Interview: Alexia Barrier and her all-women crew set to embark on Jules Verne Trophy adventure

Alexia Barrier has turned her passion for the sea into a successful sailing and ocean advocacy career, founding an association for marine conservation and completing the Vendée Globe. Now, she’s preparing an all-women crew for the Jules Verne Trophy, demonstrating her commitment to self-challenge, gender equality, and ocean protection.

Navigator Alexia Barrier, born in 1979 in Paris, has always been drawn to the sea, fascinated by its vastness and the sense of freedom it offers. Growing up near the Mediterranean coast, she spent countless hours sailing with her family, which instilled a deep love for the ocean. She studied sports management at the Nice University of Sports, and in 2003, Alexia ventured into a professional sailing career, a journey that required immense courage and determination. Soon after, she created her association, 4MyPlanet, dedicated to scientific research and to create awareness about ocean protection. She has been an active entrepreneur in the Principality of Monaco since 2010 managing two companies and is a member of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Monaco. 

“I decided to pursue a career in sailing to push my limits and explore the world’s most remote and beautiful places,” Alexia Barrier told Monaco Life. “Sailing also allows me to connect with nature profoundly and challenge myself physically and mentally. My journey has been continuous learning and growth, and I’m excited to share this passion with others through the Famous Project, the conquest of the Jules Verne Trophy.

“Ocean conservation is more pressing than ever, and I am committed to making a difference.”

“My motivation to become a sailor stems from a deep-seated passion for adventure and exploration. The ocean is one of the last great frontiers on our planet, and sailing allows me to experience its majesty firsthand. Throughout my career, I aim to achieve several objectives: pushing the boundaries of what is possible in sailing, inspiring others to pursue their dreams regardless of obstacles, and contributing to urgent efforts to protect and preserve our oceans. Ocean conservation is more pressing than ever, and I am committed to making a difference.”

Alexia participated in the 2020-2021 Vendee Globe, a gruelling, solo, nonstop, and unassisted sailing trip worldwide that takes place every four years. She competed on board the fleet’s oldest boat and only secured sufficient funding just months before the start. She completed the race in a remarkable 111 days, 17 hours, and 03 minutes.

Looking ahead to the Jules Verne Trophy 

At the end of 2025, Alexia and a groundbreaking all-women crew will depart to compete in the Jules Verne Trophy (JVT). This competition is a prize for the fastest circumnavigation of the world by any yacht. There are no restrictions on the crew size; the only requirements are to register the vessel with the organisation and pay an entry fee. This historic expedition, led by a 100% female crew, is proof of the growing importance of establishing a level playing field in sailing.

The Famous Project vessel. Photo credit: Georgia Schofield The Famous Project

“Our training for the Jules Verne Trophy is rigorous and multifaceted,” reveals Alexia. “We focus on physical conditioning to ensure we have the strength and endurance needed for such a demanding journey, including cardiovascular training, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Additionally, we undergo extensive sailing drills and simulations to refine our skills and teamwork. We also practice emergency procedures and conduct regular drills to prepare for any situation at sea. Mental resilience is equally important, so we incorporate stress management and team-building exercises to foster a strong, cohesive crew.”

Hiring a crew for a successful ocean circumnavigation is not about just pure sailing techniques, it requires harmony, says the navigator, so members are selected according to their willingness, flexibility and ease of character. 

“The crew selection was a meticulous process. We sought individuals with exceptional sailing skills and the ability to work well in a team under pressure,” explains Alexia. “Our crew is a diverse group of women from various backgrounds, each bringing unique skills and experiences. They include seasoned sailors with records in competitive racing, oceanographers with a deep understanding of marine environments, and engineers who can manage and repair our vessel’s sophisticated systems. Together, they form a dynamic, resilient team ready to take on this challenge.”

Alexia’s 100% female crew’s record is significant: 12 circumnavigations, 54 transatlantic crossings, three transpacific crossings, 28 world records, and 16 championship titles. The accomplished squad members are:  Marie Riou – winner of the Volvo Ocean Race, Deborah Blair – a sailor on The Austrian Ocean Racing VO65, Marie Tabarly – skipper of Pen Duick VI, Joan Mulloy – from Figaro to Ocean Fifty, Elodie Jane Mettraux, – a great multihull specialist, Dee Caffari – co-skipper of Alexia and record holder around the world solo, Pamela Lee – Class40 skipper, and Ocean Fifty sailor and of course Alexia Barrier, captain of IDEC Sport.

