Volvo Ocean Race qualifier - Groupama battle with New Zealanders

Groupama 4 at the start of the qualifying race - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 final qualifying race started on Friday 7th October 2011 from the port of Alicante in Spain. Having set off at 1500 hours (French time), it took Groupama sailing team 48 hours to cover the 360 miles imposed by the Volvo Ocean Race's qualifier event.

Involving a man overboard drill, an emergency tiller test, light airs, 25 knots of boatspeed upwind, then a late night of downwind sailing, rounded off by a battle with the New Zealanders through a windless zone, the racing has been intense.

Groupama 4 finished the qualifier race this afternoon at 1445 hours, nearly seven hours astern of Telefonica, but ahead of the New Zealanders from Camper. However, it's pretty hard to draw any conclusions either way as regards the boats' performances as the safety manoeuvres imposed by race management distort the results.

Groupama Sailing Team - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12

'The crew has been absolutely flat out since the first night. Even in the windless conditions, everyone remained focused, watching the race zone', admitted the skipper of Groupama 4. Even though the exercises upset the rhythm of the racing, Franck Cammas has drawn some lessons from this test run: 'We were worse than our boat. When she's driven well, Groupama 4 makes headway as she should. We need to raise our game with the manoeuvring and coordination'.

Making comparisons so as to learn more
Sailing on its own as far as Palma, Franck Cammas and his crew caught up with the New Zealanders on Camper in the evening. 'For the last 20 hours, we were neck and neck with Camper who, like us, took the Northerly option from Ibiza. Sailing within sight of each other pushed us to trim the boat better and we managed to pass them'.

Though the man overboard drill wasn't the most conclusive, the installation of the emergency tiller on Groupama 4 enabled us to check a system which hadn't previously been tested in a real-life situation. 'The crew on each boat designed its own emergency system. We took the decision to construct a tiller which can be set up without the need to stop the boat. However, the manœuvre involves input from several of the crew for at least a couple of hours' explains Franck Cammas.

Franck Cammas, Damian Foxall and Martin Strömberg - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12

Continuing with the training
According to the Volvo Ocean Race schedule, there is no more fleet sailing planned until the ‘practice day' on 28 October. However, with race management not prohibiting several boats from going out for sea trials together, the skipper of Groupama, whose always looking to learn more valuable lessons, is hoping to benefit from this opportunity and convince the other crews to take part in some common training sessions. 'I think we all have something to gain from sailing our boats together.' In the meantime, the sailors who make up Groupama sailing team will enjoy a few days' holiday before returning to Alicante on 17 October.

Order of arrival in the qualifier race
1. Team Teléfonica
2. Puma Ocean Racing
3. Team Sanya
4. Groupama sailing team
5. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing used its engine and so cannot be ranked.

Groupama website
Volvo Ocean Race website