Menu

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Displaying items by tag: Pamela Lee

Let’s do that again, but do it better – they are the words of a very determined Pam Lee from Greystones, who came 29th with Tiphaine Ragueneau in the 30th Transat Jacques Vabre yacht race from Le Havre to Martinique.

(Above and below) Rough weather after the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre Yacht Race in Le Havre on the 29th, Photos: Qaptur (Above and below) Rough weather after the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre Yacht Race in Le Havre on the 29th, Photos: Qaptur 

(Above and below) Rough weather after the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre Yacht Race in Le Havre on the 29th, Photos: Qaptur 

Lee and her co-skipper had to undertake so many sail repairs that they almost lost count, and yet still managed to hold their own in the Class 40 fleet. She describes the start at Le Havre and initial leg to Lorient in winds gusting 40 knots as “probably my toughest 48 hours at sea”.

Pam Lee is interviewed on the dock in Le Havre before the Transat Jacques Vabre Yacht RacePam Lee is interviewed on the dock in Le Havre before the Transat Jacques Vabre Yacht Race

Lee is Afloat sailor of the month for November 2023, and she spoke to Wavelengths in Greystones harbour, just after a morning surfing down in Wicklow, about the experience, about learning to sail on a lake, and what’s next. Listen to the interview below: 

Pam Lee with her family dockside in Martinique after completing the Transat Jacques Vabre Yacht Race: My Mum Una, My sister in law Maire, Brother Rob, Nephew Freddie, Niece Síbeal and Dad NormanPam Lee with her family dockside in Martinique after completing the Transat Jacques Vabre Yacht Race: My Mum Una, My sister in law Maire, Brother Rob, Nephew Freddie, Niece Síbeal and Dad Norman 

Published in Wavelength Podcast
Tagged under

The short-handed long-distance offshore racing scene from France is recognised as the world peak in a very specialised area. Design development at all boat sizes is at such a pace that in a hyper-hot division such as Class40, anyone racing a 2018 boat in 2023 was at a real disadvantage. Yet Pamela Lee of Greystones and her co-skipper Tiphaine Raguenau did just that with Engie-DFDS-Brittany Ferries in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023, and in a mostly more modern fleet of 44 boats, they were recorded at 29th overall at the finish in Martinique, with several much newer male-sailed boats astern.

Not so long ago, it was quite an achievement just to sail the Atlantic. But at this competitive level, Lee & Ragueneau were up against an emergency return to Lorient for sail repairs which were quoted for a three hour delay, but it was six hours and more adrift on completion. Yet despite battling to get back into rhythm with the main peloton of the fleet, and further sail repair challenges while racing, they were very much on the pace at the finish, and increasingly recognised as a force to be reckoned with in a very tough competitive environment.

Published in Sailor of the Month
Tagged under

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 gotten 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?”

Published in Class40

Ireland’s Pamela Lee of Greystones, sailing with Tiphaine Rageneau on the Class40 Engie-DFDS-Brittany Ferries, finished 29th in class today (Sunday) at Martinique, having leapt back into the race despite an enforced return to Lorient for an emergency sail repair.

Italian teams have dominated the top places in Class40 crossing the Atlantic, with Alberto Bona and Pablo Santurde del Arco on the Italian Mach 40.5 IBSA crossing the Class 40 finish line in fourth place on Friday (Nov. 24th) in the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre, with their aggregate time of 18 days 21 hours 22 minutes and 47 seconds securing them third place overall.

Ireland’s Pamela Lee of Greystones, sailing with Tiphaine Rageneau on the Class40 Engie-DFDS-Brittany Ferries, finished 29th in class in the 2023 Transat Jacques Vabre Source: Race TrackerIreland’s Pamela Lee of Greystones, sailing with Tiphaine Rageneau on the Class40 Engie-DFDS-Brittany Ferries, finished 29th in class in the 2023 Transat Jacques Vabre Source: Race Tracker

When added to Ambrogio Beccaria's winning Musa 40 Alla Grande PIRELLI, Italian boats take an unprecedented first and third overall, but former Mini-Transat double winner Ian Lipinski of France, did a real Lazarus act by recovering so well from a dismasting in the short sharp initial leg from Le Havre to Lorient that he and Antoine Carpentier (Crédit Mutuel) finished second in the second leg in Class40 when they crossed the finish line in Martinique at 1343hrs local time (1743hrs UTC) on Thursday 23rd November.

LIPINSKI RECOVERY

Their race time was 19 days, 16 hours, 2 minutes and 36 seconds. They sailed the theoretical route at an average speed of 8.57 knots. Out on the water, they actually sailed 5305.48 miles, averaging 11.24 knots. Although they dismasted on the first leg, their aggregate elapsed time includes an allocated time equivalent to that of the last-placed finisher on the first leg plus six hours.

