Imoca Teamwork

Teamwork, 6th in the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre - Ascending the North Face

In an improbable scenario written by Justine Mettraux and Julien Villion, Teamwork kept the suspense alive over the 12 days and kept many people dreaming in this Transat Jacques Vabre. From the fifth day onwards, the Jujus put on their crampons and ice-axe to take on the elements and write a story that will go down in the annals of history. A one-man cafe that could have been won with a little more success, and ended with a superb sixth place finish in Fort-de-France, achieved in a last ditch effort on the Martinique bypass.

Although they didn't win the moon, the Jujus won the recognition of their peers, pushed their bodies and their boat to the limit. And they can savor the fact that they've made the best doubt themselves, while leaving a number of newer IMOCA boats in their wake.

"The mountain route isn't easy, it gave us a hard time, but it was worth trying and worth playing for. When you look at the speeds of the leading boats, we'd be a long way from Martinique by now, battling in a pack a little behind, and we wouldn't have achieved this fine sixth place," declared the Jujus, their feet firmly planted on the pontoon of honour, scarred but happy with a race conducted with panache, determination and talent.

Who could have imagined such a scenario at the start in Le Havre? Released after an eight-day wait in the Paul Vatine basin to allow the storms Ciaran and Domingo to pass, the 40 IMOCA boats set off with their teeth between their teeth on November 7. They got off to a rough start, with a brutal frontal passage on the first night that sent eight IMOCA boats crashing to the ground...

In the game from the start

Jujus are holding their own in the top ten, and after a boisterous crossing of the Bay of Biscay, are up to fifth place off Lisbon. Staggered to the west like the current leader, Charal, they know that their position is less favorable as they approach the approaching ridge of high pressure. The fleet seems to be heading off headlong towards the sun. Aboard Teamwork, Julien Villion is multiplying the routings, which suggest that a northerly route is the winning option. "For us, it was an obvious choice. I was surprised that we weren't more closely followed. In hindsight, I think that teams who are playing for the win like to stay together. It's not in their logic to isolate themselves a week before the finish. But you have to understand that, if you look at it the right way round, we're not the ones who opted for the shortest route! Taking risks means lengthening the route in the hope of going faster. That's what the leading boats did, and they did it very well indeed," explained Julien at the finish.

The North face

We don't yet know that the southerners will cover 1000 miles more than Teamwork, as they seek out the trade winds to the south. For their part, the Jujus are leaving the pack behind at the latitude of Gibraltar, so they're putting their blinker to the right. Off we go for 1300 miles of close-hauled sailing south of the Azores, with constant changes of sail and rhythm. A tortuous path where life is spent leaning. Teamwork is put to the test, but takes the lead from November 11. The Jujus cut a lot of ground on a much closer tack to the West Indies, and their lead peaked at 300 miles on the night of the 12th/13th. On arrival in Fort de France, the winners Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière (For People) and their runners-up admitted this morning that they had all had their doubts when routing Teamwork on a route which had been announced as a 24-hour winner at the start.

Unstoppable southerners

But to the south, the trade winds are well established, the seas easy to handle, and the pace is really picking up on a route that's finally closing in. On a regular basis, those opting for the sunshine option are sailing 8 to 10 knots faster than Teamwork, and the hourglass is reversed. For People regained the lead on November 15. The final benefit of Teamwork's option kept the suspense alive for another 24 hours. But as the last front passed - the hardest one, with 40 knots before starting their descent towards Fort de France - the Jujus were slowed down and also had to deal with material damage.

Julien had to climb the mast to replace the head carriage that had been poisoning the tandem's life since the start, and lost two hours in the process... "Two hours means 40 miles. Two hours is 40 miles, it hurts, but we had no choice. It's not a big deal to get a better place, but if we had our way, we'd win every race!" joked a cheerful Justine at the finish.

What followed was no fairy tale, but the trade winds finally shifted to the right, making it possible to aim for the southern tip of Martinique in the final miles without gybing. In a last-ditch effort, the Teamwork crew rounded the beach at Les Salines in the south of the island and made for Malizia Sea Explorer at the Diamant rock, the last symbolic milestone of this Route du Café.

By finishing sixth, Teamwork puts at least seven newer IMOCA boats behind it in the rankings. The Jujus confirmed the solidity of their boat, the excellence of their preparation and their commitment to racing at the highest level. A great way to end this double-handed season before looking ahead to 2024, when Justine will have new weapons at her disposal after a well-deserved rest to fight against the best.

Figures for Teamwork, 6th in the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre:
Arrival on November 19 at 13h29 local time (18h29 Paris time)
Race time: 12 days, 8 hours 59 minutes, 58 seconds
Distance to first place: 11 hours, 27 minutes
Ortho speed: 18.2 knots
Number of miles covered: 4401
Speed on water: 14.8 knots

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