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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Ireland's Pam Lee prepares for first big racing challenge on course to Transatlantic Jacques Vabre

by TJV Media 24 May 21:12 BST 4 June 2023
Tiphaine Ragueneau and Pamela Lee © Nicolas Touzé - Transat Jacques Vabre Le Havre Normandie

Less than three months after being selected for the "Cap sur Elles" initiative - which provides support for a pair of young female sailors to take part in the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre double handed race to Martinique - Ireland's Pam Lee and her French counterpart Tiphane Ragueneau are preparing for their first big racing challenge together, the CIC Normandy Channel Race which takes place in early June.

The Irish-French duo have just done a warm up training race on their Class40 Cape Pour Elles, the 310 nautical miles ArMen Race USHIP, in which they finished 14th, just outside the top 10 in a very competitive Class40 fleet. As a learning experience the race afforded them confidence in their boat, their partnership and their abilities. Next up is the CIC Normandy Channel Race - one of the most highly contested, challenging events on the Class40 calendar - which starts on June 4th. The duo are competing in a red hot fleet of 36 Class40s racing over a 1000 mile course out of the Channel which has turning marks at The Fastnet and Tuskar Rock as well as the Isle of Wight.

Stepping stone

It will be an important stepping stone for Ragueneau, 30, and Lee, 34 a native of Greystones south of Dublin. Selection to the Cap Pour Elles project was made in March and the duo have been working hard since, looking for additional funding to secure their full budget for the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre, preparing the boat and training together as much as Ragueneau has been available as she works full time as a vet.

"We achieved 100 per cent of our objectives on the ArMen Race USHIP. "enthused Lee this week, "We went out on our first real Class40 race together aiming to use it as a great training opportunity, to learn together in a full competition mode, where we are both pushing hard all the time."

Lee recalled, "From that point of view we are happy to have achieved that. Along the way we are happy with our performance in that we were just behind some good duos and many of the boats ahead of us were fully crewed. We were fast enough early on and could hold our own with the front pack. But for example it was our first time with the spinnaker up in more than 20kts of breeze. We did have a couple of setbacks which cost us time but we learned from them. We had a port-starboard with a boat which was not in our class which cost us a bit of time and wrapped the spinnaker in a gybe in the dark but we dealt with it together and did well under that pressure. We kind of lost touch with the leading group then but, again, held our own."

Looking ahead to the CIC Normandy Channel Race, Lee says: "It is all very early in our programme right now and we see it in two halves. The first half until the end of the Channel Race is about learning to do things well, having a boat which is well enough prepared to ensure we finish races and can do what we want to do and are not compromised. The second half is when we can be more focused on performance. The Channel Race is 1000 miles and is the qualifier for the Transat Jacques Vabre and so the priority is to finish with the boat and us in one piece. I am reasonably confident about the sailing and the navigation in Celtic waters, less so in the Solent and so there is a lot to be thinking about."

She concludes, "But, hey, this is such a cool position to be in. When we started that race it was a real 'pinch me' moment, being on the start line with our own project is so cool."

Preparing for a race as prestigious as the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre, which will start on October 29 is full on. The two sailors are working hard in their business networks to promote their project and attract new sponsors. They are due to have meetings this week with Normandy entrepreneurs and businesses. Then they will deliver the boat to Caen for June 4th and the 1000 mile challenge.

"There is some apprehension" says Lee's co-skipper Rageuneau, " We know that the race will be very intense, that we will have to avoid the traps, the tidal gates and currents and be efficient over the whole course. But we can't wait to be out there doing it."

Next stage after the Channel Race comes at the end of August in Le Havre where they will have a week of training with the Normandy Sailing League. From there the time will slide away quickly before the start of the race across the Atlantic best known as the Coffee Route.

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