Lipinski, a double winner of the MiniTransat, said, “When we dismasted, we thought the TJV was over, but they told me there was a possibility. We sailed to make sure the mast would hold up. During the first day, we kept it cool because we wanted to be sure. There was a huge amount of work from the team and the class. Finishing second here is a sort of thanks to all those who helped us. It wasn’t down to much. After dismasting it probably led us to go south. I remember before on this race, it got boring, but here it kept changing. It wasn’t boring. It wasn’t like it was normally. We didn’t understand what our rival was doing unless the weather forecasts were wrong. As for the winners, they won the first and second leg. We couldn’t do anything against them.”

Published in Pamela Lee

Class 40 and Ocean Fifty were back in full race mode some eight days after the initial start from Le Havre a week past Sunday; 46 duos aboard their Class40 monohulls and Ocean Fifty multihulls returned to the Transat Jacques Vabre race course from Lorient yesterday Monday morning heading for Martinique.

The pairs set off in fairly typical late autumn weather with 2.5m high waves and a 20-knot WSW'ly wind. The breeze was peppered with many squalls to deal with, some bringing in heavy rain and gusts of 35-40 knots.

Pamela Lee of Greystones had a setback with damage to her #1 jib on Enngie-DFDS_Brittany Ferries but is expected to re-join the racing after 2-3 hours effecting repairs in Lorient

So, conditions were very much as might be expected at the start of the Coffee Race. The fleets of six trimarans and forty monohulls which crossed their lines at 1030 and 1045hrs local time, respectively, are going to find it very hard work to get to the trade winds.

There was a damp, early start for those who took to the pontoons to bid farewell to their crews.

On the water, conditions were immediately tough and physical as forecast, with a low pressure coming in sharply.

At 1030hrs, the Ocean Fifty multihulls got underway with Viabilis Océan (Quiroga-Treussart) the first to cross the start line, A quarter of an hour later, it was time for the Class40 monohulls to get back into the race via a course that will take them past Porto Santo in Madeira. The wind eased off to 15 knots, but a huge squall on the horizon came blasting through.

Published in Class40

Ireland's Pamela Lee of Greystones, co-skippering with Tiphaine Ragueneau on the Class 40 Engie-DFDS-Brittany Ferries, finished 26th in the fleet of 43 at Lorient this morning (Tuesday) at 05-02-25hrs, with the last stage of the new Transat Jacques Vabre shortened first leg from Le Havre providing a fair wind to speed the mid-fleet group to port.

It has not yet been confirmed precisely when the transoceanic race to Martinique via a turn at the Cape Verde islands will resume, as the imminence in the Bay of Biscay of Storm Ciaran is currently dictating events and timing.

Tracker here

Published in Class40

A record-breaking fleet of 95 boats, which is set to start the 16th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre double-handed race from Le Havre to Martinique, is set to encounter very robust conditions as they leave the English Channel from Sunday afternoon and on the Bay of Biscay Tuesday and Wednesday.

Included in the fleet is Irishwoman Pamela Lee of Greystones Harbour who makes her debut as skipper with French sailor Tiphaine Ragueneau as Afloat reports here.

A boisterous late autumn passage across the Bay of Biscay has been part and parcel of the race since the first edition in 1993 when a pioneering group of five solo ORMA multihull skippers and eight solo IMOCA sailors raced to Carthagena in Columbia. Now, three big, successive low-pressure systems are set to challenge the 30th-anniversary fleet which races in four classes, 32m Ultim and 50ft Ocean 50 Multihulls and the 60ft IMOCA and 40ft Class 40 monohulls.

Class 40 Engie - DFDS - Brittany Ferries, skippers Pamela Lee before the Transat Jacques Vabre Photo: Team Cap pour EllesClass 40 Engie - DFDS - Brittany Ferries, skippers Pamela Lee before the Transat Jacques Vabre Photo: Team Cap pour Elles

To avoid Biscay and a potentially brutal passage of the notorious Cape Finisterre off the NW tip of Spain, Race Direction have today modified the course only for the 44 strong Class40 into two stages. After their start tomorrow at 1341hrs local time, the fleet will race directly to an intermediate finish line off Lorient where they will wait until the weather improves enough to complete a second stage to Martinique. Their result will be scored on aggregated time over the two legs.

For the record-sized IMOCA fleet of 40 boats, a last-minute announcement due to the bad weather has forced the cancellation of their Sunday start. The race is an essential qualifier which will contribute significantly towards qualification for next year’s 2024-5 Vendée Globe, which has an entry limited to 40 boats when there are presently 44 active projects seeking selection. This two-handed race to Martinique is followed by a return race to France, starting about 10 days later, which carries an even higher points and miles premium.

