This French sailor has a finger in a lot of pies. His Volvo Race plans promise to revive the great French tradition


A stint with BMW Oracle, a rebuild of and (brief) Atlantic record on the giant trimaran Groupama 3 and today an announcement that he is to take part in the next Volvo Ocean Race: Franck Cammas has been a busy chap lately.

And it’s all go now that a suitable weather window has opened up to allow him and his crew to leave France in the 104ft maxi trimaran on their second attempt to beat the Jules Verne Trophy record for the fastest non-stop circumnavigation.

A lot was learned after last year’s calamity. Cammas and crew were 2,000 miles ahead of the record time when Groupama’s forward port beam cracked and the boat capsized and broke up off New Zealand.


Working on the hypothesis that the port side suffered from extensive wave impacts during the long period that the trimaran was sailed on starboard tack, and that a probably small crack rapidly propagated to disastrous effect, designers VPLP recalculated for the rebuild of two new floats.

These have extra bulkheads and are of monolithic carbon on the outboard side between the two beams instead of sandwich construction.

So Groupama 3 should be a considerably stronger boat. It has already proven last year to be considerably faster than the record holder, Orange 2.

But as I wrote recently here, preparation, speed and favourable weather are not enough. To succeed on a non-stop world race or record you also need luck. That sounds pretty nebulous, unscientific and fundamentally uncommercial, but in fact it’s not that hard to quantify.

Of the 19 Jules Verne attempts since 1993, 14 have failed, so the statistics say that any record attempt in any given year has a 1 in 4 chance of success.

Meanwhile, Franck Cammas’s announcement that he will take part in the next Volvo Ocean Race is great news. No round the world yacht race of any stature should be without a French entry; the country boasts some of the greatest, and absolutely the most versatile, sailors in the world.

Cammas’s name may not yet ring as many bells in the Anglo Saxon world as it might, but just wait. A 36-year-old with film star looks, Cammas has a wealth of experience, shorthanded and crewed, monohull and multihull. He has ticked all the boxes considered de rigeur for greatness in France.

He has won the gruelling solo Solitaire du Figaro and the Spi Ouest, co-skippered with Michel Desjoyeaux in the Transat AG2R, was one of the youngest ORMA 60 trimaran skippers and is just about to tackle the Jules Verne Trophy.

Moreover, he will bring to the VOR some of the special spirit of French ocean racing.

It’s hard to describe exactly what that is, except to say it’s a warming mix of egalitarianism and camaraderie. French sailors pride themselves on their informality and approachability, of being one of the people. It’s a nice balance of the communitaire and the corporate.

Whatever it is, the French way is something no major oceanic race should be without.