Yvan Zedda / Groupama

Cammas targets the big America's Cup

A consortium is the only way ahead for a French challenge

Monday September 30th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

Having won the Volvo Ocean Race last year and made mincemeat of the C-Class competition last week, Franck Cammas now has his sights firmly set on the 'big America's Cup'.

There was a small sigh of relief among multihull fans when Oracle Team USA successfully won the 34th America's Cup, as the Cup now seems more likely to remain on two hulls for the 35th. Cammas was among them. “That is good for the show and for the public.”

However he says he would be equally at home in a monohull. “The America’s Cup is my goal now, even if it is in monohulls. I would prefer multihulls, because it is more fun to race this kind of boats and there is more to do in the concept. But a monohull is not so bad either.”

The big issue for Cammas is now hunting down the money. France has probably the biggest culture of sponsored sailing of any country in the world. There is Banque Populaire, who is believed to have spent in excess of 10 million Euros building their 40m long trimaran (now Spindrift 2). Cammas’ own sponsor Groupama put 17 million Euros/year into successfully winning the Volvo Ocean Race, coming after their success with the Groupama 3 maxi-trimaran in which Cammas and his crew not only set a new Jules Verne Trophy record, but which Cammas then sailed to victory singlehanded in the 2010 Route du Rhum.

However the economic downturn has given sailing sponsorship in France a hammering, with some big, long term players like Foncia and Veolia Environnement suddenly pulling the plug on their campaigns and even Groupama has dramatically scaled back its sailing sponsorship spend.

Cammas maintains the way to get France onto the start line of the 35th America’s Cup, is to form a consortium with some other big players in France. “We are working to create a team, not only us, but other skippers, to be very strong in front of the sponsors.”

He won’t elaborate on who these people might be, but says that they are receiving support from the French government and one minster in particular (who he won’t name, but more likely to be business than sport). He adds that this support is not coming in fiscal terms - à la Marc Pajot and his Ville de Paris campaign - but in ‘connections’ with companies that might be interested in getting on board to back such a campaign.

Assuming the America’s Cup is staying in catamarans with wings, Cammas reckons that they could draw on companies wishing to showcase their technology. In France there are already plenty of examples of companies in sailing for this reason, including DCNS and Safran, but of particular relevance with the America’s Cup is France’s substantial aero sector, based around Toulouse, where, for example, Airbus is located. “There are some good companies in France,” continues Cammas. “It is interesting for them to get into this technology contest. But we need more than one company, we need a group of companies - French or maybe not French, like Team New Zealand with Emirates.”

The problem is that, despite Emirates Team New Zealand’s party line, there are no teams in the America’s Cup at present being run on a fully commercial basis. The Kiwi team does indeed receive considerable support from sponsors such as Emirates and Nespresso, as well as the New Zealand government, but also has a number of private benefactors, in particular their Team Principal, Swiss-Italian businessman, Matteo di Nora, funding them. Basically to be competitive you need to get money from ‘everywhere’, as Grant Dalton has demonstarted extremely well with Team New Zealand's recent campaigns.

The syndicate may announce their intentions at the Salon Nautique boat show in Paris in December.

Cammas says that he particularly liked the television offering from the 34th America’s Cup with multiple camera angles, in the air, on the water and on board, together with the on board audio. This increases the value of the event. “It was amazing. It is like another sport. If the TV is good, it is good for the sponsors.”

As to the boat, Cammas reckons that it should continue to be held in 72ft foiling catamarans but with modifications made to the rule to reduce costs.

Having briefly worked for Oracle in the build-up to the 33rd America’s Cup, he has had first hand insight into how Cup teams work: “The problem is not the boat in the budget, because if you look at that, it is only about 5% of the cost. The problem is the salaries of the people. We need to make it like basketball and cap the salaries. Length is not a problem - it is not expensive to add 1-2m in the bow, in fact that would be better for the safety. But it would be good to change the rules - maybe not the length, but perhaps the righting moment and the width of the boat, but that’s all. Otherwise the concept of the boat is good.”

Cammas reckons that some areas of the AC72 v2 should be one design, but, significantly, reckons the wing should stay. There are of course logistical issues with the wing, such as the 35 people required to step and upstep it. “That’s only for an hour a day – but I admit it is a problem.”

The issue is not the size of the boat, but the size of the team required to develop and run it.

Cammas personally relishes the design challenge of box rules and is something of a master of them – as he proved first in the ORMA class and more recently with the Groupama VO70. However this comes at a time when, thanks to the downturn in the global economy, classes he and his team might be interested in, are increasingly going one design such as the Volvo Ocean Race with the new Volvo Ocean 65, the ORMA turning into the MOD70, and the IMOCA 60 class increasing heading in that direction (not that he’s considering a Vendee Globe: “too long...”) The new America’s Cup boat, however big it is, will provide the greatest challenge his design team has ever faced.

We look forward to hearing more in December.

Latest Comments

  • KingMonkey 04/10/2013 - 14:49

    Could Cammas and Ainslie prove that the entente cordial is alive and well and have a Concorde moment? Unlikely, I guess.

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