With Volvo Ocean Race teams under race rules no longer allowed to test sail their existing VO70s, so Franck Cammas' Groupama team are focussing on their new steed. Progess with the new Juan K-designed Groupama 4, scheduled for launched in May, is pushing ahead by her build team at Chantier Multiplast, led by Killian Bushe, while the sailors are dividing their time between helping at the yard in Vannes, completing a series of practical sessions ashore and M34 training sessions on the water, prior to Spi Ouest France.
106 - that's the total number of days spent sailing aboard Groupama 70. The former Ericsson 4, winner of the last 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 prior the launch of their new race boat. The training boat also served as an experimentation platform for innovations for the future monohull. "Today all the improvements on Groupama 70 are on the plans for Groupama 4" confirms Pierre Tissier, construction manager.
Skipper Franck Cammas, reviewed 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? She will remain tied up to Groupama Sailing Team's pontoon in Lorient, where she will be joined by her successor Groupama 4 in May. The rules of the Volvo Ocean Race prohibit two-boat sailing, so 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.
Meanwhile at Multiplast in Vannes, Groupama 4 has gone through two important stages. "We've just had two very intense weeks," says explains Pierre Tissier. "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)"
Cammas adds: "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."
Tissier continues: "We're less than two months from the planned launch on 9 May. The major structural changes are done but there is still some 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 Multiplast, 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."