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#VOR – After a light airs start to Leg 7 yesterday, Damian Foxall's Groupama sailing team have the lead today as northerly winds blowing against the Gulf Stream kick up a choppy sea in the opening stages of the transatlantic leg to Lisbon in Portugal.

The fleet's progress north is being helped by three knots of positive current from the Gulf Stream conveyor belt, but has made for an unpleasant and bumpy start to the 3,590 nautical mile (nm) leg.

"There's nothing like going upwind in the Gulf Stream and slamming into a big swell," said PUMA watch captain Tony Mutter. Already the fleet has made good progress on what all crews expect to be an exhilarating and predominantly downwind ride back to European waters.

At 0700 GMT today Groupama led from Team Telefónica by 1.2 nm as the fleet passed Cape Canaveral on the east coast of the United States.

Meanwhile PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are tightly bunched, while Team Sanya are positioned two miles to windward of the pack.

Ahead of the fleet to the north lies Tropical Storm Alberto, which will provide a big advantage for the team which finds the strong winds first.

According to Groupama navigator Jean-Luc Nélias, there is a chance the tropical low could propel the fleet east almost as far as the Azores Islands.

"The storm is the source of pressure for us to get north and east on, so it's important to try to feed into that pressure first," explained PUMA navigator Tom Addis.

"You don't want to be on the wrong side of that low, because the current against wind in the Gulf Stream would give quite a heinous sea state."

Leg 7 is expected to take the fleet 11 days to complete with the leaders expected to arrive in Lisbon on or around May 31.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOLVO OCEAN RACE - The six Volvo Ocean Race teams have announced their crew line-ups for today's in-port race in Miami, Florida.

Yesterday the team skippers talked about their expectations on the eve of the race, which is set to be the most hotly contested of the series so far.

Mike Sanderson of the Irish-backed Team Sanya, which is currently languishing in last place, was sanguine about the team's chances heading into the transatlantic leg.

"There’s no point in us sailing the race a couple of thousand miles behind the fleet just for the sake of finishing, we’re too competitive for that," he said, "so we’re going to go and do our thing and do the thing how we know to do it and do our very best to keep the boat in one piece."

Ireland's Damian Foxall will be on deck once more as watch leader for the Groupama team, which hopes to return to form after the indignity of dismasting so close to victory on the fifth leg last month.

The Kerryman with battle with Wexford's Justin Slattery who is sailing with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, the debutante team that currently lies fifth place in the standings.

This week Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing welcomed a second Irish sailor on board in the shape of Fireball champion Kenny Rumball, who won a trip to Miami to meet his heroes and sail on the team's Volvo Open 70 race yacht.

Rumball's dream trip coincided with a visit by Volvo Ocean Race chiefs to Galway to check on preparations for the race finale, which is now just six weeks away.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

Damian Foxall's Groupama is limping towards a haven in Uruguay after being forced to suspend racing from the fifth leg after the mast broke with a second successive victory agonisingly close.

Groupama sailing team plan to construct a jury rig and resume racing to Itajaí after reaching Punta del Este at 0335 UTC on Thursday, 12 hours after dismasting.

Though devastated, French skipper Franck Cammas and his crew are keen to return to the racetrack as soon as practical as a podium finish remains well within reach.

While they are unlikely to return to pole position, with only about 600 nautical miles remaining to the finish, third place is likely as CAMPER continue repairs in Chile and the remainder of the fleet have retired.

The French team were leading the Leg 5 race to Itajaí, Brazil when their mast broke, level with the first spreader, about 10 metres above deck. The team suspended racing at 1542 UTC.

Groupama were 59 nautical miles from Punta del Este, and opted to motor to port. The team were considering shipping their spare mast from the Netherlands and stepping it in port, but this morning decided to continue under jury rig.

"We just lost the rig now, all the crew is safe. We are working to stabilise the rig on the boat. Not easy" - Groupama skipper Franck Cammas

Groupama's dismasting while in the lead earlier today leaves PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA) with only Telefonica (Iker Martínez/ESP) able to challenge them for the lead in the final stage of what has been an incredible Leg 5 from Auckland to Itajaí.

With 677 nautical miles to go to the finish line, Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA) dismasted 60 nautical miles (nm) south of Punta del Este, the Uruguayan port that has hosted the Whitbread Race on three occasions.

The team held a narrow lead of about 2.2 nm over PUMA at the time and was sailing close-hauled on port tack, when the rig broke, level with the first spreader, about 10 metres above the deck.

"We just lost the rig now, all the crew is safe. We are working to stabilise the rig on the boat. Not easy," a desolate skipper Franck Cammas told Race HQ at the time.

