On the occasion of the convoying of the Pilot Saloon 42 from Port Grimaud to Cannes, Franck Cammas accepted our invitation: he took the helm of the last Wauquiez, presented for the first time afloat during the Cannes Yachting Festival.
Appointment is taken in the Venice of the South on Friday morning, four days before the opening of the Cannes Yachting Festival. In front of the bow of the first Pilot Saloon 42, about thirty miles to skim the ochre coasts of the Esterel. The weather forecast of the day: light wind, calm sea, with the possibility of establishing a thermal. Franck, between two training sessions on his bike, seems delighted to be on the water. One would have thought that this pro of machines that fly at nearly 40 knots perched on foils would quickly get bored aboard a pure cruiser... this is not the case: the sailor is interested in the Pilot Saloon 42's fittings and equipment. On the menu, the panoramic windows with electric variation of the transparency of the glass, the on-board management system (energy, fuel tank, etc.) that can be controlled from a smartphone or a tablet, and of course the magnificent aft cabin. This is a far cry from the rustic bunk of the VOR 70 Groupama 4, on board which he won the Volvo Race. " But how is it going to heel? " he worries. No problem, the anti-roll covers are delivered as standard!
A pro who knows how to optimize performance.
Our journey begins with a crossing of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez under motor with a flat mainsail - no wind. Franck is already at the helm, on the lookout for offshore reefs. When the anemometer reads 8 knots of true wind, the skipper quickly checks that the value is the same on the apparent wind function... verdict, speedo propeller clogged! The wind is coming in slowly, but right on course. Unfurling the genoa! The PS 42 starts to sail, quickly optimized by Franck: "we'll dig the genoa by pulling in the tack" . We can choose between a short sheet or simply take a little back tacking; we opt for the second option. The propeller with adjustable blades is quickly stopped; a reverse gear puts it in sail position, with a minimum drag. When asked whether it is more interesting to block a fixed propeller or not, Franck knows the answer: " It goes faster when the propeller is free, but it is not good for the reverser ".
Onshore for a wind more perpendicular to the coast.
The skipper is assessing the water and suggests that we get closer to land, i.e. push our tack on starboard: " on land, the thermal effect should be more perpendicular to the coast, the wind will probably be more to the right. A phenomenon that the skipper was able to validate during his victorious Tour de France à la Voile, four years ago. And it works: the wind takes a good 20 degrees to the right. As a result, the temptation to boost speed with the gennaker is great. Franck is already on the well-cleared foredeck to participate in the maneuver. The much larger sail area - 72 m2 compared to 43.5 m2 for the genoa - gives us one to two extra knots of speed as the GPS indicates 6 to 6.5 knots. As for the heading, the PS 42 only gives up 5°; the gennaker is therefore a real plus upwind in light airs. A little extra halyard tension improves the performance of the flat-top sail. The only thing left to do is tacking: roll and unfurl the sail. An operation that does not upset Franck at all, on the contrary, always quick to turn the winch cranks vigorously! The sun is at its zenith; the crew shares sandwiches and drinks, in a friendly atmosphere - we almost forget that our host is a Knight of the Legion of Honor...
Smooth sailing and fun!
We take advantage of the coastline to discover the small creeks that cut into the Esterel massif. The skipper even recognizes the beach where he spent his vacations as a child with his parents. Born in Aix-en-Provence, Franck became passionate about sailing at the age of 10, when he read the great classics such as Le Tour du Monde de Pen Duick VI by Eric Tabarly. And it was aboard this former courier that the sailor discovered last summer the South-West of Greenland. Proof that cruising and adventure do not displease Franck; in 2015, assisted by an amateur crew member, he managed to round Cape Horn on board a 20-foot hydrofoil catamaran. " I generally prefer high latitudes to tropical regions. It is quieter, the landscapes and lights are more varied, the fauna is omnipresent...". In sight of the Lerins Islands, the wind is right, allowing us to keep the course on the entrance of the Old Port of Cannes. Franck's impressions of this navigation aboard the Pilot Saloon 42: " It is quite lively, we were able to put the gennaker, it is a great code 0 upwind, it makes a great genoa. The boat, with less than 10 knots of wind, is already accelerating, heeling over and offering sensations at the helm. This is quite rare on cruising boats and it's all the better if this type of boat offers pleasure under sail! The helm is smooth, the boat is reactive... well, I would have liked to have more wind, 25 knots downwind to see what the Pilot Saloon 42 has in its belly! But the results in light winds are already very positive.
I promise Franck, we'll order more wind next time!