Less than 24 hours to go

The RORC Caribbean 600 race, which starts from Antigua on Monday 19th February, is the next big step for The Famous Project which is gathering momentum towards their main target, a 2025 all-female challenge for the Trophée Jules Verne on an ULTIM.

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Training complete – focus is now on race day

In contrast to their initial races on their MOD 70 Limosa The Famous Project – namely last year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race and January’s RORC Transat race from Lanzarote to Grenada in the West Indies – this RORC Caribbean 600 is a very different test.

The 600 mile race track passes round 11 islands on a 12-leg figure 8 course which forms a constant, intense test of crew cohesion and focus, all-out boat speed and changing gears in the brisk NE’ly trade winds. Success places a premium on excellent preparation and planning, knowing what sails will be deployed when and, accordingly, keeping the crew operating their high performance MOD70 trimaran as near to 100% as possible.

And in two other top level MOD 70s which are racing, Zoulou and the course record holders Argo, The Famous Project crew have the best possible benchmarks to measure themselves against, and to learn from. Argo has top Britons aboard such a Brian Thompson and Sam Goodchild and French flagged Zoulou have Loick Peyron. Both MOD70s are fully optimised with C Foils and T rudders which make them faster than

The Famous Project’s founder and co-skipper Alexia Barrier is visibly excited at the challenge ahead of the team, “It is great to have the opportunity to be here with the opportunity to race against some of the best sailors in the world on the MOD70s Argo and Zoulou. The main objectives here now are learning to be fast and stay fast and improve the manoeuvres. It is the first time on the RORC Caribbean 600 for us and we have worked hard to be here because it a really intense, technical kind race. In terms of distance, yes it is a little like the Rolex Middle Sea Race but it is consistently faster, there are more corners and many more tricky situations in store. It is perfect training for us at this stage.”

Complementing the majority core group of women crew on board this time – in coaching and support roles – will be two times Ocean Race winner Jack Bouttell, Tom Dawson and navigation ace Miles Seddon. This test – which should take around 36 hours (Argo’s course record is 1 day 5hrs 48mins) – will see Barrier looking to augment her race navigation skills specific to fast multihulls – while the hugely experienced Dee Caffari’s role as co-skipper becomes increasingly focused on running the boat and the team.

Learning from the guys, Bouttell, Dawson and Seddon will be the final check in before The Famous Project’s first ever all female Transatlantic together, sailing from Antigua to Portimao later this month.

“All the time we are in the process of selecting crew for the Trophée Jules Verne and it is good to be trialling as many new people as possible to build the best possible team and testing on a race course like this is a good way to do it.” Explains Barrier, “Then the Transat return is another test along the way as it will be the first time we don’t have boys on board as coaches, and with Dee as co-skipper on our own. Already now we have now got a good feeling about how to drive the boat, we will have good sailors with us even if some have not sailed a multihull before, they will get the feeling very quickly. And only Pamela Lee (IRL) has done some OCEAN 50 sailing but otherwise it is new to many of the team like for example Annie Lush. We have super good sailors but in some senses it is like going from riding a grand prix on a motorbike to driving an F1 car, it is absolutely not like driving another boat everything is very different. They are different worlds.”

Barrier and the team are looking to keep fast tracking their learning. In May they launch the ULTIM and aim to run the two boats at the same time,

She explains, “I think for sure we would like have more money in the project now so we can do more training. We have not had so much time at sea and our boat is not the same as the other MOD70s and we don’t have new sails. So we are not quite at the level we would like to be operating at if we had more money. But it is really cool, we are all so lucky to be doing this. And then we have the big boat going in the water at the end of May and that will be a big step. But we are looking for more partners to benefit from the project and to allow us to run the project at 100% and to get the best team with the best training for the Trophée Jules Verne next year.”

But the immediate target is to acquit themselves well on the Caribbean showcase race, “This is a super technical race and so the objectives are to do all the manoeuvres super efficiently, to use the power of the boat to full effect without breaking anything or anyone, just sailing fast but being careful. I will be learning more about the navigation, getting the right sails for the right angles at the right time. We need to improve a lot there.”

And for Barrier, the transition to co-skipper-navigator from all rounder, skipper and captain, is an exciting new direction, “Without a crew, so solo or doublehanded I did the navigation myself, now I need to understand how to communicate with the crew as the skipper, to improve and to learn. And I am loving this part of the process, I love learning new things. It is really exciting. I have spent so much time doing other things for the project that now I need to devote time to being on the computer and learning the details of navigation as specific to this boat. I used Adrena a lot before but am learning Expedition which is more Anglo-Saxon, there is still a lot to understand and learn. But that is the same for everyone and the spirit and feeling within the team is fantastic. On this race having Tom and Miles on board I am just looking to absorb everything I can as much as I can.”

Bringing a whole heap of youthful energy, power and intelligence to the team on this race and the Transat will be 21 year old triallist Brit Deborah Blair. Originating from Weymouth after cutting her teeth whilst a student at Southampton University racing in the Cape 31 class on the Solent her most recent big boat racing has been with the Austrian Ocean Racing on their VO65 project, doing the Ocean Race legs for The Sprint Cup, legs 1,6 and 7.

She will sail on the mid-bow for the RORC Caribbean 600 and on the bow for the Transat delivery – and grinding! Blair is studying for an MSc in computer sciences, specialising in cyber security. Despite her numeric and computer skills she has no aspirations to take up the navigation role.

“I find it a little bit boring. I don’t want to be below deck, I like being up where the action is, I like being with the waves and the wind near the front of the boat. I don’t see it as being fun sitting looking at a computer screen.” Laughs Blair, “Right now I am just looking to give a good account of myself. My first training days have been just epic. I want to just learn as much as I can, learn the boat, learn my position and improve as much as I can. And hopefully everyone will like me and what I do to enough to be selected. I am pretty strong and fit, doing cross fit and triathlon so I think I can hold my own.”

Deborah Blair –

o Alexia Barrier (FRA), captain
o Dee Caffari (GBR), co-skipper
o Elodie-Jane Mettraux (SUI)
o Marie Riou (FRA)
o Deborah Blair (1 st  time on the boat) (GBR)
o Tom Dawson (GBR)
o Jackson Boutell (AUS/GBR)
o Miles Seddon (GBR)