Groupama getting vaporized

Photo © Helena Darvelid

Ok so here’s the deal C-Class fans: the foilers are fast, in a big big way. Of the foilers Groupama seems to be the fastest. At least it is  definitely the fastest upwind and has been by far the most consistent. However the fleet race portion of the 2013 ICCCC hasn’t worked out as simply a battle between the foiler boats, and then a struggle by the rest to win the non-foiler division. There is a lot more to it than that.

Throughout fleet racing Franck Cammas has been pretty dominant on board Groupama C. None of the foilers are particularly fast on the beats. That is until the breeze gets up enough that they can foil upwind, which it only did on Day One. However, while the Hydros boats are pretty average upwind until the breeze really comes up, Franck seems to have a point mode that nobody else has. He has basically spent the entire week to this point doing the same thing – he starts at the boat on starboard, climbs over the top of the fleet, crosses everyone as they tack onto port, then he covers and is in the drivers’ seat for the rest of the race. At one point Billy Besson on Hydros I tried to stop Franck having it all his own way at the start, and came over to the boat to slam the door on him, forcing Franck to back out and get a late start. It went exactly according to plan for Billy, but Franck simply pulled in the strings, walked right up behind him, then put the bow down and reached over the top. Franck simply has an upwind point mode that no one seems able to match, so he’s getting to the windward mark well ahead more or less every time. Then he turns the corner and pops up on his foils, and he’s foiling so clean that he’s well in control from that point on.

So, Groupama has clearly been the fastest boat thus far. However after that it gets murky. There is absolutely no denying the Hydros boys speed off the breeze. When they go around the top mark on their foils they walk past the non foilers like they are standing still. In fact, there was definitely a point on Day Two when Mischa Hemaskeerk seemed to be sailing Hydros II every bit as fast as Groupama on the runs, but a good five degrees lower. However in the light to intermediate breezes they are having some trouble on the beats, which has allowed the fast slippery light air boats like Cogito and Canaan to get involved. In the intermediate breeze of day two Lars Guck consistently had Cogito to the windward mark before atleast one, if not both of the Hydros boats. But then they would turn the corner, start foiling, and it became a different race. On Day Three, when to breeze came down a little further Billy Gooderham was able to gun Groupama down on Canaan once Franck was no longer able to get the windward hull out of the water. 

It really comes down to this; none of the foiler boats are particularly fast upwind, at least not until the breeze really comes up. However Franck is pointing significantly higher than anyone on the race course, foiler or non. This is giving him all the leverage he needs. When the breeze comes up enough the foilers are completely in a league of their own, and Franck is leading the way. When it gets light things get interesting.

Looking ahead to the match race, if I were Billy Besson and Jeremie Lagarrigue I’d be hoping for breeze. That may seem counter intuitive to some as Franck has not only been the fastest boat thus far, but of the foilers he has been the most consistently under control. From an outsiders’ perspective there definitely seem to be times when the Hydros guys are just barely hanging on. However there is no denying the raw power of the two big black boats. They struggle upwind at times, and they are definitely a little sketchy on the runs when the breeze is up. However their top speed would seem to be their greatest asset. Billy hit 31 on Day One. No one else is hitting those numbers. Thus far they haven’t been able to maintain their speed around the entire course the way Franck has. However it’s still their best bet. If it gets light Franck is going to be pretty hard to cope with on the beats. But if the breeze comes up Billy should be able to stay attached and then perhaps chew into him off the breeze.

That’s my best guess at least. Others might view it differently, but that’s the way I see it.