Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Valencia Sailing talks to Franck Cammas

Valencia Sailing talked last week to Franck Cammas, the French multihull guru, during the 3rd day of test sails of the repaired Groupama 3 trimaran. Cammas talked about the first impressions of the test, his busy schedule this season, including three record attempts, as well as BMW Oracle's BOR90.

Valencia Sailing: Let's start with the obvious question. What are the initial impressions from the first test sails of the "new" Groupama 3?
Franck Cammas: Unfortunately, the first three days we sailed with a very light breeze, not the kind of conditions for such a boat. She has been conceived to go fast in strong breeze, so we haven't seen too much. For the moment we work on the overall setup of the yacht, the rigging, the sails but it is very early to make a thorough assessment. We still need to spend more time on her.

Valencia Sailing: What is your schedule for the next few weeks?
Franck Cammas: We will train and test until the 16th of March here in Lorient and then sail to Istanbul. So from the 16th we start longer navigations.

Valencia Sailing: Before talking about your schedule for the rest of the year, I see you will also take part in the entire iShares Extreme 40 circuit. Is that something new for you?
Franck Cammas: I have already sailed in two events, two years ago in Marseille and last year with BMW Oracle in Cowes. Nevertheless, this will be the first time we will do the entire circuit, with a boat we are preparing ourselves and with our own crew. This time it's more serious. In a way it replaces the type of regattas we did in the ORMA 60ft circuit that we can't do anymore because it ceased to exist. As a result we found in the Extreme 40 circuit the type of event we previously had, the Grand Prix.

Groupama 3 sails again after more than a year. Lorient, 23 February 2009. Photo copyright Yvan Zedda

Valencia Sailing: You will also try to break three records this year. Don't you think we have too many "world records"? Isn't it getting too saturated?
Franck Cammas: I agree that it's useless to try and create new "world records" left and right. I think there is a number of important records and the attempts to break them are characterized by a certain quality. In my view the pinnacle of records are the Jules Verne Trophy (round-the-world) and the North Atlantic crossing while there is a number of other records further down the scale. We will try to break the Mediterranean crossing record and that will allow us to train further and test the yacht under certain conditions. Nevertheless, our main focus for the year is to break the round-the-world record.

Valencia Sailing: Will the repairs and modifications you carried out after your accident last year while trying to break that record now make it more difficult to suffer from such an accident again?
Franck Cammas: You know, you can never be sure this will never happen again. You can never be sure of anything. The boat was conceived and built with safety coefficients that were at least equal, if not higher, than Geronimo, the boat built by the same designers. We didn't take either more risks than they did. Still, they beat the record while we capsized. Obviously, the boat now has a higher reliability factor than before the accident but, unfortunately, there are a lot of things that could break on these boats. I have had unpleasant experiences in the past and nothing is guaranteed.

Valencia Sailing: You will also embark on a tour of the Mediterranean. Is that more for marketing or for training purposes? If you want to train for a round-the-world race wouldn't it be more appropriate to go to, let's say, Rio de Janeiro and then back to Lorient?
Franck Cammas: Our 2009 season will start in the Mediterranean and there will be some PR activity related to this tour because Groupama is an insurance group active in all these countries. Nevertheless, training will be a very important factor. We will first sail to Istanbul where we expect to encounter varied conditions. We will also attempt to break the record from Marseille to Carthage under a Mistral and test the boat in the strong breeze. After that we will cross the Atlantic, a much bigger race area that will enable us to sail and test in conditions much more similar to those of a round-the-world race.

As far as Rio is concerned, as you mentioned, it would be more interesting to go south but in the winter it's not easy. On the other hand, training in the Mediterranean can be much more effective. We will carry out much more maneuvers, we will encounter a varied range of conditions as well as rotate the crew in all positions. After all, the Med is not that bad and can be a very interesting test bed for the boat.

