© Harry KH

by 11th Hour Racing

Three intense days after setting off on their first double-handed race, 11th Hour Racing Team’s Simon ‘Sifi’ Fisher (GBR) and Justine Mettraux (SUI) have crossed the finish line of the Rolex Fastnet Race taking third place in the IMOCA 60 class. 

It was a nail-biting final few hours to the race as 11th Hour Racing Team were neck-and-neck with Charal on the approach to Cherbourg, with the French team snatching second place by just one minute. Taking the top spot on the podium was Team Apivia, who won the IMOCA Class race with an impressive lead at the head of the 13-strong fleet, finishing more than six hours earlier.

A tired, but happy, Justine Mettraux spoke to the shore crew moments after crossing the finish line: “It was a really good race, lots of hard work, but this result makes it worth it! We are super happy to finish with this third place in our first race as a double-handed team. Being up there at the front with the strongest teams in the Class is definitely an achievement for the two of us.”

“We had a tricky start, with heavy winds of up to 35 knots for the first 24 hours, which led us to play it safe and lagging behind at the beginning. But once we made it out of the Solent, we could build up proper speed and a great routine onboard helped us push through until the very end in this super close battle with Charal!”

This year’s 49th edition of the race started on August 8, in Cowes, the British home of yachting, with the fleet rounding the iconic Fastnet Rock off southern Ireland before making a loop back east. For the first time since the inaugural edition in 1925, the Rolex Fastnet Race finished in the French offshore hub of Cherbourg instead of its traditional final destination of Plymouth in the United Kingdom. This change extended the course to a total of 695 nautical miles (800 miles or 1,300 kilometers) and added another level of difficulty as the teams had to negotiate the traffic and tides of the English Channel.

‘Sifi’, who has competed in the Rolex Fastnet Race multiple times since 2001 in crewed set-ups, ran through the key moments of his first race alongside Justine: “What a race! It’s a great achievement for us as a team, and I am really proud of this result in our first competitive race together. The bumpy start was definitely exhausting, and we had more wind than we would have wished for in a first race together! But it was also a great learning experience as we build up to the Transat Jacques Vabre.

“Neither Justine or I have ever done this race double-handed and we knew we had to learn quickly how to efficiently manage our energy, to be able to push hard when it really mattered. We had a really good race on our hands with Arkéa Paprec, and eventually were able to pass them, and we fought Charal all the way to the finish line. It’s been a good first race for us both and we are now looking forward to the Défi Azimut next month.”

Before taking on the Rolex Fastnet Race, Sifi and Justine got solid practice on 11th Hour Racing Team’s IMOCA 60 ‘11.1’, competing in The Ocean Race Europe earlier this year alongside skipper Charlie Enright (USA), Navigator Pascal Bidégorry (FRA) and media crewmember, Amory Ross (USA). The duo then spent a little over a week training in the Mediterranean, sailing from the event’s finish in Genoa, Italy back to France.

Switching into race mode is, however, a whole different story, as Sifi explained: “We are still getting to know this boat, and when things get hectic, tactical mistakes can happen. We learned that the hard way on start day, and it was not easy to get into radical maneuvers at first and be brave with the risks when you are only two crew members. It’s definitely a new challenge to race double-handed, a wonderful adventure, and a fresh start – I look forward to more! Now it’s time to sail home though and rest up a little.” 

After passing the finish line in Cherbourg, Justine and SiFi are now on their way back to the 11th Hour Racing Team base in Concarneau, Brittany. After a few well-deserved days off, the duo will then get back on the water for the upcoming Défi Azimut, starting on September 15 in Lorient, France.

Alongside Justine Mettraux and Simon Fisher, there will be a second double-handed crew representing 11th Hour Racing Team. Co-skippered by Charlie Enright and Pascal Bidégorry, the Défi Azimut will be the debut race appearance for the Team’s brand-new IMOCA 60 ‘11.2’. 

Designed by Guillaume Verdier and built at CDK Technologies, the new boat blends sporting performance and sustainable innovation: read more about the project here.

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