"We suspend the race now and have a look at what doing. We are 59 miles to Punta del Este."

* Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will ship their boat to Brazil and return to strength for the Itajaí In-Port Race after damage forced them to retire from Leg 5.

The team made the tough call not to attempt to complete the 6,700 nautical mile leg from Auckland to preserve the safety of the crew and stop further damage to their yacht Azzam. Skipper Ian Walker notified race officials of his team's retirement at 1000 UTC on Wednesday.

With 50-knot winds and 10-metre seas forecast at Cape Horn for the next four days, Walker said their decision was "the only logical option".

"As skipper my overriding responsibility is the safety of Azzam and her crew and this is always at the forefront of my mind," Walker said.

"The Southern Ocean is one part of the world you do not want to head out into with a yacht that is not 100 per cent.

"We have carefully reviewed all our options, spoken with our build teams and weather experts and this was the only logical choice available to us."

Abu Dhabi first discovered the damage to the mid section of the left side of Azzam's hull on March 29 while battling horrendous Southern Ocean conditions.

The crew carried out a daring mid-sea repair in 35 knots and four-metre seas, drilling 30 bolts through the hull to reinforce the damaged section.

Despite the team's heroics, it was decided the repair was not strong enough to take on the remaining 3,000 nm of the leg.

On April 4 the team arrived in Puerto Montt Chile.

* The CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand crew is confident of resuming racing in Leg 5 to Itajai over the weekend with repairs on the boat's damaged bow section expected to take three to four days in Puerto Montt. The team arrived in the Chilean port at 2100 local time on Tuesday night and the shore crew, led by Neil Cox, wasted no time in assessing the hull with a full ultrasound survey to check for no further unseen damage.

Skipper Chris Nicholson, competing in his fourth Volvo Ocean Race and no stranger to adversity, said his team was determined to reach Itajai in time to compete in the in-port race.

Shore crew manager Neil Cox said on Tuesday he was hopeful of a quickfire pit stop. "During the course of all this work our sailing team will be getting their heads around the remaining leg as well as any other boat detailing, and with all best intentions and a little luck we hope to be in Brazil and in a position to finish the leg and compete in the in-port race there," he said.

Two Boats Left Sailing

Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad issued a statement yesterday expressing his concern at the continuing instances of boats suffering serious damage in the 2011-12 edition.

Frostad, who competed in the race four times himself, said it was not acceptable to have so many incidents of boats failing in a Volvo Ocean Race. Frostad said race organisers would continue to do everything possible to get the boats not currently sailing back in the race as soon as possible.

Text of statement, which was released after Groupama sailing team announced they had suffered a broken mast, leaving only two boats currently racing in Leg 5 from Auckland in New Zealand to Itajaí in Brazil:

"It's too early to conclude exactly why this has happened but we are obviously concerned about seeing so many incidents of damage to our boats both in this leg and in the race as a whole.

"It is not acceptable that in a race like this we have so many failures. It is not unusual for boats to suffer problems, and sailors and shore teams are used to having to deal with some issues with their boats, but this has been on a bigger scale than in the past.

"It's important that we don't leap to any conclusions about why these breakages have happened. Some of them are clearly not related. However, we will take the current issues into account as we make decisions on rules and technology we will be using in the future.

"We have already put in a lot of work, discussing with teams, designers and all other stakeholders about the boats and the rules we will use in the future, and we expect to be in a position to announce a decision on that before the end of the current race.

"For the time being, our focus continues to be on the safety of the sailors. We are doing everything we can to help Groupama, and the rest of the teams not currently sailing, get back in the race as soon as possible."

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOLVO OCEAN RACE - Has the Groupama sailing team adopted a new simplified watch system, keeping just one man on deck to handle the vessel - as demonstrated by Ireland's Damian Foxall in the video above?

Don't worry - it's just a prank for April Fool's Day yesterday!

The yacht and its full compliment of crew have rounded Cape Horn and are currently in overall second place as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet heads to Itajaí in Brazil on the fifth leg and longest passage of the race.

