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Henri-Lloyd - For the Obsessed

The Famous Project: All female crew set for Atlantic return challenge

by The Famous Project 26 Feb 11:29 PST 27 February 2024
The Famous Project crew © Georgia Schofield

Fresh from an excellent third place on the RORC Caribbean 600 race and multiple training laps around the island of Antigua itself, the seven strong The Famous Project crew will leave Antigua on Tuesday 27th February for their first all-female ocean passage across the Atlantic, heading to Portimao, Portugal on their MOD70 The Famous Project Limosa.

As they build up towards their 2025 all-female challenge for the Jules Verne Trophy, when they will sail the record holding Ultim IDEC Sport, this Transatlantic passage is an important stage in training up the team, strengthening cohesion and building skills over an extended period on the flighty, fast 70 foot trimaran which needs to be sailed 'on the edge' to achieve the best performance.

The seven strong team will be co-skippers Alexia Barrier (FRA) and Dee Caffari (GBR), Pam Lee (IRL), Joan Mulloy (IRL), Annie Lush (GBR), Annemieke Bes (NED) and Deborah Blair (GBR). Mediawoman is Muriel Vandenbempt.

RORC Caribbean 600 debrief... 'A real stepforwards'

With a week of recovery, boat work andfurther training behind them, the debrief from the RORC Caribbean 600 is extremely positive. The team for the 600 mile race, which passes 11 islands on a 12-leg figure 8 course this time included specialist coaches Jack Bouttell, Miles Seddon and Tom Dawson. Their elapsed time of 01d10:16:46 for the course was just two hours and two minutes behind Multihull class winner Argo The Limosa team were in touch for much of the race but lost out towards the end.

Co-skipper Dee Caffari enthuses, "What a race! It was intense, it was awesome. In terms of a training platform for what the team wants to do it was perfect, it really was. There were lots of corners, lots of sail changes, every point of sail. There was constant action, always something happening. Every hour or couple of hours there was something. And to do all that and end up only a couple of hours behind the other two MOD70s is good. We could see them for most of the race and we know where we with different mistakes we made. But it was nice to finally be in the race with everybody again."

In terms of the practical, hard learning gains Caffari highlights, "There is now a lot more confidence in the driving and the trimming, and a lot more trust in each other. Also just understanding how dynamic the trim on these boats is in order to just drive in a straight line, because you are literally on the edge all the time. And it costs you so much when you fall off that 'edge' and have to rebuild again. The boys did a really good job with the training leading up to it. I came off the helm having driven at a constant 30kts for an hour and I would not have been able to do that without the training we had before the race. So we really moved forwards."

And now a Transatlantic in all girlmode......

With the big boat, the Ultim, due for a May launch, the race is on to get a core team up to speed and this Transatlantic from the Caribbean to Portugal, followed by a training passage continuing on to their Mediterranean base in La Grande Motte, is an essential keystone in this training and learning block. Until now they have had the likes of Bouttell, Sidney Gavignet and others on board to fast track the learning. Now it is time to go do it themselves...

Co-skipper Caffari, who will run the boat whilst project captain Alexia Barrier will take responsibility for navigating, says, "For the first time we won't have the safety net of the guys on the boat with all the experience, all the miles they have on the boat with us. So it will be good to be taking that step. And also we are moving into that mode now where Alexia and I, having that bit more experience, are bringing more people forwards with confidence, that will really build our confidence as well."

And the main objectives are seeing and sailing with different crew and upskilling them, "It is a little bit of having new people sail the boat with us, it is a little bit of 'we can do this' because until now it has been.... 'well they only sail with the guys on board'.....and we don't actually need them to sail the boat but it is good to have them to fast track the learning and keep up the intensity. Now we have to generate that ourselves."

Caffari and the girls are not really relishing the weather, not least the return to chilly, windy Europe "The weather looks a lot of upwind sailing. I think that is what it is and it does make it a little bit safer, we are not in that downwind danger zone very often. But finding the right sea state and keeping in the right modes will be the key to keeping the boat going."

Splitting the roles into the defined responsibilities is also a 'next step' in the process.

"Alexia is learning to be a team player asshe is so used to being a solo sailor on her Vendée Globe set up and so I am here helping with that, I have been through that transition, keeping the communication flow going. Clear, concise communication is key, everyone using the same kind of language, especially as we have different nationalities onboard, especially when people are tired." Caffari concludes.

Along with Joan Mulloy, 35 year old Pam Lee is one of the two Irish sailors on board for the Transat. Lee has more than 10 Transatlantics under her belt including one on a Ocean 50 multihull, as well as the most recent Transat Jacques Vabre race on a Class 40. She is taking time off from helping prepare the giant Ultime near her base in Lorient and aims to be one of the key technical expert 'fixers' on board for the Jules Verne.

Lee sailed the MOD70 during a training week in the Med last spring and is looking forwards to this new oceanic challenge, her first time - she realises - with an all girl crew.

After her first training days in Antigua she notes, "Day to day everyone is so down to earth, just professional sailors doing a good job, it is amazing we are just all sailors who love sailing and love what we do. This feels like such a big opportunity and I just want to make the very most of it. I want to learn as much as I can and bring my best 'sailorself' to it every day. Don't get me wrong there is no competitive feeling there but there will be a team selection, sometime. But meantime for me it befocused, be humble and be myself. "

She concludes, "And it is the first time I have sailed with an all-girls group. But the funny thing about that is the penny has just kind of dropped. I have not been thinking in those terms at all,we are all sailors doing what we love, it is so natural. But it just feels like going sailing, there is no crusade here, even if it will be the first time an all-female crew have sailed a MOD70 across the Atlantic."

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