Swiss skipper Justine Mettraux (Teamwork.net) took seventh place in the IMOCA class when she crossed the finish line of the 12th Route du Rhum at 02:41:35 local time. Racing on her first ever Route du Rhum, Mettraux, 35, is the both the first non-French and the first female skipper to finish in the 38-boat IMOCA class.
Her elapsed time for the 3542 miles course from Saint Malo to Guadeloupe is 12 days 13hrs 26min 35sec. She finished 19 hours 50 minutes and 10 seconds after the IMOCA race winner Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut).
On her first big solo transoceanic IMOCA race Mettraux, who sails the well optimised VPLP-designed former Charal, has been with the leading group of boats since Cape Finisterre. She went furthest west at the Azores, passing between the islands, and remained seventh since then, other than briefly overtaking Maxime Sorel for sixth whilst the skipper of V&B Mayenne had autopilot problems.
The multi-talented Mettraux has graduated to the IMOCA from lake and inshore multihull racing and the Figaro class – where she finished seventh in 2017 and eleventh in 2018. She raced the The Ocean Race with Team SCA in 2014-15 and in the last two years has sailed thousands of training and racing miles on the IMOCAs of 11th Hour Racing with whom she will shortly race The Ocean Race 2017-18.
Welcomed into the dock at Pointe-à-Pitre’s Memorial ACTe at just before midnight local time by a strong Swiss contingent of family and friends, Mettraux looked tired after negotiating some big torrential rain squalls interspersed with light winds during the final miles round the island.
“I am pretty broken right now,” Mettraux declared. “Now I know why everyone talks about the end of this race. This is one of the biggest races you can do with a big story attached to it and even this time you hear about all the stuff that happens, people being rescued, there is a lot of history behind it and this one adds to it. I think the first bit with the fronts was pretty much what I expected but the second half was harder, tougher, in the trade winds.”
As first female Mettraux leads an exceptional performance by three women of the four women who started in the IMOCA class, Isabel Joschke (MACSF) is lying in ninth and due to finish early Tuesday morning and Britain’s tenth placed Pip Hare (Medallia) should be in early afternoon.
Her seventh place is all the more impressive given that she has only had three months of solo preparation with Jérémie Beyou’s former boat while training under the umbrella of his Beyou Racing.
“I’m pleased with my result,” she said. “I haven’t had much solo experience on an IMOCA. I’m a bit frustrated about the end of the race, as I don’t think I sailed as well during the downwind stretch. The outcome is very positive, although I can see I still have work to do to make progress and be up with the lads in front, but it’s extremely encouraging.”
Her success today will compensate for disappointment on last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre when she and co-skipper Simon Fisher lost their mast off the NW of Spain.
“I was thinking about that a lot, when you are sailing on your own and the conditions are the same, then you can’t help yourself,” she said.