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Sam Davies on the Transat Paprec, “It's an intense race all the way to the finish”

by Transat Paprec 23 Apr 2023 21:10 BST 30 April 2023
Skipper Macif in action © Alexis Courcoux

Briton Sam Davies is one the outstanding ocean racers of her generation. With her IMOCA Initiatives Couer she regularly highlights her ability to race with the leading pack and most observers consider her a great prospect for the next Vendée Globe.

Davies cut her teeth in the Figaro class and competed three times on the predecessor to the Transat Paprec on the same course. She raced with Jeanne Grégoire (2004, 5th), Alexia Barrier (2006, 12th) and Romain Attanasio (2010, 4th). She reviews her experiences and shares her views on mixed doubles racing offshore and the drive to give more opportunities to female racers.

The Transat Paprec is 100% mixed for the first time. What do you think of this new rule?

Sam Davies: "I think it's great! At first I was a little hesitant because it means there are less boats compared to previous editions. But I think it's essential to be able to allow women to compete on these kind of races across the Atlantic to gain experience. I remember back when we did the Volvo Ocean Race with Team SCA in 2014. We had some trouble putting together a 100% female crew because there was a lack of girls who really had the necessary experience. To me making gender diversity compulsory seems restricting, but I think it is necessary at least for a while."

Does this feeling apply to the BENETEAU Figaro Class?

"I think there are many women now who are sailing at a very high level and who have a lot of talent in this Class. The question is how to give them the opportunity to do more. By working with skippers who are top sailors, they benefit from their knowledge and skills. And so sharing, transferring skills is very rewarding. I remember a few years back competing in the Sardinha Cup with Yann Eliès. We did well together but above everything I really learned a lot!"

You competed in the Transat Paprec three times, including the first time with Jeanne Grégoire, in 2004.

"It must have been my first or second year in Figaro and I had so much to learn. Jeanne was so kind: she even helped me to translate the conversations and really worked to integrate me into the Pole at Port-la-Forêt. I especially remember that we had such a laugh together. We often fell about the boat laughing because we mixed French and English vocabulary all the time. And at the same time we took the lead at Cape Finisterre and finished 5th. We would never have believed we were capable of this before the start. It was a great experience, especially since it was the first time there were no stopovers. We were kind of pioneers!"

Then you came back twice to compete in the race...

"With Alexia (Barrier) on Roxy, it was also really nice We were a 100% female crew. And then with Romain, it was great too. I remember that we were in the lead at the Canaries waypoint and that we crossed the Atlantic in close contact with all the boats in the leading group. It's so tiring as a race though and the commitment and work rate required by these boats is impressive. It's an intense race all the way, all the way from start to finish!"

What advice could you give to those who are about to start?

"I don't know if I have anything to offer them. They are already all very good sailors. I would have loved to share the experience with them to learn alongside them! It is still a big undertaking to cross the Atlantic and sometimes it gets stressful. We can get quite frustrated because there are some hard, stressful times. I think the main thing is to get something positive out of every day. We must never forget to be thankful to have such an opportunity, to be able to do this race properly. And it really is important to enjoy it and have fun."

Loïs Berrehar and Charlotte Yven (Skipper MACIF) win the Alex Picot Challenge

On Brittany's Bay of Concarneau Loïs Berrehar and Charlotte Yven (Skipper MACIF) won the Alex Picot Challenge today, the prologue for the Transat Paprec which starts next Sunday. The 6.5 nautical mile race was named after Alex Picot who tragically lost his life along with colleague François Naveilhan at the finish of the Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe last Autumn.

The eleven mixed duos who will race the 16th edition of the Transat Paprec from next Sunday had a spirited, close race in good breeze.

"The conditions were good for the Challenge Alex Picot. The eleven competing duos had fun in this format, with a few maneuvers to do. The fleet was very close. Everything went well", commented Francis Le Goff, race director of the Transat Paprec.

Loïs Berrehar and Charlotte Yven (Skipper MACIF) triumphed in the Challenge Alex Picot. "It went well, it was great. It was a great race with great conditions to get into it. There was plenty to have fun and get wet. We made some nice edges. We are happy. We feel good on board, the boat is ready, on top. It's pretty cool to start like that," commented Charlotte Yven. And the young duo were keen to disprove the superstition that by winning the prologue they might jinx their race across the Atlantic.

"We thought we should break the superstition," laughs Charlotte Yven. "Two years ago, I won the Prologue. On the transat, I was in the southern group and it didn't get through. But in general, the same situation does not repeat itself so I think it is a good omen," says Loïs Berrehar.

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