Due to medical reasons, one of the top hopes, French skipper Charlie Dalin, who won this race in 2017 in the IMOCA, will only start the race on his new Verdier-designed MACIF with his co-skipper Pascal Bidégorry before returning to the port, thereby satisfying a part of the Vendée Globe qualifying process.

From the remaining 39 strong IMOCA field, there are three most frequently tipped favourites. Jéremie Beyou raced the 2022 launched Manuard designed Charal with outstanding French ace Franck Cammas. Allrounder Cammas could extend his number of Transat Jacques Vabre wins to an unprecedented five, most recently triumphing in 2021 with Charles Caudrelier in the Ultim race on Maxi Edmond de Rothschild.

Defending champions on the course are Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière. They have a new boat in For People, from a new design partnership Koch-Finot Conq, which is relatively untested so far but won the Guyader Bermudes race earlier in the season. Their training time has been compromised as their boat needed time in the yard after additional strengthening was required.

The other dream team partnership, also on a new 2023 launch boat – a sistership to For People – is Yoann Richomme – twice winner of the solo Route du Rhum in Class 40 – who competes with Yann Eliès who is on his ninth Transat Jacques Vabre and who won in 2019 with Dalin. Their new Paprec Arkéa has shown great potential.

British skipper Sam Goodchild tops the IMOCA Globe Series rankings after a string of consistent third places on key races this season, racing has an excellent chance of topping the podium, potentially delivering a first British win in the modern era of the IMOCA class, on For The Planet, the boat which won the race to Martinique last year in the hands of Ruyant and Lagravière.

“I am not thinking about winning.” Goodchild emphasises, “ We will just go out and do our best and see what happens. There are 40 boats and although we have been up there since the start of this year but the new boats with experienced skippers are always at the front.”

Goodchild starts his seventh Transat Jacques Vabre, he highlights “We are well prepared. I want to get a good result and the first part of the year has now put the pressure on a bit because we want to keep on doing what we have been doing but it is obviously all about Vendée Globe qualification. We have to do all that we can. And if we don’t break anything, we will be fine. We do this to race but just because we have a well proven boat nothing is a given. When we turned up at TR Racing to take on the boat the first thing they said was ‘Just because this boat has finished one Vendée Globe it does not mean to say it will finish another!” So we are going to have fun on this Transat but we are not going out saying we have finished third in the races so far, so we have to finish third again. We will just try to sail tidily and not make too many mistakes and see where we are at the line.”

There are nine IMOCAs from outside of France set to compete, including two boats skippered by German sailors, including Boris Herrmann sailing with Brit Will Harris on Team Malizia. Three Swiss IMOCAs are in the fleet, including Justine Mettraux racing with Juilen Villion on Teamwork.Net, Alan Roura and Simon Koster on Hublot and Oliver Heer and Nils Palmieri on Oliver Heer Ocean Racing.

Britain are strongly represented with Sam Davies and Jack Boutell on Initiatives Coeur, a duo well capable of finishing on the podium, whilst Medallia sailed by Pip Hare and Nick Bubb are focused on learning their boat since winter modifications and enhancing Hare’s Vendée Globe qualification standings. Asia are well represented with Jingkun Xu – who lost his left arm at the elbow at the age of 12 – racing with veteran Brit Mike Golding, and Japan’s Kojiro Shiraishi on DMG MORI.

All four classes race different courses with the objective that they should arrive in Martinique around the same time.

The Ultim fleet race down into the South Atlantic to Ascension Island, a total of 7,500 nautical miles. Theirs is expected to be the closest race yet between these foiling giants capable of sustained speeds in excess of 40kts. Although Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, Charles Caudrelier and Erwan Israel, sail the Verdier design, which has been dominant in ocean races for three years, Banque Populaire sailed by Armel le Cléach and Seb Josse have just won a 24-hour offshore and could break the Maxi Edmond do Rothschild monopoly.

The favourite in Class 40 is the Italian-flagged Alla Grande Pirelli.

It has been a remarkable week for Irish sailing, with our clubs last weekend managing to get in the complete programme of Autumn League racing despite being close in on the tail end of Storm Babet. Meanwhile, Eve McMahon confirmed her Gold in the ILCA 6 U21 Worlds in Morocco. And on the other side of the world, the Irish Ruffian 23 Class won the Golden Jubilee International Inter-Port Series in Hong Kong.

As well, every sailing enthusiast’s thoughts will have been returning now and again to dedicated solo star Tom Dolan’s potentially stressful time in Greystones, as he patiently waits for the volatile weather to develop enough of a regular pattern of the right kind to make a Figaro 3 Round Ireland Record challenge a viable proposition.

