Nathalie Criou is one of the top shorthanded sailors on the west coast of North America with a shorthanded race record in California going back 15 years. In 2014, she was second her division in the Single Handed Transpac sailing an Express 27, which helped her earn Yachtswoman-of-the-Year in 2014. In 2019, she switched it up a little and sailed her Figaro 2 ENVOLEÉ, with a crew of eight, in the Race to Alaska (R2AK). In that race they went by the name “Team Shut Up and Drive.” The R2AK race is unique in that no ratings are used and any human or wind-powered propulsion can be used. Here is how the race organizers described Criou:
“Nat is the team’s scrappy and resilient skipper. Sinking in the middle of the Pacific after a collision with a sperm whale did not diminish her appetite for the ocean, Cancer did not diminish her appetite for life, and suffering from chronic asthma did not prevent her from competing in events such as the Death Ride or Climb to Kaiser.”
This video clip shows how hardcore Nathalie Criou is. It is from the last part of the 2019 R2AK when she was battling it out for third place against the previous race winners, the all-woman team, SAIL LIKE A GIRL, sailing on a faster Melges 32. TEAM SHUT UP AND DRIVE needed to make up a 20-mile deficit after falling behind because of a tactical mistake. With a gale blowing 30 knots and more coming, Nat chose to make up time by heading out into Hecate Strait. She knew team SAIL LIKE A GIRL was playing it safe by taking a route in the protected waters between the coast and the islands on the east side of Hecate Strait. But she also knew her boat revels in heavy air running. As long as the crew could take it, she knew the boat would excel. Her tactical call paid off. TEAM SHUT UP AND DRIVE set a new record in the Race to Alaska by sailing 203 miles in a 24-hour period. By making speeds in the teens, her Figaro 2 went from being 20 miles behind Team SAIL LIKE A GIRL to 25 miles ahead when her team crossed the finish line in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Sailing into a gale to win a race is “Bad Ass.” It shows grit, skill, preparation, confidence, and terrific crew work. Stay tuned to UK Sailmakers next podcast in our series LESSONS LEARNED, which will be an interview with Nathalie Criou.