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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Franck Cammas sets course for Rio 2016

Franck Cammas is a success story in world sailing, but the Frenchman’s Olympic bid only began at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyeres, France, in April last year.
Frank Cammas is trying to transition from open-water sailing, such as the Volvo Ocean Race, to Nacra 17 class for the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil. Delores Johnson / The National
Frank Cammas is trying to transition from open-water sailing, such as the Volvo Ocean Race, to Nacra 17 class for the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil. Delores Johnson / The National

A 10th-place finish in the Nacra 17, in which the French boats made a clean sweep of the podium in the ISAF Sailing World Cup Finals in Abu Dhabi over the past week, has not dimmed Franck Cammas’s bid for a first Olympic Games appearance at Rio 2016.

Cammas is a success story in world sailing, but the Frenchman’s Olympic bid only began at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyeres, France, in April last year when, with Sophie de Turckheim as crew, he competed in the mixed category.

De Turckheim is at present competing at the military games in Qatar and Cammas had to recruit a stand-in partner, Alizee Desbordes, for the Abu Dhabi event.

“Abu Dhabi was another learning experience for me with a new crew,” Cammas said.

Only a single slot is available for each country in each medal category in the Olympics. For Cammas to qualify he has to rank at the top of the French team. He has one year to achieve that spot.

Cammas’s success in sailing has been outside the Olympics, and switching so late for an Olympic event was “never easy”, he said.

“It meant starting all over again for me. I am still not sure if I can make it to Rio 2016 because some of the best sailors in this class are from France, as they proved it today by taking the first three positions.

“Only one can qualify, so it is going to be very, very hard. I think it is less than 50 per cent chance at the moment, still I will try.

“But having said that, I am enjoying what I am doing.”

Cammas, 41, is best known for his victory in the Volvo Ocean Race in 2011/2012.

The Frenchman won the world’s most testing race in his first and only start, sailing across some of the world’s most treacherous seas in the race that began in Alicante, Spain, on October 2011 and concluded in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

An appearance at the Olympics is missing from his sailing CV, and his first race in the category left a solid impression as he finished a creditable 26th despite having had little time on the boat.

Cammas won the Semaine Olympique Francaise, which is a European regatta, in October last year and, in this year’s sailing world cup in Mallorca, which was the French national qualification regatta for the Olympic Test Event, he finished eighth overall and was the second-placed French boat.

Only two from each nation qualified for the event and Cammas had his ticket for the Olympic Test Event regatta, which was called Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta. He was 10th and his compatriots, Billy Besson and Marie Riou, the winners in Abu Dhabi yesterday, won that event.

At the recent ISAF sailing world championships in Santander, Spain, Cammas finished 22nd, with Besson and Riou again taking gold.

“They are very strong and perhaps the best in the world,” said Cammas, who said he chose the Nacra 17 because he loved racing in the catamarans for their speed.

“At the moment Rio 2016 is my objective,” he said.

“On the long term my objective is to win the America’s Cup. Meanwhile I hope to improve in the Nacra 17 as much as possible.”

Cammas’s first ambition was to go around the world and he did it in 2009/10 in record time: 48 days, seven hours, 44 minutes and 52 seconds, a mark that stood for two years.

“The record is no more and I have not thought about doing it again, but you never know if that idea will come again,” he said.

Cammas had other careers but left them all behind for sailing.

He completed a two-year course in mathematics for the Grandes ecoles and had a stint in a piano academy, but sailing won out.

In 25 years in the sport, he said he has no regrets.

“It was my passion to go out in the sea, so I had to leave some career openings behind me to sail full time,” he said.

“I was fortunate to win some races and win a sponsor for one year. That provided me a lifeline to continue sailing full time.

“Now I have been on the job for more than 22 years.

“It was the second time in Abu Dhabi after the Volvo Ocean Race. We won the leg between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, so there are fond memories.

“We really enjoyed that experience in the Volvo Ocean race with a crew consisting of five different nationalities [Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Spain and Italy].”

Abu Dhabi will host the finals until 2019, and Cammas said he looks forward to building more fond memories of the UAE capital.

“It was a big surprise for me when I first visited this place during the Volvo Ocean Race. It is a beautiful setting – apart from the infrastructure, facilities and the Emirati hospitality,” he said.

“When I qualified for the finals I had this good impression on where I was going, for it is an excellent venue and excellent conditions for sailing.”

Cammas said it was essential to have local sailors in the ISAF Sailing World Cup Finals.

“It is important to have the Emiratis,” he said. “It will create more interest and motivate the youth. They need to be provided the opportunity. For sure the level is very high, therefore you need to find sailors of that level to race.”

Cammas singled out Adil Khaled, the Emirati sailor who is onboard Azzam, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing boat in the Volvo Ocean Race.

“I have spoken to him during the 2011/2012 ocean race and he seems to fit the bill perfectly well,” he said.

“If that is possible, why not?

“The UAE has the facilities and the finances and only need to find the sailing talents, apart from Adil, which I am sure they have, and they can, as watersports is quite popular in the region.

“As a venue, Abu Dhabi is ideal for both spectators as well as the sailors with a beautiful set up and the scenic backdrop of the high rise buildings in the Breakwater.”

apassela@thenational.ae

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