It may not be his greatest but he beamed like a boy with a new toy as he took a step closer to his last blooming dream of representing France at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Cammas, 40 and crew Sophie de Turckheim, 32, the oldest pair competing in La Rochelle, did it the hard way after another disastrous start in the Medal Race saw them forced to tack behind the fleet. But they worked their way back and were a clear second on the line ahead of three other boats that could have won gold.
In the last few hundred metres Cammas had to hold off his Volvo rival, Spain's Iker Martinez, the Olympic gold medallist and Volvo Ocean Race sailor.
The Nacra medal race was the jewel in the crown of the inaugural SOF in La Rochelle with a powerful fleet competing in the new Olympic class.
"Did I ever doubt we'd win? For sure, all the time we had doubts," Cammas said. "It's a good surprise for us, we didn't expect this at the beginning of the week, it was already ambitious for us to be in the top 5. It's very hard in the short two-lap, 20-minute medal race, but that's the game. It's hard to understand what happened because there were so many changes.
"There was more wind than the two days before, maybe more like 10-11 knots. It's not exactly the conditions we like, but we improved and we were fast today because we didn't start well, as usual this week."
Britain's Pippa Wilson and John Gimson won the medal race from the front by a distance, but the medals were being decided behind them. Britain's Ben Saxton and Heather Diamond were tied on points with Cammas and De Turckheim going into the race with Martinez and Tara Pacheco in third. World Champions, Billy Besson and Marie Riou were fourth with just four points separating the top four. Experience counted and Saxton and Diamond, both 23, but silver medalists in the world championships, could only finish seventh, seeing them drop out of the medals. But they were happy, as Saxton said, last year the closest they were getting to their rivals was watching them racing around the world on TV.
"We tacked behind the whole fleet except Moana (Vaireaux) and then we went right and it was the best side of the course," Cammas said. "We were fourth or fifth at the top, which was not so bad. Downwind we didn't change, but then we stayed on the right and Saxton, who had been the only one ahead of us, went left, there was a big separation and the right was a lot better.
"We stayed very high on the second upwind trying to force Billy to tack, he didn't but we got a very good shift compared to the others. At the second upwind mark we were three boats together with the Austrians and Iker. The Austrians were in front and we were beam-to-beam with Iker. He gybed on the reaching mark and we continued like that for 200 metres and then gybed and went ahead of the Austrians and Iker."
If Iker had been able to put the Austrians between him and Cammas he would taken the gold. "You're right, but I didn't think about that," Cammas said. "At the end we were six or seven boat lengths ahead of Iker, and two or three ahead of the Austrians."
Martinez meanwhile said he was acutely aware of what he needed to do at that point. "Yes, were thinking about that and we knew what could happen," Martinez said. "Franck had a very bad start but then did very well to catch up. He was very fast on the second downwind. We were all three very close at the end. We were trying to pass the Austrians ahead of us when Franck was again very fast, we didn't manage to pass the Austrians, which meant we couldn't catch Franck.
"If Franck is surprised to win maybe he is better than he thought or the others are worse (laughs). I think that is the case. We are all just learning and we are at a similar level. We have an advantage of Olympic experience but Franck has the advantage of multihull experience. It makes it good fun and we'll get better, we'll have to, if we perform like this next year we'll finish twentieth not second."
How does he balance the time with other sailing commitments? "For us, right now, it's much more difficult to find the money than the time," Martinez said. "The funding is our worst enemy, our Federation is in a very critical situation and we are running the campaign with our own money and this has a time limit. Without resources you have no chance. Every team will be improving their weakest areas and that is ours."
Cammas, who runs the campaign as part of his powerful Groupama team, underlined the costs to come when he discussed what excited him about the class.
"This boat is nice because it's hard to tune, there are a lot of toys to improve your speed and all the time you have to move yourself and use the tuning," Cammas said. "You are never as fast as you can go with this boat, it's a good challenge and interesting for me."
Despite a difficult medal race, Poland's supermum, Zofia Klepacka, easily won the women's RS:X. Klepacka, the Olympic bronze medalist, took a 16-point lead into the race and perhaps a headache after starting the party early in La Rochelle on Saturday night. She needed to finish eighth or better but France's Eugenie Ricard needed to win and she could only finish third and lost the silver to New Zealand's Natalia Kosinska, who won the medal race.
"It was a really hard race, the wind changed all the time," Klepacka said. "I was at the first mark in third and then I finished seventh. I was still good on the second upwind and I was sure there was something coming on the right, but nothing and I was stuck. But I had a very quiet situation with the points. I was sailing my own race, in these conditions it's best not to look too much at the others. My coach (Pawel Kowalsky) is really happy.
"I slept about seven hours but I drank a little bit. It was an early celebration. Nobody believes I had a baby three months ago. I'm happy I have a baby, sailing is extra for me. I do this for fun, some competitors are sailing but they don't enjoy it, I think it's important to have fun. I will be ice boarding this winter, I put my windsurfing sail on it and that's my winter training, it's so fun. I'll do it on the lake in Warsaw maybe it's the key to being the best, I invite everyone to Poland when it's minus 20 to try ice boarding."
