Groupama Volvo Ocean Race crew announced

International line-up including three Swedes and the inevitable Kiwi

Friday December 10th 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

A year ago, just days before Groupama 3 was to set sail on her second attempt to conquer the Jules Verne Trophy, the French insurance giant announced its participation in the next two editions of the Volvo Ocean Race with Franck Cammas.

“Our commitment to the Volvo Ocean Race until 2015 is an expression of our group’s approach to development, which has been strongly internationalised over the past 3 years," explained Managing Director Jean Azéma. "We’ve chosen this Round the World race to promote our image and thus write a new page in our shared history, for the wider benefit of Franck Cammas and Groupama. Given its longevity on the circuit, its human dimension and its international course, the Volvo Ocean Race is synonymous with Groupama’s values as a builder, humanist and something that is lasting.”

Since November 2009, the Groupama Sailing Team has continued to become stronger, to work on the design of the future Groupama 4 as well as sail aboard Groupama 70, the former Ericsson 4, winner of the last Volvo Ocean Race.

For his part, skipper Franck Cammas has had a good year, claiming the Jules Verne Trophy and most recently the Route du Rhum aboard Groupama 3. In addition he has been playing an active role in the selection of the team's Volvo Ocean Race crew.

The first to be named is Irish sailor Damian Foxall, who has already participated in three Volvo Ocean Races. At 41 years of age, this most French of Irishmen resides in Lorient. Winner of the last Barcelona World Race with Jean-Pierre Dick, Foxall is very enthusiastic: “From the outset, I was involved in selecting the crew alongside Franck. It was necessary to define the skill sets we wanted to gather together. The greatest challenge is to work effectively as a team and to drive Groupama 4 at 100% of her potential at each of the nine stages, with very little time during the stopovers. Over nine months, fatigue accumulates. At the end, you really feel like you’ve done a circumnavigation of the globe.”

Foxall will take up the position of helmsman, trimmer and crew manager.

According to Cammas: “When Damian is on a project, it is often the winning one. As such it’s better to have him with us rather than against us”.

At 31 years of age, Australian Phil Harmer will be participating in his third Volvo Ocean Race. “I’m really lucky to be in the Groupama Sailing Team. Since the call from Damian, who I sailed with on Green Dragon, I’ve had other offers, but I don’t want to leave. All the work that has gone into this is fantastic, both in technical and human terms. To date, no other team is in a position do better.”

Harmer will be on board as helmsman, trimmer, pitman and master sailmaker.

According to Cammas: “Phil is a specialist in sails and manœuvres. A very good trimmer, he’s also a master sailmaker, which is an essential skill to have in the crew.”

Swede Magnus Woxen is preparing for his fifth Volvo. 39 years old and living in Stockholm, 'Baggy' as he is commonly known, doesn’t lack humour: “It may be because Damian found my French to be “très bien” that he contacted me. Groupama draws its strength from over ten years’ experience. Of course competing in the Volvo is something new for them. I’m bringing them the experience I’ve gained from my four successive Volvos. It’s a fusion of skills.”

Woxen will be helmsman, trimmer and mast consultant.

According to Cammas: “Magnus is a Volvo Ocean Race specialist. He really has a good command of what we know least about the Volvo Ocean Race. Any discussions and negotiations with him are interesting as he really has a fresh way of looking at things. That’s what gives this crew its charm and richness”.

The first Frenchman selected by Cammas is Jean-Luc Nélias - an old acquaintance, as they competed together in the Transat AG2R. A native of Finistère, Nélias, 48 will be navigator. He raced one leg of the last Volvo Ocean Race, on Green Dragon: “It’s a race which has had a lot of bearing on my life but was hard to access as there weren’t many French sailors doing it. I’d applied to Anglo-Saxon teams several times, but never with any success. Franck very quickly invited me to join the Groupama Sailing Team in Lorient. It’s a lot of work but also a great pleasure.”

According to Cammas: “Jean-Luc had never raced in the [whole] Volvo but, like me, he’d dreamed of doing it. We’ve just won the Route du Rhum, with him as router, so it augurs well”.

At 36, Charles Caudrelier is an old friend of Cammas. Winner of the Solitaire du Figaro and the last Transat Jacques Vabre with Marc Guillemot, he’s well aware of the new challenge which awaits him: “I wouldn’t have sailed with any old team because, to my mind, the Volvo is very difficult on a human level. All alone on a boat going around the world is something that fascinates people, but you only have to take care of yourself in that situation. When there are eleven people going around the world and it lasts a year, it’s very hard”.