GORDON MAGUIRE’S CLASS WIN IN MIDDLE SEA

But meanwhile in Malta, the presence on board of Gordon Maguire as tactician can only have been helpful on Max Klink’s all-conquering Botin 52 Caro in winning Class 2 in the difficult Rolex Middle Sea Race, another gong to add to her collection, which already includes the overall win in the Fastnet Race 2023.

We’ll reflect on that in due course this morning, but tomorrow (Sunday’s) start of the 30th Anniversary Transat Jacques Vabre is top of the bill, with Greystones offshore star Pamela Lee at the heart of it co-skippering in the highly-competitive two-handed Class 40.

Remember that number 154 – we hope to see and hear a lot more of it in the days and weeks aheadRemember that number 154 – we hope to see and hear a lot more of it in the days and weeks ahead

While many of the offshore racing majors in which the French have made themselves specialists start from the ports with a holiday flavour on or near the Atlantic coast, one of the biggest, the Transat JacquesVabre - which is now raced to Martinique via a turn at the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa - was first sailed in 1993 as a solo event. And it started far eastward along La Manche, at the rather workaday port of Le Havre in Normandy, which was important for the sponsor’s leading position in the coffee trade.

SAILING’S SPECTATOR APPEAL FOR THE FRENCH

With the very Autumnal starting time, this start location has often meant that the toughest part of the race has simply been being getting clear of what the rest of us know as the English Channel, as it funnels in the seasonal westerly gales. Yet if anything, the prospect of instant challenge and possible – indeed probable – mayhem in the first stage was undoubtedly - in its early days - one of the event’s slightly ghoulish attractions, and crowds of many thousands from all over France flocked to the coast at Le Havre in the manner of a people unaccustomed to the sea as an everyday part of their life.

A workaday port transformed – one of the docks at Le Havre in TJV Week.A workaday port transformed – one of the docks at Le Havre in TJV Week

In other words, so many people in France think of the sea as something so odd and mysterious that they cherish any visit to it, particularly when there’s a potential spectacle and a crash or two involved. But in Ireland by contrast, everyone lives at or within easy distance of the sea, and maritime disasters are almost a historical familiarity.

BRAY AIR SHOW OUR BEST COASTAL CROWD-PULLER

Thus anything which will draw them in crowds to the coast here has to be very special indeed, and the great irony is that the best spectator-attended coastal event in Ireland is the Bray Air Show.

In France by contrast, it was reckoned that a gale-plagued start to an early Transat Jacques Vabre attracted more than half a million visitors from the very deepest rural depths of France to the unfamiliar clifftop viewing points near Le Havre.

A few days after the racers had battered their way westward, the word came back from some village in the middle of nowhere that two of its citizens – making their first ever seaside visit, and unaccustomed to sea-coast hazards – had failed to return. Sadly, their bodies were eventually found at the foot of the cliffs.

DEMANDS OF IN-PORT RACE VILLAGE

Despite that, Irish interest gradually grew over the years, and in 2019 Ireland’s first female co-skipper in the TJV, Joan Mulloy of Westport, raced with the distinctly vintage Imoca 4MyPlanet.

Nowadays, with the fleet obliged to be in port in the Race Village for a week beforehand, public interest has become much more savvy and the top sailors have a large and extremely well-informed fan base to which they have to be readily available, informative and maybe even friendly.

With the start of a very daunting sailing challenge coming ever closer, it’s wouldn’t be every skipper’s preferred way of spending the count-down, and so the superstars can ration their appearances. But the fact is that the keen fans for this year’s TJV have been going into the village in Le Havre seeking a sense of involvement and a share of stardust ever since it opened in the rain on Monday, and by this morning it will be jammed just as the sailors might hope to have a moment of peace to themselves.

LE HAVRE’S SAILING GREATNESS EXPRESSED THROUGH JOLIE BRISE

For those of us with a broader view of offshore racing history, Le Havre is equally important as the birthplace in 1913 of the sailing pilot cutter Jolie Brise.

By 1917, the acceleration of maritime technology thanks to World War I meant that every port’s superb sailing pilot boats were being rapidly replaced by steam or diesel-powered motor-craft. But back in 1913, although the leading cutter-building Albert Paumelle Yard in Le Havre were already aware of the developing change, they reckoned the sailing designs of 33-year-old Alexander Paris had reached such a peak of perfection that his best creation could still be profitable in this increasingly demanding pilotage trade.

