By teaming up with Julien Villion for all the double-handed races in the 2023 season, Justine Mettraux is banking on the renowned performance and weather strategist qualities of the man who has been part of the Teamwork team since he entered the IMOCA class last year.
The "Jujus", as they are already known on the pontoons, are training their weapons to give Teamwork the best it has to offer, which will be relaunched in June, against the armada of new-generation IMOCA boats that Justine got a good glimpse of during The Ocean Race. The high point of the season: the Transat Jacques Vabre - Normandie Le Havre, which sets off from Le Havre on October 29.
It's an understatement to say that Justine Mettraux's schedule doesn't have much downtime! After Teamwork's return from last winter's Route du Rhum, where the Swiss yachtswoman achieved a fine seventh place (out of 38), the IMOCA was taken out of the water and returned to the yard in Lorient. Six months of dismantling, checking and adjusting a boat which had not been designed directly for Justine, and which had to be put through her paces.
Long winter refit and first Cape Horn
"We tried to anticipate the Vendée Globe as much as possible, as we'll have much less time ashore in 2024. In any case, it made sense to get to the bottom of things this year, when The Ocean Race program was sending me out on the water for long periods," explains the skipper, who left Teamwork's technical team to get on with 11th Hour Racing Team in Cape Verde in January, to compete in the crewed round-the-world race.
Cape Hornière for the first time on the marathon Cape Town-Itajaï leg (12,750 miles!), Justine will embark again on May 21 for her 6th transatlantic race with the American team. This invaluable experience, acquired both in the South Seas and on the Atlantic, reinforces her belief in the importance of having a reliable boat first and foremost: "With a crew, you can push the cursors, but with a single-handed or double-handed yacht, the problems immediately take on such a magnitude on these boats, that you need to have impeccable preparation and then know how to balance performance and safety," she says.
To find the right compromise and perform in all areas of the game, Justine has chosen to take Julien Villion on board alongside her. The duo will kick off the season with the Rolex Fastnet Race on July 22, one month after Teamwork's relaunch. This will be followed by the Défi Azimut in Lorient in September, the final observation round before heading to Le Havre for the Transat Jacques Vabre, the highlight of the double-handed season.
Justine and Julien, a perfect match!
A "performer" right from the start of the Teamwork IMOCA project, Julien Villion knows the boat inside out, and his association with Justine was a natural fit: "We did a Tour de Bretagne in a Figaro together in 2019," explains the winner of the Concarneau / St Barthélémy 2021 double-handed transatlantic race (with Nils Palmieri on Teamwork), "and we really hit it off. We have a very good and friendly relationship alongside the boat". It's true that we have common interests, both in the environment and in literature," says Justine, "but Julien is first and foremost a very well-rounded sailor, a solid person. When I called on him last year to look after all the performance aspects of the project, I already had the Transat Jacques Vabre in mind.
This will be Julien's first Atlantic crossing in an IMOCA class, a line that is surprisingly lacking from the already full CV of the sailor from La Trinité-sur-mer who, at 35, excels in both light sailing and maxi-multihulls. A keen weatherman, he has also enjoyed great success alongside Jean-Yves Bernot as a router, a culture of strategy that he will of course be putting to good use on Teamwork.
Confidence in a proven, high-performance boat
Following the return to the water at the end of June, training will resume with a view to the Rolex Fastnet race, a race that has already proved successful for Justine (two podium finishes in 2019 and 2021). The duo will first be looking to benchmark themselves against the new IMOCA boats arriving in numbers with varying levels of reliability. Teamwork is still a very good boat," says Justine, "and we have the advantage of knowing it very well. We know that if we sail well and in the right places, we should be in the top ten. Before counting the points, the aim is above all to do well.
In addition to the sporting challenges of the 2023 season, the final goal is the Vendée Globe 2024, as Julien explains so well: "The transatlantic race is part of a whole that began when we took control of the boat last year and will end with Justine's Vendée Globe. Each event is a goal in itself, but they are all milestones along the way."