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Justine Mettraux: “I realise how lucky I am to prepare the Vendée Globe”

by Vendee Globe 25 Mar 2023 07:41 PDT
Justine Mettraux - Vendée Globe © Guillaume Gatefait / TeamWork

While she is currently sailing on the other side of the planet in the Southern Ocean aboard 11th Hour Racing Team on stage 3 of The Ocean Race, her IMOCA Teamwork.Net is still being prepared at Beyou racing, the structure that hosts her project. Indeed, Justine Mettraux and her faithful sponsor Teamwork have bought Jérémie Beyou's former Charal in 2022 to compete in the next Vendée Globe. Here is the story of an ambitious skipper with a remarkable background.

Born in Switzerland in 1986, Justine Mettraux joined the regatta training centre in Geneva at the age of 16. She has the character of a great competitor and her interest in offshore sailing grows day by day. In 2011, she entered the Mini circuit with TeamWork, to compete in the Mini Transat at the end of 2013. In the spring of the same year, she applied for Sam Davies' SCA project - an all-female crew to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race (now The Ocean Race): "I applied, I didn't think I'd get in, but I went through the selection process and it went pretty well", says the sailor. After the Mini Transat, which she finished 2nd in 2015, the Swiss sailor competed in all the legs of the crewed round the world race - except the one in the Deep South - with Team SCA. In 2016, Justine Mettraux entered the Figaro circuit, again with TeamWork. At the same time, in 2017, she joined Dongfeng's crew for two legs of the Volvo Ocean Race, between Melbourne and Hong Kong and then in Europe. In 2021, she entered the IMOCA class with 11 Hour Racing Team as co-skipper and to compete in The Ocean Race 2023. In 2022, she bought Jérémie Beyou's IMOCA Charal and competed in the races at the end of the season.

A very promising start in solo IMOCA Racing

Hosted within Beyou Racing alongside Jérémie Beyou and his new IMOCA Charal, Justine has her own team, with her boat captain Simone Gaeta and dedicated technicians. Within the structure, certain roles are transversal and benefit to both projects: electronics, the design office... An advantage for the skipper: "Joining Beyou Racing allowed me to take advantage of everything that was already in place for Jérémie. The team knew the boat perfectly, which helped me to get to grips with the project quickly. I was able to get all the performance data from the IMOCA, which saved me a lot of time." But beyond this favourable setting, we must applaud the sporting performance of the sailor who, in her first solo race in the IMOCA class, achieved a 6th place (in the Défi Azimut - Lorient Agglomération) and then a very impressive 7th place in the transatlantic race of the season, the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe.

Experience in the deep south, an asset for the Vendée Globe

With a number of technical problems, firstly at the start with a broken mainsail batten, then cracks in the rudders and finally a torn mainsail, the leg in the Deep South has not been easy for the American 11 Hour Racing Team crew, which includes Justine. Currently around 1,500 miles from Cape Horn, the fleet is sailing incredibly close together on day 25 of leg 3. This is a key experience for her first Vendée Globe, which she is due to take part in 2024: "We can see the problems that we can encounter, particularly in terms of wear and tear on the boat. It's obviously a bonus in terms of experience and preparation, whether it's from a performance, technical or weather point of view. The Deep South is not a place where we are used to sailing," says the skipper. Her boat captain agrees: "The whole team sees Justine's current experience as a great opportunity." Although she is at sea, the sailor remains extremely involved: "We are in contact on WhatsApp, even if we try not to disturb her too much, she has sails to adjust! She follows the work we do in the shipyard, she answers all our questions with the same solicitude as when she is here," adds Simone.

A faithful sponsor

10 years after her first offshore racing project in Mini, Justine Mettraux is still supported by the same partner, TeamWork. At each stage of her career, from the Mini to the IMOCA via the Figaro, they have been there: "TeamWork is a fairly family-run business. Some of the employees have been there since the beginning! I have developed a trustworthy relationship with the boss and his wife. It's really a chance to be able to progress in a setting like this." Without rushing into anything, her project to sail around the world single-handed, non-stop and without assistance came with time: "The desire to compete in the Vendée Globe came to me gradually with experience. I'm really happy to have the opportunity to do it now. There are a lot of great sailors who don't have this chance. I can see how lucky I am to prepare the Vendée Globe, in good conditions, with a good boat. The sailor seems to have all the cards in her hand to perform on the IMOCA circuit...

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