Super support in all areas from all rounder Malbon 

@the_famousproject @georgiaphoto

Meet Jonny Malbon, Team Director and co-founder of The Famous Project

Jonny Malbon has more than 25 years of professional ocean racing experience in everything from IMOCAs to Superyachts, most recently on the highly competitive MOD70s. He has sailed with Alexia for some 15 or so years, crossing oceans and around the buoys in the Med and the Caribbean. Inspired by her boundless enthusiasm and energy he ably fulfils the role of The Famous Project’s Technical Director, sharing the same huge drive and commitment to the common goal, setting a benchmark time for an all-female crew on the Jules Verne Trophy course and beyond that developing a sustainable future for the project. 

Jonny how did you get involved in this in the first place? 
“I have sailed with Alexia for more than 15 years on Sojana(115ft Farr ketch superyacht) and during that time did countless Transatlantics, countless Caribbean and Med circuits with that boat. We did years and years of that, we have been friends for a long time and obviously a lot of trust has built up over that time. not least hooning across the Atlantic on a 30 metre plus boat, knowing someone has always got your back.”

And what was your role when things started? 
“We had been talking about various different things, including during her Vendée Globe. And then post Vendée she was looking to buy another IMOCA, I had done a lot of sailing on the MOD70s by then and at that point the second hand IMOCAs were crazy expensive and that is before you look at running costs. So I suggested a MOD70 to her – ‘bang for your buck it is an incredible machine – and you can do a lot with it, it might be a good, different option rather than another Vendée cycle’ I said at the time.”

“She went off and came back and said ‘yes it is a great plan but there is a part 2 of the great plan, to do a Jules Verne with an all girls crew…’ I said ‘OK’……Alexia is like a fireball the whole time, I did not see that coming, but that’s another level up, nut I just kept rolling with it. I was sailing with Riccardo Pavoncelli on Mana I got Alexia on board for the Middle Sea Race and hatched the plan for her to buy the boat off Riccardo.”

And so how did that then develop to getting the use of IDEC Sport? 
“Alexia is brilliant and just gets into overdrive to make this thing work. She had a chance meeting with the owner ofIDEC Sport (Patrice Lafargue) and he bought into the idea, they started talking about it and it went from there. We are really lucky to have this opportunity to use this boat, a boat that Francis Joyon had such success with.”

So what is your remit day to day and strategically….?
“Day to day, together we just keep the project rolling, keep it going. We are not quite there with funding and so Alexia is very much on the campaign trail and I am more in the background so that when we have plans I make sure they work, looking after the technical aspects – more of the MOD70 at the moment because I am in the Caribbean where the boat is, and also trying to liaise with the guys and girls in Vannes with the big boat just keeping that rolling, I am very much the sounding board for Alexia, maybe saying ‘that is not possible let’s try it this way’ so I guess I am maybe play the ‘bad cop’ a bit and keep things grounded.  But this works, it is the perfect combination. She has so many ideas and so much energy, we work towards the common goal and it is all for the good of the project.”

And what is your goal from a personal and professional perspective?
“The goal for me on this project is to have managed the difficult conception of the project and deliver it to the end goal of setting a benchmark time for an all female team. There are not many world records left like this, so being able to do this and deliver it is one thing and being able to give the girls the opportunities to sail on these amazing, crazy boats is important. That they have not had the opportunity so far seems crazy and it is not because they are not skilled enough but gaining the skills is important. Nothing has made me more proud than seeing Alexia helm the MOD70 thrashing it at 90 deg TWA doing 35kts plus knots. That is my goal to help get them round the world and for Alexia and us to unlock another tranche of funding that means we can go on and do other things and build and sustain a team of like minded, cool people and that is going to be moving on after the Jules Verne.”

And are you very much up front as team manager or increasingly in the background? 
“It is a mix, I have been very much running the briefings and debriefings so far with people like Brian Thompson coming in coaching and we would run the training on the water together, I run the training and put the programmes together. I do pretty much everything from an organisational perspective. We are not there yet in terms of manpower and so we are all currently doing a lot.”

So what is the next challenge? 
“The challenge now is to get the girls off into a sensible weather window to cross the Atlantic. They have not had the time really to do enough train and there are a couple of girls who it will be their first time on the boa, suddenly we are going from seven who are strong to three who are strong, and by that I mean strong at night, strong at 90 deg TWA strong, so for us looking at the weather really is the next key. The girls will fly out on the 9th and we plan to have them go on the 12th or 13th of April.”