Groupama and PUMA are currently battling for first place on the leg, with Telefónica hot on their heels after making up 180 miles in just 36 hours with speeds near double those of the frontrunners.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race
The first of the in-port races ahead of the Volvo Ocean Race start tomorrow in Alicante – and top Irish sailors are among the six teams competing.
Wexford’s Justin Slattery is on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, which is competing in the race for the first time.
Skipper Ian Walker told Sail World: "Everything is ready and we can’t wait to line up against the other teams... The forecast is for strong breeze on Saturday so there will be extra pressure on the crew to get it right."
The team has another Ireland connection in its commercial director David Hassett, a veteran of the Irish yachting scene and backer of Ireland's Green Dragon team in the 2009 race.
Elsewhere, Kerryman Damian Foxall is a watch leader on Groupama, captained by debuting VOR skipper Franck Cammas - who last month received one of France's most prestigious sporting honours.
Meanwhile, the Chinese entry Team Sanya, which is part sponsored by Discover Ireland, is hoping skipper Mike Sanderson - who took Telefónica Blue to the podium at every stage in the 2009-09 race - can repeat his past successes.
In-port races take place in all 10 host ports along the 39,000-nautical-mile route, and as they account for more than 20% of the points, no team will be taking them easy.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, a delegation from Galway - hosts of the final stage of the race next summer - will be in Spain for a week of events beginning tomorrow ahead of the start of the race proper on 5 November.
Sail World has more on the story HERE.

The first of the in-port races ahead of the Volvo Ocean Race start tomorrow in Alicante – and top Irish sailors are among the six teams competing.

Wexford’s Justin Slattery is on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, which is competing in the race for the first time.

Skipper Ian Walker told Sail World: "Everything is ready and we can’t wait to line up against the other teams... The forecast is for strong breeze on Saturday so there will be extra pressure on the crew to get it right."

The team has another Ireland connection in its commercial director David Hassett, a veteran of the Irish yachting scene and backer of Ireland's Green Dragon team in the 2009 race.

Elsewhere, Kerryman Damian Foxall is a watch leader on Groupama, captained by debuting VOR skipper Franck Cammas - who last month received one of France's most prestigious sporting honours.

Meanwhile, the Chinese entry Team Sanya, which is part sponsored by Discover Ireland, is hoping skipper Mike Sanderson - who took Telefónica Blue to the podium at every stage in the 2009-09 race - can repeat his past successes.

In-port races take place in all 10 host ports along the 39,000-nautical-mile route, and as they account for more than 20% of the points, no team will be taking them easy.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, a delegation from Galway - hosts of the final stage of the race next summer - will be in Spain for a week of events beginning tomorrow ahead of the start of the race proper on 5 November.

Sail World has more on the story HERE.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

 Three years after his victory in the first Barcelona World Race with Damian Foxall (in 92 days, 09 hours, 49 minutes and 49 seconds at an average speed of 11.13 knots), Jean-Pierre Dick is doing the double-handed three cape route again. For his second time competing in this race leaving the Catalan city, he will be setting off in the good company of a very well-known figure in offshore racing: Loïck Peyron. The two are already a right pair, all set to dance a very fine two step across the world's oceans. Unquestionably, these talented gentlemen skippers make up a very stylish and dynamic duo, as can be seen from their victory in the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2005, or from their collaboration in the design and the construction to the two sisterships for the previous Vendée Globe. Among the combinations promising success, these partners, together in the Virbac-Paprec 3 cockpit, designed to cut through the waves, will definitely count among the tandems with expertise in sailing in extreme conditions.  In all, there will be plenty to spice up the race between top sailors in this circumnavigation, which promises to be highly intense, with a victory in view.

 

Published in Offshore

Jean Pierre Dick has been talking about preparations for the defence of his title later this month in an interview on the Barcelona race website. He won the global double-handed race in 2008 with Kerry's Damian Foxall. In the latest interview Dick gives a few interesting insights on Ireland's top offshore sailor and how sailing with him compares with Dick's current partner, the famous French offshore sailor Loick Peyron.

Excerpts below and full article HERE

What are the main differences between Damian and Loïck as sailors and who will how you work together compare with last time?
" Last time Damian was more looking after the boat, if there were things to repair he was the man and maybe more at the front of the boat, I was more into picking the weather. Now with Loïck it will be more equivalent, I will be more equal on the repairs this time which is good for my training for the Vendée Globe. And for sure Loïck is very knowledgeable on his weather analysis, so we will work together. If there is a security decision I am the skipper and the owner of the boat, and the project, and they are my sponsors, so that becomes my task, but I want Loïck to be involved in the strategy and the thinking in this race. In this race what makes you successful is the interaction between the two skippers. It is important that we know work well together, we have done some training together and we have done some weather analysis together, so there will be the same level of information."

