Handicapping the Fleet
Handicapping the Fleet
For the first time since 1993, the French are back in crewed monohull ocean racing. With legendary multihull specialist Franck Cammas leading the well-funded charge, Groupama has emerged as an instant favorite and already committed to the next two races.
In rounding up his crew, Cammas has ventured outside the French sailing world, hiring Damian Foxall as sailing program manager. Foxall, watch captain for Green Dragon in the last race, has already lapped the planet seven times in both monohulls and multihulls. He'll be key in getting this team up to pace in lead-assisted sailing. Crew trials began this summer. Carrying six under-30 crewmembers aboard the former Ericsson 4 in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, Groupama crushes the course record.
Construction of Groupama's Juan Yacht Design boat has commenced at the Multiplast yard under the direction of builder Killian Busche. Busche has a great relationship with Juan K, and he has an undefeated record in the Volvo: He previously built race-winning Volvo Open 70s for Ericsson and ABN Amro. While it would have been fascinating to see a Verdier or Van Peteghem Lauriot Prévost (VPLP) design compete in the Volvo, Groupama took the safe choice. The team is counting on the extensive database of the Juan K studio to ensure steady refinement of a wining design pedigree. With a stable sponsor, well-organized team, and immense experience, Groupama seems destined to win at least one of the next two VORs.
The boys from Newport, R.I., are back for their second crack at winning the Volvo, but only after Puma found a second sponsor to augment its financial commitment. Given the resounding success of Puma merchandise sales during the last race, the teams dual sponsorship arrangement should be a clear indication of how hard it is for any team to secure funding this time around. (Note to Puma, bring Puma City to all the ports this time around. For those unfamiliar, Puma City was a portable store/bar/nightclub that quickly became THE place to be in Alicante and Boston.)
With the financial side secured, Puma settled into a summer of training off Rhode Island, testing a new Hall Spars rig and new sail combinations on il Mostro. For anyone sailing in Newport this summer, the sight of il Mostro blasting through Narragansett Bay was treat. The ban on two-boat testing this time around forced Puma to tune up against boats like Rambler and Speedboat in the Newport-Bermuda Race and Ida Lewis Distance Race. These events presented excellent opportunities to try out new crew, seeing as how key members of the last team have left to pursue other opportunities. Puma has been quick to hire new talent, picking up Brad Jackson and Tony Mutter from Ericsson 4, Tom Addis from Telefonica Blue, and Andrew Lewis (under 30) from ABN Amro 2. Clearly, experience is the key, and Puma has indicated there will be no rookies on this team,. Even the team's under-30 crewmembers have at least one lap under their belts.
The next Puma yacht will be the second of three new Juan Kouyoumdjian designs in the next race, and construction is taking place at New England Boatworks. I'm eager to see the new boat with a great paintjob hit the water in the spring. In the meantime, I hear the team will be doing winter training on the Juan K 100 Speedboat, which Rambler owner George David has chartered for the season.