The 1913-built 56ft Pilot Cutter Jolie Brise, long-lived symbol of Le Havre’s maritime heritageThe 1913-built 56ft Pilot Cutter Jolie Brise, long-lived symbol of Le Havre’s maritime heritage

Thus the 56ft Jolie Brise was born. Yet while she was indeed the ultimate expression of the type, by 1917 she’d been displacd by steamboats, and reduced to the humble role of a fishing boat with only limited success, such that by the early 1920s her very future was in doubt.

THE SAVING OF JOLIE BRISE

But miraculously she was snapped up in 1923 and restored as a rugged yacht by George Martin, who was one of those promoting the idea of the Fastnet Race. And when the first Fastnet was sailed in 1925 with a fleet of seven including Harry Donegan’s Gull from Cork, Jolie Brise took line honours and the overall win to begin spreading her reputation – which has increased over years of offshore success - of being the greatest seagoing gaff cutter ever built.

Harry Donegan’s Gull from Cork was one of the boats making history with Jolie Brise in the first Fastnet Race in 1925. Having led at one stage, she was third at the finish. Photo RCYCHarry Donegan’s Gull from Cork was one of the boats making history with Jolie Brise in the first Fastnet Race in 1925. Having led at one stage, she was third at the finish. Photo RCYC

Today, she is well preserved and actively used by Dauntsey’s School in England in their sea training programme, looking better than ever in her 110th anniversary year. And she’s very much in mind to be the Star of the Show at the Centenary Fastnet race in 2025, with her every handsom line a reminder to us that Le Havre is a sacred place for those who appreciate the remoter depths of offshore racing history.

PRE-RACE TENSION IN LE HAVRE

But today in Le Havre, thinking of Jolie Brise would only be an escapist move for the crews in the final stages of mental preparation, as there’s a lot at stake and they’re relying on a break in the weather and fast progress southwards once they’ve got west of France, as some forecasts are suggesting there might be a depression with central pressure as low as 950 to the west of Ireland by the middle of next week.

The three courses to be sailed by different classes in the 90-plus fleet in the TJV 2023. Getting out of the English Channel may well be the greatest challenge of allThe three courses to be sailed by different classes in the 90-plus fleet in the TJV 2023. Getting out of the English Channel may well be the greatest challenge of all

The 16th edition tomorrow (Sunday) of the Transat Jacques Vabre will bring 95 boats divided into four classes to the start line off Le Havre. In addition to the 44 Class40s (Pamela Lee & Tiphanie Ragenau’s class), there are five Ultim trimarans, six Ocean Fiftys and 40 Imoca60s. Among the skippers, 77 are rookies and 18 are women. For the Class40s – the largest category – the route consists of 4,600 miles of navigation along the great circle, with that obligatory passage in the Cape Verde archipelago, keeping the island of Sal on the starboard side.

Each class has a diversified southbound route: the Ultims will sail for 7,500 miles, the Ocean Fiftys for 5,800, and the Imocas for 5,400. The goal is to coordinate the arrival between the different classes, scheduled from November 12 in Martinique. There are 14 nationalities represented, and Italy accounts for the lion’s share from outside France, with as many as six sailors, including five in Class40 and one in the Imoca class.

LEE’S MULTIPLE ATLANTIC CROSSING

Pamela Lee started her sailing as a child with her father, the renowned Norman Lee who has played a key role in the development of sailing in Greystones. Her enthusiasm and enjoyment in the sport is such that despite being a law graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, sailing at the top level is now her life at age 35. And though she and Catherine Hunt established an impressive new two-handed Round Ireland record with the Beneteau Figaro 3 Maigenta in October 2020 to add to a victory in the sailing Tour of Italy, it is the deep-sea long distance challenges which most appeals to her, and she at least ten Atlantic crossings in a variety of high performance boats to her credit.

Pamela Lee’s father Norman, one of the leading developers of Greystones sailing. Photo: W M NixonPamela Lee’s father Norman, one of the leading developers of Greystones sailing. Photo: W M Nixon

She was selected for this race as a standout candidate in the Cap Pour Elles initiative to encourage and empower women in ocean racing, and the CPE’s “Godmother”, France’s celebrity International Football Referee Stephanie Frappart, has been active in her personal interest and active support of the campaign

Pamela Lee (right) in Le Havre on the Class40 with co-skipper Tiphanie Ragenau and France’s celebrity first female International Football Referee Stephanie Rappart in Le Havre. Photo: Team Cap Pour EllesPamela Lee (right) in Le Havre on the Class40 with co-skipper Tiphanie Ragenau and France’s celebrity first female International Football Referee Stephanie Rappart in Le Havre. Photo: Team Cap Pour Elles

TRAINING TOGETHER FOR SIX MONTHS

Lee and Ragenau have now been busy training together for six months, yet as regular readers of Afloat.ie will be well aware, she has also found the time to get the support of Brittany Ferries as lead sponsor, something which - from an Irish-French perspective - looks to be a very neat fit.