Caudrelier will be on board as helmsman, trimmer, navigator and will be the person in charge of performance.

According to Cammas: “I’ve known Charles for a very long time; we even lived in the same house for two years! He’s someone who performs extremely well, as was proven in his victory in the Figaro and he is very involved in our project”.

Sébastien Josse is just 35 years of age. Based in the Morbihan, Brittany, the former skipper of ABN AMRO Two is plunging back into extreme sailing: “Since my early days in ocean racing, I’ve alternated between crewed races and solo races. It’s a cycle. The hardest thing in a Volvo remains living on top of one another. It’s a bit like living in a travelling caravan of old. For two years, you’re with the same people and a few kit bags in various hotels. 90% of our time is devoted to racing and the team while the rest is kind of on hold”.

Josse will be a helmsman, trimmer and head of on-board systems.

According to Cammas: “Sébastien Josse is one of the rare Frenchmen to have skippered one of the Volvo Ocean Race boats recently. We’re really lucky to have him in the Groupama Sailing Team”.

Triple winner of the Mini Fastnet, Yann Riou will take up a special position aboard Groupama 4. At 36, this electronics and computer expert will be the Media Crew Member: “The role of Media Man essentially consists of taking video images, making a selection of shots and an initial edit and sending it to the organisation and the communication team so the images can be broadcast. Several minor tasks come on top of that: preparation of the food – as the boat’s official cook, and the small domestic chores – as an extreme cleaning operative”.

As such Yann won’t be allowed to touch a single sheet or a single sail.

According to Cammas: “It was necessary to have a very good sailor in the role of media man as you have to be familiar with living and working on this type of boat. Yann’s offshore sessions aboard the Groupama trimarans and in the Mini mean that he has the appropriate profile.”

At 51, Jacques Caraës is the most senior member of the crew. A holder of the Jules Verne Trophy aboard Groupama 3, he also competed in the Whitbread with Eric Tabarly on board La Poste in 1993. Right now the organiser of La Solitaire du FIgaro is ready to pull on his foulies again: “Having once had the experience, I know that this race makes men physically and mentally exhausted. The teams who retain the same composition throughout the race programme are rare. The replacements bring good humour and freshness, as well as strengthening the harmony and solidarity within the Team. The Volvo boats have become so extreme that I don’t mind distancing myself from the foredeck. Racing is wearing for everyone, including the media man. It’ll be a welcome feature for there to be two of us supporting each other in this role”.

At these time Caraes will replace Yann Riou.

According to Cammas: “I know Jacques very well through having done several Jules Vernes with him, even though only one got all the way round. He’s someone who is extremely solid, who’s already done several round the worlds and who, added to that, is always pleasant on a boat.”

A special feature of this eleventh edition of the Volvo Ocean Race is that three crew must be under 30, at the race start.

A Swede who’s just squeezed into the under-thirty category, Martin Krite is a professional sailor. He participated in the last Volvo Ocean Race aboard Ericsson 3. However, he is also a pastor: “Religion is important to me. I have a personal faith and that influences my everyday life, not solely when I’m at sea. However, I’m in the team as a sailor and not as a pastor. If one of the guys wishes to have a discussion with me about this, I’ll be happy to answer any questions they may have. However, I don’t want to impose my belief on them.”

Martin will be bowman and boat captain

According to Cammas: “Martin never complains and is very tough. As a Swede, he’s not afraid of the cold or the sea spray. Pleasant, always positive, hard-working and courageous, he forms part of the crew of under-thirty year olds who have experience in this domain”.

It’s rare to see a boat competing in the Volvo Ocean Race which doesn’t have any New Zealanders aboard. The Groupama Sailing Team is no exception to the rule with the arrival of Brad Marsh, aged 27. A member of Ericsson’s shore crew and an Emirates Team New Zealand crewman during the Louis Vuitton Cup, he’s very determined: “I was very enthusiastic at the idea of discovering the French aspect of ocean racing as well as the French culture. The way a project is managed is so different. The French concentrate a great deal on the detail; they’re extremely focused. It’s very interesting to be able to witness it from the inside and to learn alongside people like Franck Cammas.”

Marsh will be a bowman and in charge of the rigging.

According to Cammas: “Brad has recently arrived in the team. He was a member of Ericsson 3’s shore crew so he hasn’t sailed in the race. However, he’s an enthusiastic sailor who will work in a complicated and at times dangerous position, where he’ll need courage. I think he has that.”

