North Sails NEWS

7 OFFSHORE SAILORS YOU NEED TO KNOW

We’d like to introduce you to seven names we have our eye on right now

Sailing is a multi-faceted sport, but nothing matches the salt-sprayed challenge of racing offshore for days on end. Sailors willing to test their own limits (mentally and physically) often compete well away from the limelight, so we’d like to introduce you to seven sailors we’re watching right now—and will continue to watch.

Each of these seven came to offshore sailing for different reasons, which reminds us of the range of opportunities within this challenging and exciting sector of the sport. Keep your eye out for more on these guys and gals, both here and on their own platforms.

Justine “JuJu” Mettraux

📸 Amory Ross / 11th Hour Race Team

Justine, a Swiss native, hails from Lake Geneva but she’s got more offshore miles than most. Now living in Lorient, France, her backyard is one of the most prestigious bodies of water for offshore training.

In 2013, JuJu finished second, overall, in the Mini Transat. After this success, she (and her sister) rounded out the all-female squad on Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15. More recently, she helped Dongfeng win the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 becoming one of the first women to have their name on the trophy. This summer season she’s sailing as a co-skipper with Simon Fisher on 11th Hour Racing after having finished second in The Ocean Race Europe. Next up for the Swiss sensation? You won’t be too shocked– her dream is to sail the 2024 Vendée Globe.

To be honest, we’re not quite sure what impresses us more about Justine “JuJu” Mettraux– a CV that is enviable amongst the best in the sport or that she grew up in the mountains and is now out most in the sport . Who says you need to be sailing offshore before the age of five to be considered one of the most elite offshore sailors in the world right now? 

Francesca Clapcich and Jesse Fielding

Clapcich is a one-design champion who is quickly becoming a top female offshore sailor. Born in Italy, she represented her country at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics (Laser Radial and 49erFX crew). After Rio though she began to shift her attention and focus to the big blue. In the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, Francesca joined Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic team. From this moment on she hasn’t looked back. 

Francesca’s co-skipper is Jesse Fielding, an already established American offshore sailor. Jesse has been involved with some of the more well known offshore programs out there, including the Roy Disney (senior) project: Morning Light. After the Morning Light program, Jesse went back to school to graduate from the University of Rhode Island. He did a stint in finance in New York City but the sea continued to call his name; after a couple of months, Fielding hung up his suit and tie and put all his focus into his real dream: sailing around the world.

In 2020, when Francesca joined forces Jesse, they set their sights on becoming a strong American doublehanded team (Francesca emigrated to the United States in early 2020). This Italian/American duo have their own Beneteau Figaro 3s for this season’s solo races and then team up for the doublehanded events. Together, the two have gotten some pretty solid miles under their belts in the US and will soon start the infamous Solitaire du Figaro.

Conrad Colman

📸 Aiste Ridikaite/ Ambersail-2

Colman holds dual citizenship (NZL and USA), but he has lived in France for more than ten years as an important member of the offshore racing fraternity. As you can imagine, he’s not your average offshore sailor. Like the others, Colman has a bit of a unique backstory which includes a mountain biking business, a single backpack filled with his worldly possessions and a dream to sail solo around the world (ideally without fossil fuels).  

And so, in 2007, his offshore sailing career began. It was a bit wild to say the least, taking many opportunities that would leave any seasoned professional with their jaw resting comfortably on the ground. “Business consultants would call these years extreme team building but I’d lay awake at night, despite crushing fatigue, hoping it wouldn’t end in disaster,” Colman once said.

But, the risks of his youth (like saying yes to the Barcelona World Race five weeks before the start) led to some incredible adventures and (eventually) the realization of his dream. His three circumnavigations include winning the Class 40 doublehanded Global Ocean Race; completing the IMOCA doublehanded Barcelona World Race; and finishing the 2017 Vendée Globe sans fossil fuels. 

Probably one of the best words to summarize Colman is “resilient.” On the eve of his Vendee Globe finish, he dismasted—but instead of dropping out and starting his engine, he set up a jury rig, dug into his liferaft’s ration bag for sustenance, and pushed on. Colman sailed the remainder of the race under the jury rig and finished 16th overall. He is the first Kiwi to compete in (and now complete) the Vendée. 

