With record-breaking times and speeds rarely seen in offshore races in these waters, the pair of “Ultim” class trimarans that completed the Rolex Fastnet Race this week are widely regarded as a marvel for completing the 695 nautical mile course in barely 1½ days.
By contrast, while the last of the entrants have passed the famous lighthouse off West Cork, dozens of starters are still on their final stage towards the finishing-line at Cherbourg up to six days later.
The overall winning monohull yacht, decided using the IRC rating system, has already been declared as Max Klink’s Caro, the Swiss 52-footer that included Ireland’s Cian Guilfoyle on the crew.
Ultimately, the Ultim’s and other multihulls are ineligible for the overall trophy, but are included as individual class entries. Though with speeds reached of 35 knots, they are considerably faster than anything else in the world of offshore sailing.
And it is exactly these speeds that Mayo’s Joan Mulloy is hoping to achieve with The Famous Project aiming for the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest lap of the planet in 2025.
The project is the brainchild of Alexia Barrier who asked Mulloy to become one of the core crew panel for the project after the pair raced two-handed in the Transatlantic Jacques Vabre in 2019.
She later asked Mulloy to be her reserve skipper for the epic Vendeé Globe single-handed race.
The west of Ireland sailor had been concentrating on developing her career in the single-handed Solitaire du Figaro circuit and the French breeding-ground for top transoceanic sailors.
Back then, there was great anticipation that the Olympic Games would include for Paris 2024 a mixed doubles offshore event that she would pair for with Dún Laoghaire’s Kenny Rumball.
Then, along with the news that the much anticipated event wouldn’t in fact proceed, the Covid pandemic broke out and she became pregnant.
“Outside my family, I had a very small subset of people I could ask but Sam Davies [a highly successful British transoceanic sailor] had all the knowledge of what is possible when pregnant.”
As the pandemic abated, Mulloy led an all-female expeditionary voyage from Iceland to Greenland for a Channel 4 documentary and while five-months pregnant with child number two.
“Covid made it massively complex but it made me realise that I could do more than racing – there was adventure too,” she said this week.
Shortly after this, now eight months pregnant, Barrier phoned her and said: “I want to do a Jules Verne Trophy attempt with an all-female crew – are you in?” Mulloy simply replied “yes” thinking it was a long-term ambition but then just a few months later Barrier was back with the news of their first major sponsor and a plan to begin preparations for the 2025 attempt.
The actual Jules Verne boat secured for The Famous Project is the current record holder that sailed as IDEC Sport under Francis Joyon and was formerly Banque Populaire. The record to beat is 40 days, 23 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds, considerably faster the than the 80-days time set in 1993.
A previous record-breaker was the late adventurer Steve Fossett, with Irish sailors Damian Foxall and Justin Slattery on board, but the trophy wasn’t awarded due to a dispute over the entry fees.
Barrier’s team have secured a smaller MOD70 trimaran to start training on before building up to the larger 30-metre Ultim which also requires considerable upgrade work. The team will undertake various races and shorter-distance record attempts in the build-up to the Jules Verne itself.
Greystones sailor Pamela Lee, another accomplished offshore sailor is also listed as a “preparateur” for the project but is also considered potential crew for the final line-up in two years’ time.
“A central tenet of the project is equality and education for women in the sport [of sailing] and that includes pay parity,” said Mulloy who sees a growing cohort of women sailing ably alongside the more established male professionals that dominate the leading big-boat events.