Idec Sport

Alexia Barrier: « The Famous Project is not just about setting records »

On Friday, Alexia Barrier and her team from The Famous Project relaunched Idec Sport, Francis Joyon’s former trimaran at the Multiplast yard in Vannes, aboard which the 44-year-old sailor intends to tackle the Jules Verne Trophy at the end of 2025 with an all-female crew. An opportunity for Tip & Shaft to chat with her.

► What has happened since you officially presented The Famous Project in June 2023?

We’ve sailed a lot, almost a hundred days, on the MOD 70 Limosa, including two transatlantic races, one of which was the RORC Transatlantic Race, and one of which was a delivery race with an all-female crew. It was the first time we’d sailed without our coaches. We’ve come a long way, because the MOD 70 is a very fickle boat and we’ve made a lot of progress. We’re no longer submissive, we’ve managed to get our heads out of the boat and think about performance and speed 100% of the time, whereas at the start, our priority was just not to roll over. It’s been really beneficial for us to get our bearings thanks to the experienced sailors such as Brian Thompson, who’s been with us a lot, Miles Seddon, who’s helped me progress on the navigation side, Jack Bouttell, and of course Jonny Malbon and Tom Dawson, who are there all the time. Our progress proves that the methodology is a good one, and we’re going to repeat it on Idec Sport, starting with mixed training sessions, followed by 100% women’s outings.

► Have you already selected the crew that will accompany you on the Jules Verne Trophy at the end of 2025?

We have a core group of girls who come back almost all the time, starting with my co-skipper Dee (Caffari), who we’re very lucky to have in the team, because she has experience of major projects, sailing with a crew and welcoming rookies, so she’s a great right-hand woman. Then there’s Marie Riou and Elodie-Jane Mettraux, the Englishwoman Deborah Blair, the Dutchwoman Arianne van de Loosdrecht, the New Zealander Rebecca Gmuer… I don’t yet know if there will be eight or ten of us on the round the world race, but we’re going to continue the selection process until the end of the year, and we’d like to test a few more girls, particularly after the Olympic Games.

“We’ve got half the budget”

► At the same time, you’re continuing your search for partners, how far have you got?

We’re halfway to our target budget of around €3 million a year. Our main partners are CIC, Wipro, Idec Sport and, more recently, Richard Mille. We’re looking for a title partner or additional partners to give us more sailing time, bearing in mind that on The Famous Project, we pay the girls the same as the boys. The wage bill is quite high and the boats are expensive if you want to make them perform better. So since I’ve been back from the return transatlantic race, I’ve put on my salesman’s hat again, and I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to balance the budget in the next six months.

► Is this a project that speaks to the partners you meet?

Yes, because we’re a project with a difference, with values around diversity and inclusion, but also an environmental dimension with my association for the protection of the ocean. The companies we talk to are well aware that it’s not just about setting records, the idea is to change things together, in sport and in society. They also understand that it’s not just about women going around the world; we’re not talking about a charity, but about a high-level professional project that aims for performance. Our contacts see that we’re working hard to make up for all the years we weren’t able to sail multihulls and that we’re learning fast.
► If you could find the budget, would that allow you to sail both boats?
Yes, we’d like to continue with the MOD. All the races that involve us sailing against ZoulouArgo or others are important for us to progress. This year we’d like to take part in the Aegean 600, the Multihull Cup in Palma and the Middle Sea Race. Having the two boats will also enable us to keep a larger group and continue to train girls for the following years. But for the moment, the priority is Idec Sport, and we’re going to be training all summer around La Trinité-sur-Mer, then we’ll go to the Mediterranean for a bit longer training sessions, before setting our sights on the first records at the end of the year, in particular the Route de la Découverte or the round the British Isles. We think some of them are within our grasp, and we’d also like to set the first women’s reference times.

“We know we’ve got a long way to go”

► What were the objectives of the refit you carried out on Idec Sport?
We overhauled everything from A to Z, redid the composite in certain areas that weren’t very healthy, changed a huge number of parts, overhauled the sails… It was a mammoth job, completed in record time and on a small budget. We didn’t try to make any modifications, because she’s a boat that works well as she is, but if the budget allows it, I’d like to add a cap to protect the crew more and possibly test the T-shaped rudders that Francis and his team used a few days before putting them back in the container.
► Francis holds the record (40 days 23 hours and 30 minutes) on this boat, is this a time that seems attainable to you?
It’s a time that seems exceptional. We’re coming into this after teams that have been trying for years with budgets ten times bigger than ours, so we’re going there to beat it, but we also know that we’re starting from a long way off. Finishing the tour and setting a women’s benchmark time are already important goals for us.
► Are you already looking beyond this Jules Verne Trophy?
Yes, we’re talking to our partners about a second campaign, with a more recent boat, either a new one or one that we’d buy, to get up to speed with the other Ultim teams. It’s not a question of desire, but more of budget. Personally, I’m looking ahead to the next ten years to try and beat this time around the planet, which is really fascinating.
► And could you see yourself tackling solo records?
Yes, completely, I’m also planning to go solo, so why not take part in a Route du Rhum?

Photo: Jean-Marie Liot

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