Most recently, Conrad competed in The Ocean Race Europe as navigator for Ambersail

Clarisse Crémer

Crémer is a young french star who had the great opportunity and responsibility of being the Banque Populaire skipper for the 2020-21 Vendee Globe Race. She was a formidable race rookie who set a new solo female around the world record when she finished the race in 87 days 02 hours and 24 minutes. Her smart and sensible approach paid off, besting Ellen MacArthur’s 21-year monohull solo non-stop record for a female skipper of 94 days 4 hours which placed Ellen in second during the 2000-2001 Vendée Globe.

Born in Paris, Clarisse now lives in Brittany, where she first caught the sailing bug. If you had asked her ten years ago, even Clarisse might not have imagined her record-breaking finish. That’s because in 2013, she tacked away from a path in the business world, “quit her day job” (as they say), and headed to Brittany for her next adventure as an offshore sailor.

While the Vendée Globe put her on a world stage, Crémer has been building an impressive collection of podium finishes. She finished second in the 2017 Mini Transat, a race that opened her eyes to the incredible freedom of solo sailing. From there, she went on to participate in the circuit familiar to many young French sailors; Offshore French Youth Championships, Rolex Fastnet, Défi Azimut, and the Transat Jacques Vabre.

She recently helped LinkedOut finish third overall in The Ocean Race Europe and win both inshore races. 

Yann Riou

Riou is no stranger to our world. He is one of the industry’s most well-respected Onboard Reporters on the water these days. The age old saying goes “if it’s not on camera, did it even happen?” Well, Riou makes sure to prove “it” happened. As a result, the Frenchman has sailed around the world more than most, being a part of two winning Volvo Ocean Races and two World Record attempts. Riou is not fixed on around the world sailing though, also been onboard for several offshore record-breaking runs like Comanche’s dash across the Atlantic in 2016, an experience later showcased on CNN’s “Great Big Story.”

But, Yann is not just hired by these elite offshore sailing teams because he brings the world of offshore sailing to your laps, the man can also sail– and sail well. Yann can sail so well that he’s continuously included in around the world speed records. When racing for records offshore, a team can’t sacrifice weight so they need everyone to multi-task. Although he was limited to content creation during the Volvo Ocean Race, skippers feel confident with Yann’s onboard capabilities– the last thing a skipper wants when sailing offshore is a cameraman who doesn’t know port from starboard. Fortunately, Riou knows his stuff.  

Jean Le Cam

📸 Vendée Globe

Le Cam is affectionately known as Le Rio Jean (King Jean), a nickname he earned due to ruling the leaderboard during his Figaro days. Le Cam is a fan favorite known for his navigational prowess, colorful personality, and passion for sharing the experience with both sailors and the general public alike.

A fierce competitor, Le Cam holds stories that are the stuff of ocean racing legends. Four decades ago, he was onboard with Éric Tabarly, France’s best-known yachtsman, during the 1981 Whitbread Round the World Race. King Jean has completed the Vendée Globe five times and finished second to Vincent Riou in 2005. In addition, he won the Barcelona World Race in 2015, and finished fourth in the 2020-21 Vendée Globe. And while his CV is indisputably impressive, it’s the stories from the 2008 and 2020 Vendée Globe that will see this 61-year old around-the-world sailor into the history books.

In 2008, 58 days into the Vendée Globe, Le Cam’s Open 60 lost its keel bulb and capsized 200 miles from Cape Horn. Vincent Riou sailed his PRB back upwind to rescue Jean from a capsized boat. The dangerous and challenging rescue mission took Riou four attempts before safely recovering his fellow competitor. In 2021, King Jean returned the favor when he rescued PRB-sponsored Kevin Escoffier after Kevin’s boat folded in half amongst strong winds and big seas 840 nautical miles SW of Cape Town. In a post-recovery interview, Escoffier was quick to mention his confidence in Le Cam; “as soon as I had seen Jean, I was sure I would be saved.”

All together now: Yes We Cam! 

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