What are the main differences between the two?
" Loïck has such huge experience, Damian also has huge experience but it is coming more from the Volvo also, Loïck's (experience) is more....well, everything sailing! So I would say the main difference is Damian is a very physical guy, very strong. Loïck is more using his brain to sail smart, to make less effort. So that is how I see things, but there is a change for sure but I will learn more about both experiences as we go. Loïck has more experience with single and double handed races, maybe I would say more experience over his while life. Damian has been more on more physical races like the Volvo. Both are very able to repair the boat, to sail the boat on their own, they would have been able single handed even though Damian did not do more, he would be very talented to do so."

Published in Offshore
17th December 2010

Damian Foxall is First Choice

"When Damian is on a project, it is often the winning one. As such, it is better to have him with us rather than against us."

That tribute to Damian Foxall comes from Franck Cammas, renowned amongst the top sailors in the world. In France his sporting fame lies somewhere between rock star and iconic status. He has a record-breaking career. This year he added two world races to his achievements, the Jules Verne Trophy and the Route du Rhumm.

damian

Ireland's Offshore Ace Damian Foxall has joined Groupama for the next Ocean Race

He races "anything and everything that floats" and his reputation is so strong that the huge worldwide Groupama insurance company has committed over a decade of sponsorship support to his projects. In return he has carried their name on a winning partnership with five world records amongst the list of successes. That kind of dedication from a backer is almost unheard of in any sport and has provided the financial muscle to confirm that Camas will lead the entry of boats into the Volvo Ocean Race around the world until 2015.

"Our commitment is to a race that, given its longevity on the circuit, has a human dimension and an international relevance," said Groupama Managing Director Jean Azéma. "We chose the Volvo to promote our image and share the benefit with Franck Cammas who is a sporting icon. Both of us, through the boat named Groupama, are interested in the values of building a boat, a sport and a reputation, with human interest. This is something that will last."

That huge commitment contrasts with the on-going financial struggle to enter an Irish boat. Damian, who crewed the last Irish entry, the Green Dragon, is no longer available, having been given a huge endorsement and tribute by Cammas who chose him first as an essential part of the Groupama entry.
He named the Kerryman, from Derrynane, as the first sailor he wanted aboard. Foxall, at the age of 41, is arguably the most French of Irishmen. Now resident in Lorient, he has taken part in three Volvo Ocean Races and won the last Barcelona two-crew non/stop round-the-world race with Jean-Pierre Dick.

He has been appointed to three responsibilities, as Helmsman, Trimmer and Crew Manager and is enthusiastic about going around the world for a sixth time, having also been part of a non/stop world speed record:

"I have been involved with Franck since the outset of this entry. The greatest challenge is to drive Groupama 4 at one hundred per cent of her potential at each of the nine stages of the race, with very little time during the stopovers. In a nine-month race fatigue accumulates. At the end, you really feel that you've done a circumnavigation of the globe."

Damian has worked alongside Cammas to select the sailing crew for next year's race. They include top international sailing names: Philip Harmer, Magnus Woxén, Jean-Luc Nélias, Charles Caudrelier, Sébastien Josse, Yann Riou, Jacques Caraës, Martin Krite, Brad Marsh, Martin Strömberg, Erwan Israël and Sébastien Marsset.

The Groupama project bought the winning boat in the last Volvo Race, the Volvo 70, Ericsson 4, which they rechristened, Groupama 70 and which they have been using for training. That shows their financial resources.

For the design of Groupama 4, their new boat for the 2011 event which will start next October, they turned to Juan Koujoumdjian, who was involved in building the last two winning Volvo boats, Ericsson 4 and ABN Amro One. The design is being tested in sailing trials off Lorient in Brittany where the team is based and which is Foxall's home base.

Cammas has put together a strong Groupama Sailing Team, with Foxall's input. Another Green Dragon sailor has been chosen as Pitman, Master Sailmaker and to back-up Damian as Helmsman and Trimmer. He is Australian Phil Harmer for whom this will be his third Volvo: "I feel really lucky to be in the Groupama Team. I sailed with Damian on Green Dragon and he called me to ask me to join. Since then I've had other offers, but I don't want to leave Groupama. There's a strong sense of involvement and no other team is in a position to do better."

This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Published in Island Nation
Ireland's Damian Foxall is the first to be named officially as crew on French Yacht Groupama in the next Volvo Ocean Race that starts next year and finishes in Galway in June 2012.  As Ireland's most capped offshore racing sailor, this will be Foxall's eighth race around the world.

The Daily Sail website is reporting Foxall will take up the position of helmsman, trimmer and crew manager. More HERE.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race
Top Irish offshore sailor Damian Foxall, now sailing with team Groupama in the next Volvo Ocean Race is on this weeks podcast from the VOR team. He's talking about the Route de Rhum. Find him HERE
Published in Offshore
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