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Ireland's Pamela Lee and French co-skipper Tiphaine Ragueneau complete the TJV in 29th place

by TJV Media 27 Nov 2023 08:21 GMT 27 November 2023
Class 40 Engie - DFDS - Brittany Ferries, skippers Pamela Lee and Tiphaine Ragueneau, are pictured celebrating during arrivals of the Transat Jacques Vabre in Fort de France, Martinique, on November 26 © Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

Pam Lee and Tiphaine Ragueneau, the Irish-French duo, who raced the Atlantic under the Cap pour elles initiative, crossed the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre off Fort-de-France, Martinique on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon at 12:24:40hrs local time (16:24:40 hrs) UTC) to complete their race in 29th place from a record fleet of 44 Class40s which started in Le Havre on 29th October. The Class40 race across the Atlantic had a pitstop in Lorient for a week to avoid a huge storm in Biscay.

Their elapsed time is 21d 23h 1m 13s and they finish 3d 10h 39m after the Class40 race winners.

Having to return to Lorient for a quick sail repair cost them around six hours of lost time and meant they were playing catch up from the second start. Then a series of torn sails slowed the girls. They lost their workhorse A2 spinnaker at the Canary Islands and so progressively dropped out of the group they were racing hard against. After spending more than five days repairing it, after only five or six hours use the sail tore again. And then finally the A6 spinnaker which had become their substitute downwind sail also expired last night.

On the dock in Fort-de-France, drenched in Champagne Lee, from Greystones south of Dublin, Ireland, recalled, "At the start we unrolled the J1 to go upwind and basically it started to come apart and so we had to go back in. And so we started six or eight hours after the fleet. We caught up but we have had a succession of torn sails. The thing is the sails come with the boat and they are older and we don't have a budget to buy new. There was a moment last night when the clew came off the A6 spinnaker and I thought 'oh well, I can't trim that any more.' So we have had the A4 up since the Canaries, that is 15 days. We were in with a good group and we know we could have kept up with them, Nestenn and La Manche, and so we were in our hustle, we had caught up. The A4 thing was hard because we were not able to play with that group at all and that was hard mentally. And then it went and finally the A6. The result is one thing, yes, but our objective was to finish the TJV and we have done that. So all of those things are achieved and so we just have to come back and do it better next time."

Lorient based Lee, a pro sailor and technical specialist who had five delivery Transatlantics on cruising yachts and Class 40s under her belt, and ex match racer and veterinarian Ragueneau, went through a rigorous selection process to be chosen for the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre race's Cap pour elles initiative which aims to support up and coming female sailors who want to go ocean racing.

Their selection was confirmed just over nine months ago and while they have had professional help and support from the likes of Anne Combier - who is team manager for Yannick Bestaven's Vendée Globe winning Maître CoQ programme - the initiative provides the competitive Lift 40 Class40 boat and some initial funding - and facilitated ENGIE's support. But ultimately it was down to the girls to find the final tranche of money which allowed them to take the start. They brought on board Brittany Ferries and DFDS ferries just a few weeks before the race began.

And so today, having completed the course and overcome all the adversity that has come their way on the Atlantic, as well as on land in the months leading up to the start, they had every good reason to be proud of all their achievements.

Their success was about much more than bringing the boat across the finish line, but of dealing with setbacks and at the same time hopefully inspiring a next generation of female ocean racers who are maybe already thinking of applying for Cap pour Elles 2025!

"Since the start of the project until now, we have had to face many difficulties but we can be proud of ourselves," Lee told the noisy, partisan crowd on the dock today in perfect French.

"We are very happy to have finished because the last few hours have been trying, physically and mentally," added Lee's French counterpart Ragueneau. "We had broken many things on board, we had no more water. It was time for us to get finished."

"The last few months haven't been easy, this transatlantic hasn't been easy but we're here," smiled Ragueneau.

The two women shared their special moment on the dock knowing how they have supported each other through some dark hours and come through smiling, having learned so much for the future.

Ragueneau said on the pontoon: "We both have very beautiful images as memories. We've been sailing downwind for about ten days, with incredible speeds, magnificent sunsets and sunrises. The sunrise yesterday morning was particularly beautiful! But what strikes me most is how our sails have been torn apart one by one (laughing)! We had to overcome that while remaining motivated and united. There was always one of us cheering the other one up. Between us this was a real voyage of discovery. We didn't know each other at all before this Cap pour elles and it so it is even something of a challenge in itself to spend three weeks at sea together. But it worked out well between us!"

Lee said: "We have experienced some magnificent moments and some incredible adventures. We tore up our entire spinnaker, our J1. Overcoming that together is a lifetime memory. We got along very well. Sometimes one of us was a little grumpy but it alternated (laughs). The energy we brought to this throughout the project helped us complete this race. Not everyone could have got through all this. The future? I have no idea at all. Maybe do the Transat Jacques Vabre again but with three spinnakers this time! But seriously we both want to continue offshore racing, Tiphaine more in Figaro and me more in Class40. And why not sail together again?"

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