Volvo Ocean Race arrives in Galway to fanfare
FRANCK Cammas became only the second French skipper to win the Volvo Ocean Race when he guided his Groupama team in to a rapturous welcome from tens of thousands of people in Galway early today.
The eight-month, 39,270-nautical mile (72,728km) race was decided when Cammas's Groupama 4 boat finished second in the ninth and final leg, a short 550-mile sprint from Lorient in France.
On board was Irishman Damien Foxall from Derrynane, Co Kerry who fulfilled a childhood dream to compete in the then Whitbread Round the World Race.
Bonfires on the Aran Islands led the way into Galway bay for the six boats finishing the gruelling competition.
Some estimates gave the crowd numbers at up to 100,000 but gardai said there were about 20,000 people on the streets of the city.
The result gave Cammas an unassailable 24-point lead with the Galway in-port race to complete on Saturday.
"This is an incredible moment for me," said Cammas, who follows 1985-86 winner Lionel Pean as the only French winner of the 39-year-old offshore event.
"It was always my dream just to participate in this race.
The first book I ever read was about this race and it hasn't sunk in yet."
It was the first time that France had competed in the race for 18 years and Cammas was considered a big outsider despite a big reputation in his home country as a single-handed and team sailor.
At one stage, Cammas and his team were 28 points behind Telefonica, winners of the first three legs, but a remarkable resurgence over the second half of the race, coupled with a drop in form for the long-term leaders, turned the tables completely.
"The race started badly for us but every single member of the team raised their level and that's what saw us home," Cammas said.
Standings after the final offshore leg:
1. Groupama (France) 250 points
2. Camper/ETNZ (Spain/New Zealand) 226
3. Pima (U.S.) 220
4. Telefonica (Spain) 209
5. Abu Dhabi (UAE) 124 + 5 or 10
6. Sanya (China) 40 + 5 or 10