The Groupama Volvo 70, with watch leader Damian Foxall, will be racing in aid of the French lifeboat service this weeken in a race created and organised since 2005 by French sailor Damien Grimont. The SNSM (Originally the Saint Nazaire St Malo) aims to promote safety at sea and support the volunteers, who rally together their members on a daily basis to offer assistance or emergency help to sailors.
Originally the SNSM record ran between Saint Nazaire and the pirate city of Saint Malo, but the route has since changed. This Sunday sailors will be required to race between Saint Nazaire and the pretty port of Sainte Marine, situated at the mouth of the Odet river.
Open to all types of boats measuring in excess of 6.50 metres, the record offers three courses, each of which relate to the speed of the participants and range between 180 and 360 miles.The largest boat at the start, Groupama 70 will have to make two return trips between Saint Nazaire and Sainte Marine, as is the case for the trimaran Gitana 11 skippered by Yann Guichard.Besides these two big names, no fewer than 56 competitors will take Sunday's start close to the port's eastern jetty between 1300 and 1400 hours local time.
Aboard Groupama 70, Franck Cammas has gathered together a large part of the crew who recently participated in the Transmanche race. Along with Jean-Luc Nélias, in charge of the navigation, we will find watch leaders Damian Foxall and Laurent Pagès, as well as Sébastien Josse, Erwan Israel, Sébastien Marsset, Yann Riou, Mike Parmenter, Philipp Harmer and Martin Krite. Another notable presence onboard comes in the form of Eurosport cameraman, Jérôme Dubarry.
Having to leave her home port of Lorient on Friday morning, Groupama 70 is expected into Saint Nazaire that same afternoon. As such the crew will, like the general public, have the opportunity to enjoy some sea rescue exercises performed by the SNSM, as well as a free concert given by the National Orchestra of the Pays de la Loire and a group called Jazz Band, who will provide an original interpretation of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite".
"More than just a competition, the SNSM record is becoming a genuine festival of the sea for sailors on all manner of boats. Its popularity is a reflection of the responsibility we feel for supporting this organisation, which gives it all without a moment's hesitation, in what are at times difficult conditions. At Groupama we're naturally sensitive to this cause, which is why we won't solely be focusing on the sporting aspect when we take the start aboard Groupama 70. This event will also give us the chance to compare our performances with those of five participating IMOCA 60s and continue our preparation for the next Volvo Ocean Race" stated Franck Cammas, who will be joining his crew on Saturday evening, once he's had time to go out on the maxi trimaran Groupama 3, which has recently been revamped for solo sailing.