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Biotherm skipper Paul Meilhat unveils a multinational crew for The Ocean Race

by The Ocean Race 25 Aug 2022 15:40 PDT 15 January 2023
Paul Meilhat - FRA - Skipper © HOA

Made up of five men and three women of three different nationalities - all well-known names with prestigious backgrounds - the Biotherm IMOCA crew that will line up for the start of The Ocean Race on 15 January 2023 in Alicante, Spain has the makings of a 'dream team'.

Immediately after his partnership with Biotherm was announced in March, Paul Meilhat expressed a wish to take part in The Ocean Race - the crewed round the world race with stopovers widely recognised as the toughest test to a team in sport.

Indeed, The Ocean Race's boasts a unique pedigree. Originally known as the Whitbread Round the World Race, before going on to become the Volvo Ocean Race, this legendary competition is regarded as one of the greatest challenges in professional yacht racing. Equally, with a course spanning 7 stages this global marathon is the perfect way to prepare for the Vendée Globe. Last but not least, The Ocean Race through its 'Racing with Purpose' initiative is a strong advocate for environmental causes - a message which aligns perfectly with that of Meilhat and his partner Biotherm.

Today, with the new Biotherm IMOCA fresh out of the Persico yard in Italy after an 8-month build, the campaign has reached another key milestone with the announcement of the men and women Meilhat has chosen to support him for 6 months of intense racing around the planet.

This international mixed-sex crew is an experienced and highly motivated group made up of top names with impressive CVs and career paths and is sure to be a potent force.

An additional crew member will be announced in the coming weeks.

Expertise and positive energy

"I wanted to have people on board who share the project's philosophy," says Meilhat. "I've tried to strike a balance with a combination of energy, pleasure and expertise. I also had to be pragmatic because we will have precious little time to prepare before the start of the race. As such, I had to surround myself with people who are already prime candidates and with whom I am 100% sure it will work out."

Several of the crew have a great deal of experience of IMOCAs and are campaigning for the next Vendée Globe. For them, like Meilhat, the crewed race is an opportunity to rack up the miles necessary to secure their entry ticket for the solo race. Others have already competed in the crewed around-the-world race - and some even tick both boxes. All of them are great sailors and racers with remarkable track records and are capable of running a boat efficiently and independently. In a bid to fulfil The Ocean Race's criteria for gender equality, the Biotherm skipper was also keen to share this sporting adventure with an international group. The crew will call into 9 countries and 3 continents in its voyage around the globe. This multicultural aspect has always been a trademark of the race and really adds to the event's appeal for the sailors.

The Biotherm crew (in alphabetical order)

Four sailors will race on board during the offshore legs, including 1 woman plus 1 on-board reporter on rotation over the race's 7 legs.

1. Giulio Bertelli - ITA

Born 5 May 1990 in Milan
Lives in Milan
Studied Architecture

  • America's Cup (Luna Rossa)
  • MOD70 Oman Sail and Maserati
  • TP52, VO65, AC75, IMOCA
  • The Ocean Race Europe (AkzoNobel)
  • First participation in The Ocean Race

Giulio's advantages: offshore experience on fast boats, specialist in on-board control and autopilot systems, appetite for technology, good humour, launching his own brand of freeze-dried meals.

Giulio has always raced on the fastest vessels on the planet and is also an aircraft pilot. He divides his time between racing navigation and technical preparation for sailing teams.

Paul: "It's a beautiful Italian encounter! Giulio contacted me after hearing about the project and we met at Persico. He has a great offshore experience as well as an America's Cup background. He is used to high speeds, the development of foils, and the various systems that equip high-tech sailboats. He has a great profile to be in charge of performance."

Giulio: "It's kind of a childhood dream to cross these oceans, provided it's in race mode, as I find that competition makes it easier to endure the physical and mental stress of such an environment. I also relish the fact that it takes me out of my comfort zone. I really want to push the boat to its limits and learn, whilst discussing the technical and performance aspects with Paul."

2. Anne Beaugé - FRA - Onboard Reporter

Born 3 April 1985 in Lilas, France
Lives in the Morbihan
Photographer / Onboard Reporter / Navigator

  • Mini Transat 6.50
  • Class40
  • First participation in The Ocean Race

Anne's advantages: several transatlantic races, experience with fast boats, very sensitive to the marine environment, a desire to share stories.

