Thomas Coville joins Groupama 4

Sodebo skipper to embark on his fourth round the world in four years...

Thursday April 21st 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

Thomas Coville is to join Franck Cammas' crew aboard Groupama 4 for the next Volvo Ocean Race.

In 2010, Coville sailed on the maxi trimaran Groupama 3 on their Jules Verne Trophy attempt, which proved successful establishing a new record in a time of 48 days, 7 hours on 20 March 2010. Now Coville is committing to his fourth circumnavigation of the globe in as many years.

“Franck called me three days before I completed my circumnavigation," recounts Coville. "Solo sailing features a wealth of introspection but it leaves you mentally drained. In crewed configuration though, when you’re open to the group, you feed off them and you learn a great deal. Before even crossing the finish line off Ushant, I was already keen to say yes because I’ve dreamt about the Volvo Ocean Race since I was sixteen year of ages. It’s one of the most fascinating races for me.

“In this crewed round the world race, there’s never been such an accomplished project in France, and even overseas, with this culture, this accumulation of experience from the people Franck has brought together. To be perfectly honest, it’s not just an attractive prospect, I’m also incredibly grateful to have been asked to do it by a team like Groupama and by Franck Cammas in particular. There’s a small element of pride mixed in all that but is it the kind of offer you can afford to refuse when you’re an athlete?”

At 43 and already with eight Cape Horn roundings to his credit, Thomas Coville is one of the world's most accomplished all-round racing sailors who has competed in the Mini Transat 6.50, the Solitaire du Figaro, the Admiral’s Cup, the America’s Cup, the Route du Rhum, The Transat and the Vendée Globe. Though Franck Cammas knows all too well why he’s asked the fastest solo sailor across the North Atlantic to join him, the skipper of Sodebo is also well aware that he’s joining a realm of excellence by embarking on a journey around the world with Franck Cammas and his crew, for what will be his 7th circumnavigation of the globe (including 3 with Sodebo), the 2nd aboard a monohull and the 4th as part of a crew.

For the skipper of Groupama, getting back with one of the crew with whom he won the Jules Verne Trophy is a guarantee of performance and enthusiasm: “Thomas is an excellent sailor who never gives up. His recent solo round the world attempt with Sodebo is evidence of that. He is completely familiar with the open sea, life aboard this type of boat and the weather conditions we’ll encounter. His Anglo-Saxon culture will also be very useful within our crew, which is made up of five nationalities. Furthermore, we’ve got to know each other well from the Jules Verne Trophy. As such I’m not heading into the unknown by calling upon his services”.

Watch leader and hydraulics manager on Groupama 4, Thomas Coville has no intention of leaving Sodebo, with whom he’s been sailing for 12 years: “Today I’m the skipper of Sodebo, I’ll remain so and I’ll take up the helm of Sodebo again after the Volvo Ocean Race. For me this round the world aboard Groupama 4 is an essential digression in human and technical terms when you want to make progress and perform well. This decision to join Groupama Sailing Team has been constructed with Sodebo. It’s also about the meeting of two partners who share the same vision of the sport and who respect the people they’re working with. Sodebo has understood that the experience I stand to gain with Groupama will be of use to them. I am incredibly lucky to have a partner who respects my sporting career and who knows that it’s over the long term that gains are made. Groupama is an atypical insurer which shares the same mindset."

Groupama 4 is due to be launched on 9 May in Lorient, Brittany.

At that point Franck and Thomas will discover the joys of monohull sailing together: “Groupama 4 will be a powerful boat, capable of reaching very high speeds and able to sail flat out, even in heavy seas. That’s another reason why our crew will be made up of experienced warriors” says Franck Cammas. “With Thomas, we’ll also have Jacques Caraës, who was with us on the Jules Verne Trophy. He’ll fulfil the role of Media Man on certain stages. I’m very lucky to be sailing with sailors of this calibre”.

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