Martin Strömberg will be the third Swede on the boat. At 28, he’s already got one Volvo Ocean Race under his belt, again aboard Ericsson 3: “We don’t speak French very well but we do speak English. One amusing thing is that when the three of us are together on deck, the others have christened it the “Ikea watch”. We have a real potential for victory, even though the team has never done the Volvo. Some of us have done it several times and there’s also Franck’s multihull experience. Ultimately, we’ve got a fair number of round the worlds on the clock between us. Frank is always there to get the boat and the crew performing at their very best. I find that very agreeable and stimulating”.

Martin will be a trimmer, pitman and sailmaker.

According to Cammas: “Martin has a big build and that’s definitely something we need on the boat. He’s someone who is very calm and at the same time very rigorous, who does his job very well”.

Don’t go thinking that you have to be from outside France to have the necessary skills to race around the world at less than thirty years of age. The proof comes in the shape of Erwan Israël who will be competing in his first Volvo Ocean Race. A familiar face on the Figaro circuit, he’s now discovering the VOR 70: “The boats are powerful and constantly pushed to perform at 100%. We mustn’t let ourselves be overwhelmed by the big seas on deck. The sea trials are exhilarating. The participation of a French team will enable young French sailors to be trained up for the Volvo Ocean Race. I’m happy to be one of those.”

Israël will be a trimmer and helmsman, as well as being in charge of the manœuvres in the inshore races and also the safety.

According to Cammas: “Erwan is an excellent racer. He’s young too and I hope he will race some of the legs. It’s our role to train them in the Volvo Ocean Race.”

Last but not least, Sébastien Marsset is a Mini specialist. Groupama 3’s technician, he’s the youngest member of the team at 25: “It’s a circumnavigation of the globe which in itself is not insignificant. It’s a competition with a compelling human story. Whether it is within the shore team or the sailing team, it’s going to be rich. What’s evident is that I have a lot to learn from the others. I have to try to absorb their experience. Ultimately I’m becoming fairly well integrated and haven’t had to endure any ragging. They say that I’m the sportiest amongst us, but I train like the others”.

Marsset will be a trimmer, pitman and in charge of the deck hardware and safety.

According to Cammas: “Seb came to us with a CV, which was a bit lacking in substance, but his attitude and motivation are excellent for the team. He started out working with the shore crew and during a few sea trials proved that he was motivated, along with performing increasingly well in the manœuvres and boat management.”

Besides these twelve sailors, the Groupama skipper is relying on his heads of department to bring the Groupama group’s participation in the Volvo Ocean Race to a successful conclusion.

At 57, Luc Gellusseau is the first of them to join the Groupama Sailing Team. In charge of relations with the organisers and, in particular, the special race rules for the Volvo Ocean Race, he keeps an eye on each stage of the project – training, construction of Groupama 4, manufacture of the sails and constitution of the crew – to ensure that the decisions made conform to the race rules.

Watch leader aboard Telefonica during the last race, Laurent Pagès, 34 years of age, joined the Groupama Sailing Team back in August 2009 and is in charge of the sail programme: “The number of permitted sails has been reduced in relation to the 2008 edition. That means that you have to re-examine things from every angle in terms of strategy, development and design. There’s a whole in-depth study to be carried out with North Sails and our own team in order that we perform as well as possible on the start day, as well as throughout the nine months of racing”.

Loïc Dorez, head of the design office, Pierre Tissier, head of boat construction, Hervé Le Quilliec, in charge of logistics, Australian Ben Wright, head of the shore crew and finally Olivier Mainguy, in charge of the rigging, complete this team led by Stéphane Guilbaud, team manager, who has worked alongside Franck Cammas since 1997, the year when he won the Solitaire du Figaro: “The team has evolved in stages. There has been a steady succession of projects since 1998, which are increasingly ambitious every time. We’ve been lucky to be supported by Groupama, which is also forging ahead. Our aims are now international, which explains why a third of Groupama Sailing Team is from overseas. However, our basic rules have not changed and continue to revolve around humility, common sense and an ability to adapt. The team remains the most important value to be defended and Franck is a leader to us more than ever.”

Cammas retains the determination and competitive ambition which have been his strengths for what has already been a long period of time. After winning virtually all the possible races and records in a multihull (barring The Transat), the Groupama skipper explains this switch of direction: “To participate in the Volvo Ocean Race is a decision we’ve made together with Groupama, who has supported me for the past thirteen years. Together we’ve sought an event which can exert its influence over Groupama’s image internationally and enable us to progress and confront what I imagine to be the best in crewed ocean racing. We know that there’s a lot happening overseas and one way of progressing is to go and do battle with the best. That’s why we’re taking part.”

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