France plans to contest the next America's Cup, assembling a powerful brains trust that believes Team New Zealand provided the blueprint for their approach.
The French challenge was made public at the Paris Boat Show and is built around the respected Franck Cammas and the Groupama group which won the last Volvo Ocean Race, pipping Team New Zealand for overall honours.
They have some illustrious patrons headed by Bruno Bich, the son of Baron Marcel Bich, who was the first French boat-owner in the America's Cup, in 1965, and mounted the first cup challenge from a non-English-speaking country in 1970.
Stephane Kandler, who was part of the last French challenge at the 2007 America's Cup, has been named general manager of Team France, which is backed by the Yacht Club de France and the French Sailing Federation. Groupama are the major financial backers and have the media support of the Canal+ group.
Cammas, recently named French sailor of the year, is excited at the prospect of challenging for the cup.
"France boasts maritime talent, technological experience and a collective desire, and this is another reason why this is a long-term project to train young racers and engineers within a developing sporting network," Cammas said.
"The example set by Team New Zealand is a good reference for outlining our aims and this challenge. I believe that we can create a similar, lasting group."
The three key people who announced the French intentions were Cammas, top solo sailor and research and development guru Michel Desjoyeaux, and Olivier de Kersauson, a former winner of the Jules Verne Trophy who has been an unashamed admirer of the America's Cup.
"I'm very proud to present this new challenge which will take Michel, Olivier and I on a long journey," Cammas said.
"It's already been a year since Groupama and I spoke clearly about the aim of taking things as far as the America's Cup. The project has matured and it was evident that it was necessary to train up a team so that we could all head out together into the nautical, regional, national and economic playing field.
"The three of us are motivated, sincere and complementary in our quest to convince others that Team France can pull off a performance worthy of this name in what is one of the toughest competitions to win."
The French are awaiting the protocol for the next cup from holders Oracle and challengers of record, the Hamilton Island Yacht Club from Australia. It is expected to be in the new year.
It is certain to see the competition continue in large catamarans after the success of the last America's Cup match in San Francisco, which is favoured to host the regatta again.
France's involvement sees it join New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and Italy as potential challengers to the American holders.
Team France have already had about 90 sailors and shore crew express interest in their dream.
De Kersauson felt it was important for France, traditionally strong multihull sailors, to be involved.
"I've been familiar with the America's Cup for years and the latest boats are totally derived from French offshore racing," de Kersauson said.
"We have such technical potential, knowledge and skills with regard multihulls that it is imperative that French sailors are there for the next edition.
"The latest generation of sailors represented here by Michel and Franck deserve to be encouraged and supported. What has always been tough individually becomes easier when men join forces with a common objective."
- Fairfax Media
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