A former graphic designer who touched up advertising and fashion photos in both Paris and New York before becoming a photographer and then a sailor, kickstarting her career with a transatlantic passage on a classic yacht, followed by a Mini Transat in 2019 and then a series of Class40 races. When she is not at the helm, she is behind the lens.

Paul: "I met her at the Défi Azimut with Sam Davies. In my desire to create a mixed group, I am thrilled that Anne agreed to join the team. Her high-level skills are rare and absolutely key for the team. She has already worked with boats, is very nice and has a solid mindset and she takes beautiful shots."

Anne: "I'm after a mixture of things that fascinate me in this adventure. My main focus will revolve around being at sea, racing around the globe, on one of these incredible flying IMOCAs... and naturally I want a position that gives me the opportunity to capture and observe these exceptional sailors being pushed to their limits, in their element, with the intensity of the boat, the emotions that show through, the difficulty, the hostility and the beauty of the marine environment. What motivates me is sharing stories of the sea with those on land."

3. Ronan Gladu - FRA - Onboard Reporter

Born 2 August 1983 in Mayenne, France
Lives in Crozon
Photographer, videographer, author, surfer

  • 2 Fastnet Races in IMOCA
  • Brest Atlantique (33 days) and Finistère Atlantique (7 days) in Ultim
  • First participation in The Ocean Race

Ronan's advantages: knowledge of IMOCA boats, adventurer, the 'life and soul of the party', willingness to tell the story of life on board to the widest possible audience.

Ronan Gladu has made a name for himself thanks to his documentaries on surfing. He recently appeared as a media man on board IMOCAs but also on Ultims where he has his own unique style: a human approach and an understanding of how to capture life on board the big racing boats.

Paul: "I've known him for a long time and I'm a big fan of his web series 'Lost in the Swell'. He's very happy aboard a boat, creating a good atmosphere. Beyond making beautiful images, he knows how to tell stories. And that's what I want us to do: tell a story about men and women. He also has a strong environmental conviction; he is very committed to these subjects which are also at the heart of our project."

Ronan: "A round-the-world race on an IMOCA, nothing gets more engaging than this. These are demanding boats that are hard to endure. I'm thinking of the long leg in the Deep South in particular, but this challenge has a real pull for me and has coloured my dreams for some time. I will be responsible for conveying sentiment, transcribing what happens on board to the greatest number of people. It will certainly be exciting."

4. Amélie Grassi - FRA

Born 9 May 1993 in La Rochelle, France
Lives in Lorient

  • Mini
  • Class40
  • Ultim Actual
  • First participation in The Ocean Race

Amélie's advantages: organised, rigorous, eager to discover something new, a passion for the weather and the technical aspects of the boat, navigation.

Amélie studied law before following in the footsteps of her sailor parents. She first got noticed on the water in the Mini Transat 2019 where she finished 8th and was the first woman. More recently, she finished 9th in the Transat Jacques Vabre on board the Class40 La Boulangère Bio alongside Marie Riou. She'll be the youngest member of the crew and will continue to sport the colours of La Boulangère Bio.

Paul: "I like the energy she puts into her projects, as it's quite telling. The experience of her Mini Transat for example, when she started last on the second leg and managed to overtake a good part of the fleet. She's mentally strong."

Amélie: "The idea of heading out on a big quest, as a collective group, is truly fascinating. I am curious at the prospect of sharing this with all the talented people who make up the team. It will also involve sailing in waters that I am not familiar with. It's very exciting to discover new spaces, a new playground with new weather systems. With this crew, I am embarking on the adventure without any apprehension about the human aspect, which is very calming."

5. Mariana Lobato - POR

Born 23 December 1987 in Lisbon, Portugal
Lives in Lisbon
Married with 2 children

  • Match Racing World Champion
  • London Olympics in 2021
  • Olympic craft (470, 49erFX, Nacra17)
  • GC32, M32, VO65, Ocean Fifty
  • Winner of The Ocean Race Europe
  • First Participation in The Ocean Race

Mariana's advantages: mental strength, communication, medical training, sail trimming and manoeuvres on the foredeck.

An accomplished sportswoman, Mariana dedicates her life to top level sport. In match racing, she participated in the London Olympics in 2012, becoming world champion in the discipline in 2013. Passionate about Olympic sailing, she is also an ocean racer and a mother of two children.

Paul: "Her profile is really interesting. She has a very different background than most of us and that will bring something extra to the group. She is someone daring who has a lot of energy. I hope that she will be able to inject some innovative ideas into the boat, because I want there to be an exchange of knowledge. She has a strong crew culture and that is a very positive factor."

