Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / FFVoile

Trio of favourites for the Tour Voile

Cammas, Coville and Souben lead the charge into this year's race around the French coast

Friday May 24th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

Despite a significant drop in numbers since the event changed from the Farr 30 to the M34 monohull, the Tour de France à la Voile sees two titans of French joining its ranks this year.

Franck Cammas is signing on with a Groupama team, while solo round the world sailor Thomas Coville (who sailed with Cammas to victory in the last Volvo Ocean Race) has his own team backed by his long term sponsor Sodebo. To date veteran Tour de France competitor Daniel Souben has been the only match for Cammas and Coville.

35 days out from the start of the Tour de France à la Voile, these three lead the Spring Championship, which will finish in a few day's time with the Normandy Sailing Week.

This year's Tour de France à la Voile will see 13 of the one-design M34s compete around the French coast, with high-level pro teams and amateurs race each other. But who will take the title of Fabien Henry and TPM Coych, who won in July 2012 for a third time? Groupama 34, Courrier Dunkerque 3 or Sodebo are the obvious favourites, but they will still face serious competition from Nicolas Troussel on Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite and Omansail skippered by Cédric Pouligny.

The three favourites were meeting in Paris today, speaking about how impatient they were to begin the month-long race. Franck Cammas, who has been very well since he joined the class, said:  "The Tour de France is our main objective of the season in M34. The three races we entered before the Tour’s start allowed us to get ready in the best possible conditions against top-level competitors. Nothing beats racing to train in real conditions.

"We were late compared to some of our competitors, especially Courrier Dunkerque – we are rookies. But our shared training sessions helped us to improve. Our team is mixing Groupama sailing team veterans, with whom we won the Volvo Ocean Race, and young sailors as efficient as they are enthusiastic. It’s a real pleasure. I’ve done the Tour several years ago, but only as a one-shot thing. To sail it all is a real challenge. With its inshore and offshore legs, it reminds us of the Volvo.

"We will have to be very consistent and capable of improving from the start in Dunkirk and the finish in Marseille. In any case I’m excepting a very tight race because the teams are great.”

Meanwhile Thomas Coville has gathered a strong team around him. “While I am a solo sailor, I have never stopped crew racing. These two ways of navigating really help to develop my skills on the water. With Sodebo, we are happy to participate in the Tour de France à la Voile. This team adventure will allow us to compete with top level crews. Our team gathers sailors from different background: Volvo Ocean Race winners, America’s Cup experts and sailors who participated in the Olympic Games and the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. The team Sodebo has a total of 26 victories on the Tour de France à la Voile! With the quality of the crew gathered here, our goal clearly is to compete with the leaders.”

Among Coville's crew is Mathieu Richard and his high experience match racing crew.

Meanwhile, Daniel Souben is keeping a similar crew to last year. That method worked well at the beginning of the season and, as in 2008 and 2009, he is keen to claim the Tour trophy again: "We are delighted to race against competitors such as Cammas or Coville. They are spoiling us with a true sport challenge. It’s a great opportunity for us to have international names on the Tour. That being said, we are obviously seeking the victory! Courrier Dunkerque 3’s core team has been the same for the past seven years and it’s paying off. We started well the beginning of the season. Cammas and Coville are pulling us up. I’m extremely motivated about this season!”

While these three are favourites, their competitors are fighting hard too. Cédric Pouligny and his Omani crew are getting better and better while two time Solitaire du Figaro winner Nicolas Troussel finished third last year and has once more gathered some very talented sailors around him, including offshore and strategy experts Dimitri Deruelle, Christian Ponthieu and Eric Peron, who Troussel refers to as 'the executives'.

Mini Transat winner Corentin Douguet is once again mixing experience and learning onboard Nantes Saint Nazaire E. Leclerc. The spirit of the project remains the same and Douguet, seventh in 2012, hopes to get the best out of his 15 crew.

Elodie Jane Mettraux returns with Ville de Genève Carrefour Addictions. The Swiss sailor won the amateur ranking last year and is focussing on the overall results this time.

Last year's winner TPM Coych has changed entirely, with the project now managed by the youngsters of the club. French Sailing Team Laser athlete Jean-Baptiste Bernaz will lead with two other helmsmen, Mathieu Frei (French Sailing Team, 49er) and Cédric Boeri (COYCH). Alexis Littoz and Pierre Brasseur will bring navigation experience to the offshore legs.

On the amateur side, Team 85 is made up of youngsters from the Vendée region. Skipper Pierre Casaux took part in the Tour several times with Mady Fobert’s Belgium team (a feature of the race since 1993).

Normandy, another region close to the Tour de France à la Voile, will also have an entry at the start in Dunkirk. 23-year-old Baptiste Choquenet will once again lead this youth project.

Last year Mathieu Mourès led a Martinique team and he returns this year to sail under his island’s colours and… the Belgian colours too, joining forces with Mady Fobert on a boat named Martinique BE Brussels.

Finally, two foreign teams are entering the amateur competition. The faithful Swiss team, Bienne Voile, is back once again while Sönke Brunhs and Christiane Dittmers’ German team, Iskareen, has been training in Kiel and will begin the season at Normandy Sailing Week.


Bienne-Voile - SRS Peter Luzius/François Kunz
Bretagne Credit Mutuel Elite  Nicolas Troussel
Courrier Dunkerque 3 Daniel Souben
Groupama 34  Franck Cammas
Iskareen Christiane Dittmers/Sönke Bruhns
Martinique-BE.Brussels Matthieu Moures
Nantes-Saint Nazaire E.LeClerc Corentin Douguet
Normandie Baptiste Choquenet
Sodebo  Thomas Coville
Team 85  Pierre Casaux
Team OmanSail  Cédric Pouligny
Toulon Provence Mediterranee-COYCH Jean-Baptiste Bernaz
Ville de Geneve-Carrerfour Addictions Elodie-Jane Mettraux/Nicolas Groux


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