BMW Oracle carry out the 2nd phase of tests on BOR90. San Diego, 20 February 2009. Photo copyright Paul Todd / BMW Oracle

Valencia Sailing: Let's now talk about your other major project, the BMW Oracle 90ft trimaran. Have you finished your work with the Americans?
Franck Cammas: A new series of test started in January and I came back to Groupama 3 last week. The boat is still undergoing development but I think she is spectacular. It's at the same time a very enjoyable boat to sail but also an extreme one, radically different from what we have seen so far.

Valencia Sailing: Such a radical boat needs a very experienced helmsman. You are probably the best multihull expert in the world but it's James Spithill that will eventually steer her. Is he a good student?
Franck Cammas: Spithill is a very good student. He shows interest in a lot of things and not only has spent time on the BMW Oracle trimaran. He has also sailed on other catamarans and multihulls and is a very fast learner. He was already one of the best monohull helmsmen of the world and since a year now he has been training and racing in this domain and in my view he is now a top notch multihull helmsman.

Valencia Sailing: From what I understand, you had light conditions, in general, during the tests in San Diego. Has the BMW Oracle trimaran been optimized for light winds and could Alinghi gain an advantage if they chose a windy venue for an eventual one-on-one race?
Franck Cammas: No, not at all. The yacht has been conceived for a wide wind range that goes from 0 to 30 knots, or even more, because, as you know, there are no limits. The designers took obviously that in consideration and she hasn't been optimized in any direction. It's not a yacht for light or strong winds but one that has to be competitive in both conditions. The idea is to build a platform that can perform in all conditions but you can't specialize further than that.

Don't forget we also sailed with lots of wind, sometimes more than 20 knots. We also sailed with choppy seas. On the contrary, in my view, there is more research and studies to be done for a boat optimized for lighter winds than stronger winds, especially as far as rigging is concerned. It's much more complicated than you think to make the yacht go faster in 4 knots than in 20 knots of wind. The BMW Oracle trimaran is just another multihull and by nature these platforms are conceived for strong breeze. That's why we tried to make more progress in light conditions, always keeping in mind this yacht must be able to win under any kind of wind.

Valencia Sailing: These trimarans will be used for inshore match races rather than crossing the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean. Has this factor meant any change in your personal mindset?
Franck Cammas: As far as construction is concerned there is a change. Since the yacht will be used in inshore races she can be lighter. It's not the same thing a 20-mile race and a 3,000-mile race. The deck is also different because you have to do all maneuvers much more rapidly. Offshore we have much more space and time to do our maneuvers while the goal in match racing is to do short and fast maneuvers.

Another important issue with multihulls in general is tacking. Tacking in multihulls is a problem and there is always a considerable loss of speed, much greater than what is lost when a monohull tacks. As a result, that was a domain we tried to work on. Obviously, this is going to be a race on sail boats and we will have to tack more than once. The goal in my view will be to do the smallest number of tacks possible. It will be crucial.

BMW Oracle carry out the 2nd phase of tests on BOR90. San Diego, 20 February 2009. Photo copyright Paul Todd / BMW Oracle

Valencia Sailing: Will your input be used in order for BMW Oracle to build a second trimaran? Are they already building another one?
Franck Cammas: [Laughs] For sure, I'm not the person you should ask that question.

Valencia Sailing: Let's just suppose, hypothetically, that Alinghi could charter Groupama 3 to race against BMW Oracle. Would they be competitive?
Franck Cammas: I think it would be impossible for Groupama 3 to beat BOR90 and if it did that would mean we have failed in our job. BOR90 is certainly much more competitive in a 20-mile match race than Groupama 3 that has been conceived for long offshore races.

Valencia Sailing: Last but not least, will we see you in Valencia this year?
Franck Cammas: Yes, you will see me soon. We will train together with BMW Oracle on our Extreme 40 yachts in Valencia.

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At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You didn't ask how long it takes to tack ?

At 12:19 AM, Blogger Norberto said...

do you think he would tell, even if asked?

At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How long does it take ? does anyone know ?


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