But this (Saturday) morning, with just 26 hours to the start, we’re into peak pressure. Back in the day when we used to bring our own boat to the line for the start of the Round Ireland Line, the goldfish-bowl feeling in the natural ampitheatre of the start area off Wickow Harbour became so demanding that I used to wish that the race would start at night, with the boats being sent off individually at one minute intervals.

Record-breaking sailing – Pamela Lee on track with the Figar 3 for the Round Ireland Two-Handed record in 2020Record-breaking sailing – Pamela Lee on track with the Figar 3 for the Round Ireland Two-Handed record in 2020

Yet the Round Ireland start is a relaxed affair compared to the hugely-publicised start of the Transat Jacque Vabre off Le Havre. But at least it does have the effect that the challenge of battering your way down channel to turn south out to the west of Ouessant (or Ushant if you prefer) comes as something of a relief. We wish them well.

MAGUIRE MAGIC

When Max Klink’s sparkling new Botin 52 Caro first appeared among the TP52s at Hamilton Island Race Week in northeast Australia in August 2022, it was the cat among the pigeons. Built in New Zealand by a team led wizard boat creator Mark Downey (who used to race whenever he could with friend and client Roy Dickson of Howth in Cracklin’ Rosie and Rosie), Caro was rightly seen as a threat to the established, and she succeeded in giving the Australian TP52 class a knockout punch from which it is still reeling, as she raised performance to an entirely new level.

A scary sight - for the opposition. Caro developing full power in a four-sail reach in a lot of windA scary sight - for the opposition. Caro developing full power in a four-sail reach in a lot of wind

Among those bested was Gordon Maguire at the helm of the previously all-conquering Ichi Ban owned by Matt Allen. So with Ichi Ban taking leave of absence after the Hamilton Island Experience, it was only a matter of time before Maguire appeared on the roster of hyper-talent aboard Caro.

The first really public manifestation of this dream team came in Valette in Malta a week ago, when he sailed out to do the Rolex Middle Sea Race as tactician aboard Caro, knowing that it would be a resumption of the battle against American Chris Sheehan’s TP 52 Warrior Won aboard which Don Street of Glandore’s grandson Dylan Vogel is a regular crewman.

Warrior Won put up a gallant fight in a decidedly rough and varied 609-mile race, and at the west end of Sicily and heading south for Lampedusa, she was two miles ahead. But it was almost painful to watch the way each tracker fix showed that Caro was remorselessly closing the gap, and by the finish she had won Class 2 from Warrior Won by three-and-a-half from Warrior Won on CT, as Warrior had slipped back to fourth.

It was a race for the biggest and the smallest boats, as the Wally 93 Bulitt – with Jamie McWilliam on the crew – won by just 24 seconds overall from the Sun Fast 3300 Red Ruby, which is good news for the Kinsale Sun Fast 3300 Cinnamon Girl team of Cian McCarthy & Sam Hunt, heading to Sydney for a Sun Fast 3300 campaign in the Hobart Race.

The Sun Fast 3300 Red Ruby (Justin & Christine Wolfe) was pipped at the post for the overall win in the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2023. Photo: Paul WyethThe Sun Fast 3300 Red Ruby (Justin & Christine Wolfe) was pipped at the post for the overall win in the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2023. Photo: Paul Wyeth

Meanwhile the two other boats of Irish and Irish Sea interest – Conor Doyle’s xP50 Freya from Kinsale and the Hall family’s J/125 Jacknife from Pwllheli – seemed to be glued together on the time sheets throughout the race, as Jackknife finished fourth in IRC 4 some 37 minutes ahead of Freya in fifth.

First in Class 4 was the Podesta family’s souped-up First 45 Elusive II, originally brought to the Mediterranean by the late John Sisk, and no stranger to silverware in offshore racing ever since, including a Middle Sea overall win.

But all that is now in the record books. This weekend, world sailing’s attention is swinging toward Le Havre.

It isn’t always a rough start – the Transat Jacques Vabre 2021 got going in very manageable conditions.It isn’t always a rough start – the Transat Jacques Vabre 2021 got going in very manageable conditions

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

Irish offshore racer Pamela Lee is gearing up to take on the challenge of the Transat Jacques Vabre double-handed race to Martinique, just two years after her first experience sailing a Class40. Lee will join French co-skipper Tiphanie Rageneau in the 44-strong Class40 fleet for the 4,500-nautical-mile race, thanks to the race's Cap Pour Elles initiative. This programme fast-tracks the skills of women in ocean racing, inspiring and empowering more women and girls to become involved in the sport.

