the boat in some unusual conditions. Franck Cammas: "We did a lot of close-hauled sailing in the breezy conditions. It's very interesting as it's rare to be able to sail in such conditions."
For Erwan Israël (head of safety / trimmer / helmsman during inshore manoeuvres) this offshore experience proved especially rewarding: "I've learnt to sail a Volvo 70 in 45 knots of breeze. The conditions were harsh and at times it felt like we were in the southern hemisphere! The toughest thing at times like that is getting dressed down below. Even putting on your foulies is a mission! You have to allow for at least half an hour to get ready... But once you're on deck you have a ball!"
The atmosphere was also studious for Jacques Caraës. The navigator literally `dived' into his role as media crew (a role he'd already had during the Jules Verne Trophy aboard Groupama 3): "On a Volvo 70, you're more exposed to the waves and it's hard to take clean shots: you really have to protect yourself from the water. Added to that, the boat tends to heel much more than a multihull. The harness is compulsory if you are to keep two hands on the apparatus!"
After a good night's sleep in the dry and warm, the Groupama Sailing Team quickly took up where they left off with the training programme, in the comfort of their home port: running, gym and sailing are on the programme as they await the launch of the new boat in the spring.