The goal

Alexia and her crew planned to train on board the MOD70 Limosa, ex-Spindrift Mana, until the arrival of the IDEC Sport vessel, which would be used to circumnavigate the globe. 

“The IDEC Sport trimaran is a high-performance, three-hulled sailing vessel designed for speed and stability in open ocean conditions. The trimaran has advanced navigation and communication systems, lightweight yet durable materials, and powerful sails that harness the wind efficiently. Compared to the MOD70 Limosa, a slightly smaller and lighter high-speed trimaran, the IDEC Sport offers greater stability and can sustain higher speeds over long distances. The MOD70 Limosa, ex-Spindrift Mana, will serve as an excellent training platform, allowing us to familiarise ourselves with similar handling dynamics and team coordination required for the IDEC Sport.”

Alexia Barrier and her all-women crew. From left to right: Marie Riou, winner of the Volvo Ocean Race; Deborah Blair, sailor on The Austrian Ocean Racing VO65; Marie Tabarly, skipper of Pen Duick VI; Joan Mulloy, from Figaro to Ocean Fifty; Elodie Jane Mettraux, great multihull specialist; Dee Caffari, co-skipper of Alexia and record holder around the world solo; Alexia Barrier, captain of IDEC Sport; and Pamela Lee, Class40 skipper and Ocean Fifty sailor. Photo credit: JM Liot

The objective of the Jules Verne Trophy is to sail around the world in 80 or fewer days, starting from the strait of La-Manche towards the Cape of Good Hope, Africa, then through Cap Leeuwin in Australia, continuing to Cape Horn, South America, finishing the race in the strait of La-Manche, covering a total of 27,000 nautical miles. 

“The goals of the Famous Project are multifaceted,” says Alexia. “Primarily, we aim to break the speed record for sailing around the planet and win the Jules Verne Trophy with an all-female crew, demonstrating that women can excel in this high-stakes arena. Beyond that, we seek to inspire future generations of female sailors and promote gender equality in sports. We also aim to raise awareness about ocean conservation and protecting marine environments. Lastly, we hope to foster a sense of global unity and cooperation through our shared human endeavour.”

Funding the epic adventure

Sailing the high seas is a challenging and demanding experience. It is full of navigation hazards due to strong winds, rough seas, and heavy swells, which make it difficult to control the vessel.

“One of my most memorable experiences was navigating through a massive storm in the Mediterranean. The sheer power of the waves and wind was both terrifying and awe-inspiring. Despite the challenges, our crew worked seamlessly together, demonstrating incredible resilience and teamwork. Fortunately, thanks to our rigorous planning and equipment reliability, we have never been stranded at sea. However, it is better to be always prepared for any eventuality, and our training ensures we can confidently handle unexpected situations.”

Substantial financial subsidies are required for an epic adventure of the magnitude of the Jules Verne Trophy. Alexia counts on the support of several sponsors but looks forward to teaming up with other organisations to expand the project’s reach. 

“We are fortunate to have several committed sponsors who believe in the vision of the Famous Project: the CIC, Idec Group, Wipro, and Richard Mille. These include leading companies in the marine industry, technology firms, and organisations dedicated to promoting gender equality and environmental sustainability. However, we are always open to additional sponsorships. Partnering with more organisations will help us achieve our goals and expand the impact of our message and initiatives.”

Alexia, who assembled a cultural mix of the most accomplished women sailors for her Famous Project, aims to serve as an inspiration for young navigators wanting to venture into the high seas. 

“To all the young sailors: never let fear or doubt hold you back from pursuing your dreams. The ocean is vast and full of possibilities, as are your potential and capabilities. Embrace every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow. Believe in yourself, work hard, and surround yourself with supportive and inspiring people. Remember, the greatest adventures often come from stepping outside your comfort zone. Keep your eyes on the horizon and your spirit high.”

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Main photo: Alexia Barrier, credit Georgia Schofield TheFamousProject

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