101: Elodie-Jane Mettraux, Team SCA

Episode 101 is sort of a hybrid conversation and essay, and you’ll see why right now. 

Mia and I got the chance to sail onboard Team SCA’s TP52 in New York Harbor last week (in fact I’m recording this the day after). Two of the girls who’d rotated off the crew roster for this leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, Sara Hastreiter and Elodie-Jean Mettraux came along, and I had a chance to chat with Elodie on the dock following the sail.

So what’s it like sailing a TP52 with some of the best women ocean sailors in the world? Pretty freaking awesome. Mia and I took the train up from Lancaster early in the morning on Wednesday, arriving at North Cove Marina, in the shadow of the new Freedom Tower. We met the team on the docks, and were introduced to the crew that run the TP52, one of SCA’s training boats (incidentally, they sold their VO70, formerly PUMA Ocean Racing, and now use the TP52 for these kinds of events). SCA is a Swedish company, and in fact the three guys running the TP52 were all Swedes, so Mia and I had a nice chat to speak her native language while we were out sailing.

There were a few other media folk there, including my friend Scott Neuman, who works for NPR, and did a ‘Morning Edition’ story with Sara and Elodie, which was supposed to have aired on Sunday, so google that if you’re interested. Scott in fact had a hand in getting us invited to the event, so big thanks to him.

My first impression on meeting Sara and Elodie were how fit they were. Both of them are taller than me, making them a good 6’1”-6’2”, and I’m pretty positive they could beat me in an arm wrestling match. In fact, after the sail was over, they were both off to the gym to get in some weight training before the afternoon sail. And super friendly. I’ve come to realize that the more I talk to people in the upper echelon’s of the sport, the more I realize how ‘normal’ everyone is. Mia and I reflected on how friendly everyone that works as a sailor is - they’re out there living their dreams, so why not?

Anyway, the three Swedes maneuvered the TP52 out into the current in the Hudson River, and we hoisted sail aiming towards the Statue of Liberty. I was offered the helm, and steered us south in sparkling sunshine and a light breeze from the NW. The helm is fingertip light, and the big carbon fiber boat reacted to the slightest breeze. I was taken aback frankly at how small it felt. I’d always thought those TP52’s were huge, big scary racing machines, but they sail like dinghies. 

Sara and Elodie had the awkward assignment of schmoozing with the media folk onboard while trying to pretend they were sailing the boat (which was mainly done by the Swedish crew so the girls could talk). They were both very friendly about the whole thing, awknowlegding that it’s part of the job, and a small price to pay to get such a cool opportunity to sail in the Volvo. it’s been 12 years since an all-female crew took part, and they realize how lucky they are. A few media chats is comparably easy.

We tacked around the harbor, the guests taking turns at the helm, Scott Neuman doing his NPR thing, and Mia and I mostly chatting with the Swedes. I had a chance to chat quietly with Elodie for a while on the beat back towards the city. Her sister is on the crew as well, and her 24-year-old brother is also a professional sailor hoping to do a Volvo one day himself. Elodie, at 30, is the older of the two sisters, and both of them are remarkably accomplished. Justine, the younger, took second in the mini-Trans-At, and holds the record for the fastest passage in that race by a female skipper. They’re from Geneva, in Switzerland, and speak with lovely French accents.

Back at the dock, I set up my recording gear and chatted with Elodie for ten minutes or so. It was very different than my normal podcasts. it felt rushed, it was windy, and it was strange being surrounded by so many other people. Billy Black, the renowned sailing photographer, was shooting us from over our shoulders while we spoke, so that made it even weirder. He’d been out on the chase boat that afternoon, and Mia and I had a chance to have lunch with him later that day. What a cool guy! He’s promised to come on the show one day too, so look forward to that.

Anyway, back to Elodie. I had a nice little chat with her which I’ll play for you now, but know that there is lots more to come. I had to cut off the ending because it got too windy, and there is some annoying wind noise throughout this short segment, but it’s worth listening to anyway. Elodie and Sara have both promised to do a longer chat with me after the Volvo concludes in Sweden in June, so there is more of this to come.

So good luck to the rest of the women on Team SCA, who expect to make it to Newport around May 7, and a huge thanks to the team for having Mia and I up to New York for what was a truly memorable day on the water. Thanks to Elodie and Sara for taking the time to chat with us, and I look forward to having them on the show again in the future! 

For now, enjoy a few minuted with Elodie Mettraux!

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Isbjorn, our classic Swan 48, at 59-north.com/offshore.