Mariana: "I love working in a team. It's really my thing! I like to learn something every day and take on challenges, which is exactly what IMOCA's all about. One of the fundamental aspects in raising the level of motivation on this type of format is the atmosphere on board. Most of all though, there needs to be great communication. There has to be some consistency in the way we communicate with one another. This is one of the exciting aspects of sailing with a crew."

6. Anthony Marchand - FRA

Born 4 March 1985 in St Brieuc, France
Lives in Lorient

  • Olympic spirit
  • Podiums in Figaro
  • Volvo Ocean Race (4th in 2014-2015 with Mapfre)
  • Co-skipper Ultim Actual
  • Second participation in The Ocean Race

Anthony's advantages: knows the level of commitment that the race requires, offshore experience on fast boats, great autonomy, mechanically-minded with composite know-how.

'Antho' is both an excellent racer (he started out in Olympic sailing) and an excellent sailor who has sailed on all the boats that count, whether solo or with a crew. This dual profile, added to his talents as a helmsman and his experience in crewed round the world races, make him a very valuable partner for the project.

Paul: "He's my friend! He has a lot of experience in crewed round the world races and also in IMOCA. We know each other inside out and it's really important in a race like this to have someone who can play a major role and assist me. He is a very sensitive and versatile person. He is very talented at the helm and he is also an excellent handyman."

Anthony: "A race like The Ocean Race makes you mature and grow. It's very enriching on a holistic and human level. The commitment and the energy you bring on board to get the boat making headway is very strong, very intense, and you have to stick at it. Paul and I have known each other for a very long time; we get along well together. We know that the human aspect, the collective aspect, is very important on these long projects."

7. Paul Meilhat - FRA - Skipper

Born 17 May 1982 in La Garenne-Colombes
Lives in Lorient
Married, 2 children

  • Figaro
  • Leader of the IMOCA Championship from 2019 to 2021
  • Winner Route du Rhum 2018
  • Vendée Globe 2016
  • 12 transatlantic races
  • Campaigning for the Vendée Globe 2024 on Biotherm
  • First participation in The Ocean Race

Paul Meilhat has become one of the most popular racers of his generation. Even if he likes to win, the skipper of Biotherm is not solely limited to his status as a competitor. He is also a man with strong convictions who has worked for a long time in the service of environmental causes - a fight that he intends to continue with his crew during the 6-month voyage around the world.

Paul describes his role as skipper and manager: "My philosophy is to leave our team a lot of autonomy and to inject a sense of responsibility and mutual trust into everyone. The people we have on board are used to managing themselves and everyone will pitch in. In addition to the expertise of the team, I've also chosen people who know how to have a laugh. We are here to have fun. We are convinced that we can get a better result under these conditions."

8. Damien Seguin - FRA

Born 3 September 1979 in Briançon
Lives in Auray
Married with 2 children

  • Triple Paralympic Medallist
  • 5 world championship titles
  • Winner of the Tour de France a la Voile
  • 7th Vendée Globe 2020
  • Campaigning for the Vendée Globe 2024 with Groupe Apicil
  • First Participation in The Ocean Race

Damien's advantages: knowledge of IMOCA and the Southern Ocean, pragmatism, team management, competitive spirit, provisioning/nutrition

In addition to his numerous international successes in dinghy sailing - two gold medals and one silver medal at the Paralympic Games, Damien Seguin has always been a keen ocean racer. Although he often had to fight to be accepted on the starting line due to his handicap (he was born without a left hand), he proved himself during the last Vendée Globe, showing that nothing was impossible for him.

Paul: "He is a champion! I love his 'no nonsense' attitude. He powers through projects with a lot of enthusiasm and never gives up. We've known each other for 20 years, since our years in the Olympics where we had the same coach who taught us the importance of the collective dynamic in performing well."

Damien: "Participating in a round-the-world race is never trivial. To be able to do it with someone I like and have known for a long time, in full competition mode - all the while on a nice boat from the latest generation, is a great opportunity! It also happens to cover a period when I will be unable to sail my own boat, which is going in for a 5 to 6-month refit. I'm participating as skipper of the Apicil Group, and this is part of my preparation for the Vendée Globe 2024."

*In the 'race' to qualify for the Vendée Globe 2024 (counting the number of nautical miles sailed in competition mode), 5,000 miles will flesh out the tally by competing in The Ocean Race.

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