At the end of a race that lived up to its reputation - 40 knots of wind in the English Channel and more than 160 retirements (a third of the fleet)... - Justine Mettraux and Julien Villion finished 7th in Cherbourg, an enviable position on paper but also given the conditions of this fiftieth edition of the prestigious Fastnet.
For its first race of the season, Teamwork held its own in the first part of the race in the face of bad weather, and managed to keep up the pace over the rest of the course, which was dominated by a quartet of newer IMOCA boats, from which MACIF (Charlie Dalin-Pascal Bidegorry) emerged victorious... Teamwork's Jujus wanted a match? They got what they deserved throughout an Irish trip that was not all plain sailing... Hot reactions in Cherbourg en Cotentin.
It may not have been a sweltering weekend on the English coast, but the start of the 50th Rolex Fastnet Race was hot! In a ghostly setting, with no visibility and reduced sail area, you had to be on your toes not to steal the start with the ebbing tide pushing against the line ... and avoid any contact with the 28 other IMOCA boats, which Justine Mettraux and Julien Villion managed perfectly by choosing to start downwind of the fleet.
"We had clearly opted for safety by setting off downwind of the pack to avoid crossing paths," said Julien Villion at the finish. "It wasn't the best strategy, but it wasn't the end of the race."
Autumnal start in the Solent
After a good fifteen tacks to extricate themselves from the clutches of the Solent, the serious business began in earnest at the Needles (western tip of the Isle of Wight), with 40-knot gusts of wind and brittle seas that made Justine say "it was better to be on an IMOCA than on a small IRC!" All evening long, we had to keep upwind and stay in a match dominated as the miles went by by the latest additions to the IMOCA class, notably Paprec Arkéa, joined by MACIF, while For People was forced to turn back... No breakage aboard Teamwork, which is the finest tribute to those who carried out the in-depth work on the VPLP plan this winter, enabling the Jujus to always exploit the machine to its full potential. "We didn't break out the toolbox, and given our preparation time after this long winter's work, it's really the sign of a great job by the team," emphasized Justine last night.
At the head of the second group, with excellent rivals such as l'Occitane en Provence (ex Apivia) and Initiatives coeur, Teamwork continued to make headway towards Start point and then Land's End, before opening the sails a little in the Celtic Sea towards the Fastnet.
Strong heart, strong nerves
The break was short-lived, for after passing the rock on Monday morning, the descent to Cherbourg turned into a frantic cavalcade. Fixed in the rankings, the positions did little to mask the commitment of the tandems, racing their foilers at an average speed of almost 20 knots for a return trip to the French coast in just twelve hours. "We did sequences of 5 to 10 minutes at an average speed of over 25 knots, with peaks of thirty, it was quite demanding but fun!" Seventh on the rock, Teamwork finished in the same place in the capital of Cotentin, since Charal, three minutes ahead on the line, was given a two-hour penalty for having stolen the start...
What can we take away from this Fastnet?
"Our ability to lead the second group with boats that are generally newer," says Justine. "In strong winds, both upwind and downwind, we're doing really well. We've still identified a few areas where we can improve to find the boat's controls faster, and we'll be working on that next week before the August vacations."
Same analysis for Julien: "It was only at the finish that I realized how good the performance was. There's a group of five boats clearly ahead of us, but Teamwork is still the oldest boat in the top ten. The boat is in great condition and our pairing worked well. We've identified our little deficit in the medium range, when the newer boats take off earlier. We're going to keep working to try and erase this deficit".
Next event: The Défi Azimut Lorient Agglomération from September 20 to 24.