60ft tri circuit kicks off
Aside from the new boats many of the older boats have had modifications made to them over the winter. Franck Cammas' Transat Jacques Vabre winner Groupama (see above) has joined the Lombard and new Irens boats in having a set of curved retractible foils fitted.
Cammas' long term crewman Gaël de Kerangat has decided to hang up his seaboots, when it comes to 60ft trimaran racing at least. The man who has sailed two Whitbreads and several transats alongside the likes of Florence Arthaud, Alain Gabbay and Philippe Poupon commented: "I've decided to give up my place on board. Physically it has become too tough and I don't want to slow down the crew. The trimarans are more and more powerful, too powerful for me. I prefer to be at 100% for preparing the boat".
Steve Ravussin, Cammas' co-skipper when they won the Transat Jacques Vabre last year, is back on board Groupama for the Grand Prix and the Course des Phares. Ravussin, from Switzerland, recently purchased Alain Gautier's Foncia I with the intention of campaigning her in the Route du Rhum, but has yet to find a sponsor.
Then there is Fujifilm which experienced major teething problems last year, but has the hugely talented 60ft trimaran champion Loick Peyron at the helm.
Banque Populaire has already spent a week warming up against Belgacom and Groupama. Lalou Roucayrol's team shone towards the end of the season last year when they won the Zeebrugge Grand Prix, a performance which many attributed the amount of time they'd spent training.
Following her near destruction in the Challenge Mondial Assistance last year Marc Guillemot's Biscuits La Trinitaine/Ethypharm has been fully rebuilt at DCN in Lorient. Marc Guillemot and his new technical team of Yann Guichard, Xavier Dagault and Sébastien Thétiot launched the gleaming boat in early March. The first sea trials in Quiberon Bay have enabled them to adapt and adjust the new set of sails.
Guillemot himself has been out of action for the few weeks with a fractured fibula, but is now recovered and back at the helm of the trimaran. There will be some new faces in his crew this season.
Franck Cammas - Groupama
Alain Gautier - Foncia 2
Jean Le Cam - Bonduelle
Loïck Peyron - Fujifilm
Lalou Roucayrol - Banque Populaire
Marc Guillemot - Biscuits La Trinitaine / Team Ethypharm
Fredéric Le Peutrec - Bayer CropScience
Philippe Monnet - Sopra Group
Jean-Luc Nélias : Belgacom dismasted on April 5th in the Channel on the way to Zeebrugge, her homeport.
Bertrand de Broc : Banque Covefi (formerly Fujicolor and then Belgacom) dismasted while training on April 10th. He will however be present in Lorient using the old mast of Francis Joyon's trimaran.
Karine Fauconnier and Sergio Tacchini are currently fulfilling sponsor commitments in Italy where they are racing in the Roma per Due.
The new Gitana for Lionel Lemonchois, Michel Desjoyeaux's new Geant and Thomas Coville's Sodebo are not complete yet
See page three for images of Charlotte Rampling at the launch of the new Bayer .