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San Francisco Bay Sailor Joins Ocean Race Sprint Cup Team Viva México

On Thursday, The Ocean Race VO65 team Viva México will start the third leg of The Ocean Race Sprint Cup. The team returns to competitive action after their 2021 participation in the inaugural edition of The Ocean Race Europe. Onboard now is an up-and-coming sailor with deep roots in the S.F. Bay sailing community, whom you should get to know.

San Francisco sailor Bérénice Charrez pictured above in the fluorescent green beanie.
© 2023 Jen Edney, Ocean Race On-Board Reporter

Presenting Bérénice Charrez, joining the Mexico team as a lettered scientist and sailor. During her PhD studies at UC Berkeley between 2018 and 2020, Charrez juggled the world of bioengineering, using microfluidic devices to develop organs-on-a-chip technology, with her passion for big, fast, elite sailing boats on San Francisco Bay. Training with the trimaran Paradox, a modified ORMA 60, she sailed along the coast from Baja to San Francisco, raced across the Pacific for the Transpac, and trained on the Bay in the winter. Charrez comments, “It was an unforgettable experience. The owner and the team were awesome, and crossing an ocean in 5 days at 28 knots average speed with a finish in the turquoise waters of Hawaii will stay forever ingrained in my memory.” Cruising by Alcatraz at 30 knots was terrific too, she says. “I would buy that boat if I could!”

Dropping the J2 as the VO65 sails off from Aarhus, Denmark, to The Hague, Netherlands, on June 8.
© 2023 Jen Edney, Ocean Race On-Board Reporter

In 2020, Charrez completed her PhD in biomedical engineering from UC Berkeley, developing tools to meet the urgent need to diminish the time and costs of the drug development pipeline. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, she saw the opportunity for her laboratory’s systems to rapidly predict cardiac risks associated with potential therapeutic drugs to help clinicians accelerate patients’ access to treatment.

While still a student, the Swiss born, resident American sailed the world over, but built her skills and dived deep into the sailing community all over the Bay. In Richmond, Charrez sailed with Smart Recruiter X40, a full carbon machine and one of the fastest boats on the water. They raced the 2019 Delta Ditch Run, which was fun — quite a highlight considering the 90 jibes performed along the course. Also in Richmond, she sailed on the J/125 Velvet Hammer for beer can races, offshore racing, and races to Vallejo and down the coast to Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.

Not having time to drop the J1 in the bag with increasing winds, we had to flake the heavy and wet sail in calmer conditions on the deck
© 2023 Jen Edney, Ocean Race On-Board Reporter

Elsewhere in California, Charrez has raced with legends like Loïck Peyron for the Newport Ensenada Race on an ORMA 60. During l’Hydroptere training with Jac Vincent and Alain Thébault, they reached top speeds of 42 knots!

Why this race, now? “It’s been a dream for at least 10 years now, ever since I got into big-boat sailing in Sydney, where all the stars were racing the Volvo Ocean Race. It seemed like the Sydney to Hobart race was a must in an Ocean Race sailor’s career, so I did three of them.” Being part of the Australian sailing community was essential to enter the elite Ocean Race network.

The following photos were taken by the Ocean Race On-Board Reporter, Jen Edney.

Despite the challenges of offshore racing, this woman is hooked. “Sleep is the biggest challenge to me. In the last leg, I slept probably eight hours in three days. I normally need my nine hours of good sleep, so the second day at sea with no sleep was quite hard,” she says. “But incredibly, the body gets used to it and keeps functioning. Interestingly, the less I sleep, the more I eat — probably around 3500 calories a day.”

I guess you could say Charrez has a need for speed, and a thing for multihulls. But you name it, she’s probably sailed it. Keep an eye out on The Ocean Race for Viva México’s progress — it’s incredible to see Bay Area sailors sailing big-time in the world. You can follow Bérénice on Instagram @berenicecharrez for regular updates.

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