France’s Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian welcomed the world’s leading offshore race to Brittany for the Lorient stopover official opening on Saturday with the sailing-mad locals already flocking in to see six our Volvo Open 70s up close and personal.
The Volvo Ocean Race has never been to Brittany in its 39-year history, a notable omission given the region’s rich sailing tradition but at least the timing is perfect with Franck Cammas’s French boat Groupama leading the event with a leg to go.
Knut Frostad, Race CEO, said it had been his ambition to see France back in the Race after taking its helm four years ago and was delighted when Groupama 4 was entered 26 years after Lionel Pean’s victory in L’Esprit d’Equipe and the last French entry in 1993-94.
“I must admit we didn’t expect him (Cammas) to be winning quite so quickly,” he said of the event debutant.
“We did expect, though, a fantastic welcome here in Lorient.”
Frostad and M Le Drian, who is also the President of the General Council of Brittany, was joined for the official ribbon-cutting by Lorient mayor Norbert Métairie and Christian Gourcuff, the patron of the leg.
Fittingly, the ceremony was conducted just metres from the Eric Tabarly Museum that commemorates the achievements of one of the nation’s greatest sailors and a participant in early editions of the Race.
The stopover will last just over two weeks before the fleet departs on July 1 for its final destination in Galway, Ireland.