Lee was selected for the race after being identified as a standout candidate, with ten Transatlantic passages already under her belt. She is now setting her sights on racing a Class 40 solo on the 2026 Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe. The Cap Pour Elles initiative provides a chartered, competitive Class40 to the selected duo to race, supported by a coaching and mentoring programme, and some initial funding to compete in early training events. However, the chosen pair needs to find a big proportion of the remaining budget, which has proven to be one of the biggest challenges.

Lee, a 35-year-old law graduate from Greystones south of Dublin, said, "This feels very much like the first step on the objective Route du Rhum 2026 and beyond. But right now, I just really want to deliver for the sponsors on this. I want to make sure they want to do it again, and that means, one, getting the boat to the finish safely, and two, doing some great comms, delivering all I can."

Lee and Rageneau have formed a strong partnership after six months of training together. They complement each other's skills, with Lee bringing more offshore experience and Rageneau excelling in match racing. While their budget is relatively modest compared with the top Class40 teams, their project's nature and their own popularity mean they have strong support from the sailing community and friends.

Class 40 Engie - DFDS - Brittany Ferries, skipper Pamela Lee Photo: Team Cap pour EllesClass 40 Engie - DFDS - Brittany Ferries, skipper Pamela Lee Photo: Team Cap pour Elles

Lee is determined to deliver a complete package, not just on the racecourse but also for their sponsors. "At home, there is good interest now, especially after the sponsorship was announced. There was a lot more interest, especially as I am the first Irish female skipper to compete," she added.

Today, Lee and Rageneau officially 'baptized' their boat at the Ponton d'Honor at the heart of the huge race village. Lee said, "Before that, I had only done the Figaro stuff, and so that was my first big start experience two years ago. So, yes, it's a pinch myself moment."

Lee had initially set her sights on representing Ireland in the proposed 2024 Olympic offshore double-handed event, which was scuttled before it gained enough traction with the IOC. However, helping prep in the Figaro one-design class in France gave her a real taste for the French ocean racing scene. She prepped a season for Brit Alan Roberts, who races in the IMOCA with Clarisse Crémer, and since then, she has worked tirelessly to get a toe on the ladder. Dream to reality in two hard years, Ireland's Pamela Lee ready for the Transat Jacques Vabre challenge

It was only two years ago that Irish offshore racer Pam Lee really had her first experience sailing a Class40 when she helped deliver a friend’s boat to Le Havre for the 2021 Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre. But next Sunday, largely thanks to the race’s Cap Pour Elles initiative, she will take her place alongside French female co-skipper Tiphanie Rageneau in the 44 strong Class40 fleet to take on the 4500 nautical miles double-handed race to Martinique.

It is some years since Lee, a 35-year-old law graduate from Greystones south of Dublin, set her sights on competing in the pinnacle French events on solo on short-handed ocean racing, but being selected to by the race to sail with her 30-year-old French counterpart Ragenau – a vet – has given her an excellent initial stepping stone on the pathway to her next goal, racing a Class 40 solo on the 2026 Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe.

The race’s Cap pour Elles initiative is designed to fast track the skills of women in ocean racing whilst at the same time inspiring and empowering more women and girls to become involved and to advance in the sport. Lee’s attributes, skills and ocean miles stood out – this will be her tenth Transatlantic passage but her first race across the Atlantic.

Cap pour Elles provides a chartered, competitive Class40 to the selected duo to race, supported by a coaching and mentoring programme, and some initial funding to compete in early training events. But the chosen pair need to find a big proportion of the remaining budget. That has proven one of the biggest challenges. Indeed it was only six weeks or so ago a that they finalised the support of ENGIE and DFDS and Brittany Ferries.

And so today (Monday) was a big day as the duo officially ‘baptised’ their boat at the Ponton d’Honor at the heart of the huge race village. “I did not even come here as a preparateur last time, I was very much on the outside. I had never even been to a big race start before. Before that I had only done the Figaro stuff and so that was my first big start experience two years ago.” She recalls, “ So this feels amazing. And it was here that I was introduced me to Antoine Carpentier (who won the 2021 race) and that set me on this pathway as I did the delivery back from the TJV (on Carpentier’s winning Redman) and that was my first real real experience on a Class40. I was already set on doing a Class40 programme and being here in 2023 really locked it in. So, yes, it’s a pinch myself moment.”

Historically Lee had initially set her sights on representing Ireland in the proposed 2024 Olympic offshore double handed event which was scuttled before it gained enough traction with the IOC. Helping prep in the Figaro one design class in France gave her a real taste for the French ocean racing scene – she prepped a season for Brit Alan Roberts who races in the IMOCA with Clarisse Crémer – and since then has worked tirelessly to get a toe on the ladder.

