Groupama 4 Christened In Lorient, A Stopover Town In The Volvo Ocean Race
Whether or not you’re superstitious, a christening remains a compulsory and symbolic moment in the life of a boat. At 1400 GMT this Saturday 11 June, the traditional bottle of champagne was smashed across the bow of Groupama 4, the new monohull aboard which Franck Cammas and his international crew will take part in the next Volvo Ocean Race. The history of this crewed round the world with stopovers has been marked by a great French sailor: Eric Tabarly. It is his right arm, the sailor and offshore race organiser Gérard Petipas, who was selected to be patron to the first Volvo Open 70 built in France.
The public was out in force for this historic moment in sailing: the christening of the monohull Groupama sailing team, crewed by the first French team to participate in the Volvo Ocean Race since 1993, with Éric Tabarly. Over 3,000 spectators packed around the Keroman submarine base in Lorient to discover those faces who will carry Groupama’s colours around the world for eight months across ten countries.
Jean Azéma, CEO of Groupama: “We’re now switching from the technical to the human face of the project. The big crowds testify to the attachment the local people have for the Groupama project and the Volvo Ocean Race. Various colleagues from Groupama have come here today from right across France and Europe to provide their support for Franck Cammas and his team”.
Open to the public, the christening village played host to a wealth of visitors and entertained the children throughout the day. At 1500 hours local time, all eyes were on the pontoons where the sixty members of Groupama sailing team formed a guard of honour for the crew of Groupama 4. The ‘son et lumières’ show and the releasing of balloons delighted the public, with everyone seemingly holding their breath as the specially rigged up champagne bottle was hurled against the bow. Franck Cammas: “I’m not superstitious but I was relieved when the bottle broke first time. I’m happy to have been able to share this christening ceremony with all my team as well as my sponsor, Groupama, for what will soon be 14 years”.
Memories of the great French sailor Éric Tabarly were all around the port of Lorient this Saturday. Pen Duick VI, which participated in the first edition of the Whitbread (predecessor to the Volvo Ocean Race) was on the water next to the new monohull Groupama. Gérard Petipas*, a loyal friend of Éric Tabarly and an acclaimed sailor on the various Pen Duick craft, was chosen by Franck Cammas to be patron to Groupama 4. The christening was synonymous with handing on the torch, as Gérard Petipas explains: “I’m honoured and touched to have been chosen by Franck to be the patron to Groupama 4. 38 years ago, Éric and I christened another boat, Pen Duick VI, the first French boat to race the Whitbread. I find in Franck the same qualities that I appreciated in Éric: Franck is a great skipper and a leader of men. He has designed this boat and has battled to do it. The fact that he’s been with Groupama for 13 years is prodigious. He has succeeded in putting together a fabulous team. He is a remarkable man.”
Franck Cammas: “For the past 18 years, the race hasn’t seen a French crew. Éric Tabarly took part in the Whitbread five times without ever winning it. With Groupama sailing team, we’re taking back the torch. It was a link I held very dear and I wanted to be present to see.”
The town of Lorient, a stopover in the Volvo Ocean Race in June 2012, benefited from Groupama 4′s christening to launch its volunteer recruitment campaign. Lorient and its surrounding area are actively preparing to play host, nearly a year to the day, to the six boats competing in the crewed round the world with stopovers. To achieve this, it is counting on the motivation and enthusiasm of 700 volunteers from all over France.