Poland's Piotr Myszka won the men's RS:X despite France's Julien Bontemps winning the medal race. Myszka, who led by nine points going into the medal race needed to finish fifth or better to be sure of gold. Myszka, the 2010 world champions, had a poor start. "I was trying to cover Julien at the start but then we kept getting close and I didn't want to get a penalty so I gave some distance," he said. "I knew I had the power to pump in these light wind conditions so I wasn't worried. I thought there was a left shift but it didn't happen so I was eighth at the first upwind, at that point I was losing the regatta. But I passed three guys and was fourth by the second upwind and I wasn't going to be passed and Prem (Przemyslaw Miarczynski, Poland's bronze medalist at the London 2012 Olympics), was behind me and was OCS so needed to make a turn anyway.
"It feels good. It's a great way to finish the season. Winter has started in Poland so I think I'll be doing more skiing than windsurfing now."
The Netherland's Rutger van Schaardenburg won the men's laser comfortably, finishing third in the medal race. "I'm pleased with the results and the way we sailed," van Schaardenburg, the silver medalist at the European Championships in September, said.
"My position was comfortable but the conditions were not comfortable and even if were in front a lot could happen which kept it interesting until the end. I had a good start and I was second or third for the whole race and I knew if I finished in the top 4 it was OK. There were too many people who had a chance in the race so I couldn't worry about them."
What was his secret in light winds? "The thing is you need to a bit lucky and you need it keep it simple and certainly not to try something drastic in a medal race. I was a bit lucky I must say, maybe I should go to the casino."
Nicholas Heiner made it a one-two for the Netherlands winning the Medal Race to leap above Italy's Marco Gallo, who took bronze and Britain's Nick Thompson, who had another nightmare day, finishing eighth and sixth overall after dominating the early rounds of the regatta.
France's Marie Barrue, the 17-year-old from Hyères, unseated the leader and won the women's laser radial in a Medal Race that twisted and turned. Barrue finished third and that was enough. She had trailed her team mate and La Rochelle local, Pernelle Michon, by four points going into the medal race but Michon was OCS at the start and had to re-start. She finished seventh and slipped out of the medals when Norway's Line Flem Höst won the race to take the bronze.
Barrue had started level on points with Martha Eide Enger and kept her behind her all the way, finishing 50 metres clear. "I'm very happy because I came here just for training," Barrue said. "At the start of the week it was difficult with more wind but the last two days have been good for me.
"Pernelle was OCS at the start so on the first upwind I looked back and I could see the the Norwegian (Enger). We separated but I was ahead. On the second upwind I was in third, but I wasn't worried by the Norwegian. She went right like I had so it was all OK and I led her by 50 metres on the last downwind."
Britain's Giles Scott won the heavyweight dinghy. With seven-point lead at the top going into the Medal Race, he needed to finish fourth or better and took third ahead of all his four rivals. "It's good to win, I suppose I could have fobbed it off on something if I hadn't but it's nice not to have to do that," Scott, the 2011 world champion, said.
"It was very shifty, but I knew it would be from the forecast. I had half an eye on the other guys but so many of them and in those conditions you just have to sail your own race. I knew fourth or better would do it and I don't think I was lower than third all the way round."
The giant Estonian, Deniss Karpak finished fifth to stay in second place and an ecstatic Piotr Kula from Poland was fourth, taking the bronze medal from Britain's Mark Andrews, who finished the medal race in ninth.
"I had to watch (France's Jonathan) Lobert and Mark (Andrews) but it began badly because I was OCS at the start with Deniss Karpak," Kula said. "I was thinking: 'what the hell did you just do?' I had good pace but I knew I was over so I had to go back. So, I knew I had to take a risk on the upwind to catch up so I went the other way to them and by the mark I was right back on Mark Andrews stern. I had a pretty good downwind and upwind and put a boat between me and Lobert. That makes me the Eurosaf champions cup winner and I'm dedicating the victory to my sister Alexandra, who is 15 today."
Austria's Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar, who were silver medalists at the world championships in La Rochelle in August, held on to win the women's 470 after a hard fought medal race. With a five-point lead they needed finish third or better to guarantee gold. They finished third as France's Camille Lecointre and Helene Defrance won the race to finish an agonising point behind.
France's Pierre Leboucher and Nicolas Le Berre, second in the world championships in La Rochelle in August, won the men's 470 after winning their match race with the only rivals for gold, compatriots Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion. Leboucher and Le Berre lead by a solitary point going into medal race and had fluffed their match racing lines on Saturday. In a beautiful pre-start the crews circled the spectator boats with four minutes to go. This time Leboucher and Le Berre got it right but not without a fight all the way to the line to win the race to take the regatta.
France's Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis, third in the 49er world championship in September, won the men's 49er easily.
They had a 15-point lead going into the medal and needed to finish eighth or better to guarantee gold.
Their tactic of match racing the Italians in second, Stefano Cherin and Andrea Tesei, out of it did not work, but they finished a comfortable fifth as Julien D'Ortoli and Noé Delpech won the race to take bronze.
"We were match racing the Italians before the start for practice," Christidis said. "We were trying to take them away form the fleet and the course, but they escaped so we gave up 45 seconds before the start."
"We're happy because it's the French championships for us and it's good to be champions," Dyen said. "It was a small field but it was good to have such a good run we were in the top 3 seven times."
Women's 49er FX
France's Sarah Steyaert and Julie Bossard, third in the women's 49er FX world championships in September, were the only guaranteed gold medalists going into the last day in this small five-boat fleet. But they won the medal race to take the title in style.
World Sailing Newsletter
World Sailing Newsletter is the weekly online newsletter of World Sailing.
It features the latest news and events from the sailing world together with features and info in an easy-to-use format.
It features the latest news and events from the sailing world together with features and info in an easy-to-use format.