Last Tuesday at the Paris headquarters of Unesco Alexia Barrier officially launched her Famous Project, outlining her 100% female Jules Verne Trophy challenge which will be aboard Idec Sport, supported by the CIC and the Idec Group. Tip & Shaft tells you how the sailor managed to set up this Famous Project.
At the end of the last Vendée Globe and her 24th place, Alexia Barrier was planning a second participation with the idea of acquiring a more competitive boat. “But my partner decided to stop, a little suddenly, but the loss of this sponsor opened an opportunity to realign myself towards what I really wanted to do: Ultim“, she tells Tip & Shaft.
Barrier decided to launch her Jules Verne Trophy project in January 2022 with the aim of setting up a 100% female crew. “Opportunities to sail this type of project are almost non-existent for women. The Jules Verne is even more elitist than the Vendée Globe,” she notes. Only a few women have attempted the challenge, Tracy Edwards with the all-female crew in 1998 on Royal & Sun Alliance, Ellen MacArthur four years later on Kingfisher 2, and Dona Bertarelli on the former Spindrift 2 and she is the only woman to having completed the course to date but without breaking the round the world record.
Alexia Barrier gets in touch with Dee Caffari, Marie Tabarly and Marie Riou and all say they are ready to join the project. During 2022 the project takes shape little by little even if there is a lack of partners to fund it. “But, strictly speaking at first, I did not start looking for sponsors instead I went to conferences at which I met many entrepreneurs“, explains Barrier.
The bank CIC are attracted
It is in April 2022 in Montpellier, during one of these conferences, that Daniel Baal, director general of the CIC, in the audience, is heavily attracted to the project. “It immediately spoke to me. A few days after the conference, I got back in touch with Alexia to work out the basics of a partnership. Everything happened really fast. I appreciated her personality, her ability to mobilize, her charisma and her commitment,” Baal tells Tip & Shaft.
It is one more element in the banking group’s support of sailing. They are title partner of the Transat CIC and the CIC Normandy Channel Race, main partner of the Route du Rhum and also via its parent company, Crédit Mutuel, they are title sponsors of Ian Lipinski in Class40.
“This new commitment reinforces our position in the world of sailing now also with a different positioning,” continues Daniel Baal. “We want to support a sporting and societal project which has a strong resonance with our mission-driven company’s ambitions. Alexia leads a real entrepreneurial adventure and we like that.”
Idec has made their trimaran available
Thanks to support from CIC, Alexia Barrier takes a major step forward by chartering the MOD70, Mana, which enables her to start sailing. At the same time, she is continuing to search for an Ultime and looking forward to the start of the next Route du Rhum, she is looking at the possibility of chartering or purchasing Francis Joyon’s Idec Sport trimaran. Her project has won over Patrice Lafargue, chairman of the Idec Group.
“Nothing was planned,” explains the latterer. “It happened after a meeting with Alexia, who is really enthusiastic. And for me, enthusiastic people are my thing! When Alexia offered to buy the boat, even before she was for sale and after talking about her challenge, I decided to join her and her team by making the maxi-trimaran, Idec Sport available to them for three years.”
Why the decision to join up with her rather than stay with Francis Joyon, whom Patrice Lafargue has supported since the start of the Century? “In just over twenty years, with Francis we wrote one of the finest chapters in the history of ocean racing. In order to deal with financial and ecological pressures, I didn’t want to sign up for a new boat. Alexia’s all-woman project may offer our boat a future.”
The boat’s name is up for grabs
As for CIC and the Idec Group, a third partner will be announced in September. So far, Alexia Barrier has found half of the required funding, which she estimates to be around 3 million euros per year for three years (until the end of 2025). She still has to find 4.5 million euros, with the name for the boat still available.
Meanwhile, she has brought in more members to her crew with a very international line-up at the heart, including alongside Dee Caffari (co-skipper), Marie Riou and Marie Tabarly, Helena Darvelid, Sara Hastreiter, Elodie-Jane Mettraux and Joan Mulloy. “It is highly likely they will make up the final crew,” stressed the skipper, who would like to strengthen her team in the coming months, in particular by identifying young talent, especially seeing the project now involves two boats, so two crews. “We have had lots of applications from women from around the world. To ensure more women become involved in the project, we will have a first crew and a reserve crew.”
To manage these crews and step up the multihull learning process, Alexia Barrier has called upon the services of two British sailors who have a pivotal role in the project: Jonny Malbon, Team Director and Brian Thompson as coach. How will things be organised around the two boats? Alexia Barrier: “The two boats will be out sailing at the same time. They will be based in the Mediterranean in La Grande Motte, even if will still have a base in La Trinité-sur-Mer for Idec Sport. It is easier to get things set up for the MOD70 and her maintenance is less expensive. She enables us to have races between some exceptional sailors on short courses. While with the Ultim, we will be more in long-distance mode and we may set out to tackle records like Los Angeles-Honolulu.”
The start of the stand-by for the Jules Verne Trophy is scheduled for October 2025. “The aim is to smash the outright record [40 days 23 hours set by the very same boat, Idec Sport – editor’s note], but also to set a first women’s crew record around the world, which does not currently exist as a record. We will set sail whatever happens, even if the weather opportunity is not that great,” explained Alexia Barrier, who is looking further ahead too. “After this initial attempt, I would like to do another with a mixed crew and a more modern boat.”
Photo: Marie Cortial