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Women sailors among the pioneers of the Transat Paprec

by Transat Paprec 27 Apr 11:02 BST 30 April 2023
Sophie Faguet is among the Transat Paprec favourites racing on Region Normandie with Guillaume Pirouelle © Alexis Courcoux

Since 1992 the Transat Paprec has seen many mixed or 100% female duos. From Catherine Chabaud to Sam Davies well-known sailors have gained valuable experience before going on to bigger things, making their mark ocean racing.

And now with the Transat Paprec becoming only a mixed crew event it is worth looking back at its history.

Early days

On the Transat Paprec, diversity is not new. Look back to the early 1990s. In 1994, two years after the launch of the transatlantic race then called the Transat Lorient - Saint-Barth, two female duos presented themselves on the starting line. Christine Briand raced with Christine Guillou long before the duo went on to race together on EF Education on the 2000-2002 Volvo Ocean Race, and Michèle Paret raced with Catherine Chabot.

"I don't remember anyone thinking it remarkable that we were there," recalls Catherine Chabaud. "I loved this Transat. The double handed format is great, both from a human interaction point of view and in terms of pure sport. With Michèle, we got along really well. We laughed the whole way across and the finish into Saint-Barth was fantastic."

These four women in fact were quiet, take-it-in-their-stride pioneers. In fact every edition except for 2016 (the same year there were no women on the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe) there have been female sailors on this race. And they have been successful. In 1996, Florence Arthaud, racing with Jean Le Cam took second place. Two years later Michèle Paret finished runner up with Dominique Wavre. In 2000 Karine Fauconnier and Lionel Lemonchois won, the first time that a woman triumphed in what has now become the Transat Paprec.

In the 2000 edition, four mixed duos were present on the starting line (as well as Florence Arthaud, Isabelle Autissier and Miranda Merron). The 2006 edition had Jeanne Grégoire, Sam Davies, Alexia Barrier, Liz Wardley and Servane Escoffier all racing.

"'Diversity' has always been part of this race and this is one of its USP's", explains Jeanne Grégoire, who has seven entries to her credit.

But it is really only recently that it has become 'a thing', no one really talked about it or made a big deal of it.

In 2018 Isabelle Joschke raced together with Justine Mettraux, the same year as Clarisse Crémer raced with her now partnerTanguy Le Turquay.

Crémer says, "I suppose because we were not the first then we just did not talk about it, not even between ourselves, we were just there to race." And Alexia Barrier who has two races on her CV adds, "I did not really remember that we were talking about it at that time. Me, like all the other sailors, I just wanted to sail and give it my all!"

Past participants have all welcomed the move to the race becoming only mixed duos,

"Originally, I was not really in favor of it, but I think we have to go through it, like quotas in politics." Suggests Jeanne Grégoire. And I am convinced that it will contribute to raising the overall level within the Class".

Isabelle Joschke (MACSF), who is currently preparing for her second Vendée Globe thinks it will help fill a gap in women's offshore racing, she says, "It will help them sail, gain experience and then find a sponsor and a team but it must, ultimately, find its own level, "a horizon, a balance that must become natural".

Eleven women at the start of the Transat Paprec

And so there will be 11 women on the start line, by definition the highest number ever. Sophie Faguet, racing with Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie). At 36 she starts the race for the first time and it is a great opportunity for her.

"A while ago I did try to set up a project with Jean-Charles Monnet when I was still racing in Figaro BENETEAU 2. Now I am very happy to have the opportunity to do it this year with Guillaume who already has experience of a transatlantic with Alexis Loison. He has a lot of experience on the boat and almost won La Solitaire du Figaro last year. I think he could be the perfect teammate. He's at the top, super meticulous and I'm going to learn a lot by being with him," she comments. She has sailed with mixed crews a lot. "I do find it a bit of a shame that we have to impose gender diversity on board. On the Plastimo Lorient Mini, there were 85 mixed pairs. I am convinced mixed doubles is super interesting, especially since generally, we have small differences in physical form and not the same way of sailing. It's really interesting to work together on this because there's something good to be had on both sides. It brings a bit of variety."

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