She is determined to make sure they deliver a complete package, not just on the race course but for their sponsors, “This feels very much like the first step on the objective Route du Rhum 2026 and beyond. But right now I just really want to deliver for the sponsors on this. I want to make sure they want to do it again and that means 1, getting the boat to the finish safely and 2, doing some great comms, delivering all I can. At home there is good interest now especially efter the sponsorship was announced there was a lot more interest, especially as I am the first Irish female skipper (ed note Joanne Mulloy has done it as a co-skipper with Alexia Barrier) to compete.”

And after six months together they have formed a strong partnership, “Our skills are complementary, yes. I have more experience offshore and she has been in match racing but Tiph is super intelligent and really works hard. She likes the tactical side of racing and that allows me to do the big picture, ocean racing kind of stuff.”

And while their budget is relatively modest compared with the top Class40 teams the nature of their project and their own popularity means they have strong support from the sailing community and friends, she enthuses, “There is such a good feeling around the project everyone wants to help out, we have a lot of friends who are helping too. And we have a lot of really nice technical partners, like Bollé and Musto for example”.

The duo have sought out the help of female French ace Karine Fauconnier – who won the race in 2007 in the Multi 50 and has also served as a race winning weather router – to advise pre-race on weather strategy. On the water their main focus is on sailing cleanly and not making silly mistakes, Lee maintains. “The aim is to sail with the pack and sail fast and don’t make silly mistakes. It is the mistakes that cost you. We can sail fast enough I think but the mistakes mount up, you get stressed, you get tired. And the start is so important, keeping the stress as low as possible. We have tricky navigation. We have current, we have the boats, we have shipping, so the first few days are about sailing the boat safely, sailing nicely and sailing smart.”

She concludes, “One of the things I love most about ocean racing is being on the start line with some of the most experienced sailors and racing on equal terms, racing against your heroes. So being here now in the same race as Sam Davies, who has been a hero of mine for years, Justine Mettraux who has done great things in ocean racing recently and Isabelle Joshcke who I followed on the Vendée Globe on the one hand is a reminder of how far I have come but also it makes what they have done seem a little more attainable. But also I kind of hope that maybe there are some girls out there who see what we are doing and it makes it all seem a little more attainable. That is so important.”

Tagged under

Irish offshore sailor Pamela Lee and French co-skipper Tiphaine Ragueneau, who together won the ‘Cap pour Elles’ program which gives a female duo the chance to race the Transat Jacques Vabre as their first Transatlantic race, have landed the support of a major partner ENGIE. It follows an earlier sponsorship announcement of the ferry firm DFDS/Britanny Ferries

Lee (34 years old) and her French counterpart Tiphaine Ragueneau (30 years old), won the opportunity back in March and have been training, racing and preparing ever since. Even though they won the use of a competitive Class40 boat and are fully supported by the initiative, they were still lacking the final funding package to make sure they could compete.But now they will be able to race under the name of their boat: “ENGIE DFDS BRITTANY FERRIES”

The French industrial and energy group, ENGIE, will support Lee and Ragueneau, as they seek to complete the race from Le Havre to Martinique, as well as supporting the Cap pour Elles programme to increase female participation and empower women in sailing.“I am happy that ENGIE is supporting these two talented and determined young women in their transatlantic dream. All of our employees will be so proud to see the ENGIE colours flown by Pamela and Tiphaine in this legendary race. We wish them the very best of good luck!” says Claire Waysand, Deputy Managing Director of ENGIE and Vice-President of the ENGIE Foundation.

The duo have the support of two prestigious godmothers: international football referee Stéphanie Frappart and British sailor Sam Davies. The next key moment for the project will be the christening of the boat, ENGIE DFDS BRITTANY FERRIES, on Monday, October 23 at 2 p.m. in the Paul Vatine basin in Le Havre.

Pamela Lee is now in the final stages of preparing herself, her team and her boat for the marathon race predicted to take 20 days from Le Havre, France and arrives in MartiniquePamela Lee is now in the final stages of preparing herself, her team and her boat for the marathon race predicted to take 20 days from Le Havre, France and arrives in Martinique

Pamela Lee said “ENGIE’s support is particularly valuable. It allows us to approach our final preparation calmly and carefully. We know that ENGIE is very involved in diversity and feminization and we are proud to carry the colors of this company on our sails. For our part, thanks to their support, we can focus on achieving a sports performance as well as taking care of reliability and the technical aspects. We have been working for several weeks to sail in as many conditions as possible to be ready for the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre.”

Tagged under
Page 1 of 4

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago