Mini Transat: Zig-zagging to the turn
Published on October 3rd, 2017
(October 3, 2017; Day 3) – After two days of racing, the solo sailors in the Mini-Transat la Boulangère are still dawdling across the Bay of Biscay. The fleet is currently at the longitude of Gijón. The wet, westerly breezes of the initial hours of racing have now given way to blue skies, leaving the sailors only an asthmatic northerly wind to play with.
In the light airs, some sailors are trying to hoist spinnakers, or even the code 5, which is flatter and easier to set. Failing the wind on the stern, the Mini skippers are going to have to zigzag their way along in a quartering wind to make the north-west tip of Galicia. No long-term strategy is possible in these conditions so the focus must be on trying to keep up a bit of speed and to continue making headway.
In such an atmosphere, the latest generation boats are struggling to make a difference. Though Ian Lipinski (Griffon.fr) and Jörg Riechers (Lilienthal) are managing to contain the attacks from the most versatile boats, like that of Erwan Le Mené (Rousseau Clôtures) or Aurélien Poisson (TeamWork), others are really under pressure, like Simon Koster (Eight Cube Sersa) and Quentin Vlamynck (Arkema 3).
Simon has decided to bend his course southwards, the weather forecasts indicating a slight increase in the wind along the coast. Keni Piperol (Région Guadeloupe) and Antoine Cornic (Destination Île de Ré) are following suit.
In the production boat category, the favourites remain at the front of the pack. Rémi Aubrun (Alternative Sailing – Constructions du Belon) has got the better of Erwan le Draoulec (Emile Henry). Hot on their heels are Clarisse Crémer (TBS), Valentin Gauthier (Shaman – Banque du Léman) and Ambrogio Beccaria (Alla Grande Ambecco), in the vanguard of the ‘scow bows’.
To understand the pace being set by the leaders, just take a look at those bringing up the rear of the fleet. Indeed, Luca Sabiu (Vivere la Vela), victim of autopilot issues, and Marc Miro Rubio at the helm of his Pogo 1 Alfin are already over 45 miles astern. Right at the back, after having to return to La Rochelle after the start, Gwendal Pibot (Rossinante) could well have some company again in a few days’ time.
There are no major issues to report among the fleet in these mild conditions. Camille Taque (Foxsea Lady) has resolved her rig problems and managed to fix her keel, which had some play in it. Quentin Vlamynck has reported the failure of his masthead lights… With the exception of Matteo Rusticali, dockside in Royan after finally being towed by a trawler and then the lifeboat, everyone is still racing.
The head of the fleet is set to make the tip of Galicia in the early hours of tomorrow. From there, the skippers will have to make headway along the Costa da Morte, from the Sisargas Islands to Cape Finisterre. On the programme for the solo sailors, a sharp acceleration in the breeze from the north-east, which should propel the Minis southwards at high speed.
It will also be decision time, with the skippers having to choose between taking the inside track at the TSS of Cape Finisterre at the risk of suffering the effects of the wind shadow from the coast, or making westing and benefiting from a steadier, albeit meatier breeze. The Mini sailors have 24 hours to make their choices.
Ranking at 15:00 UTC
– 1 Rémi Aubrun – Alternative Sailing – Constructions du Belon – 1,106 miles from the finish
– 2 Erwan Le Draoulec – Emile Henry – 0.9 miles behind the leader
– 3 Clarisse Crémer – TBS – 2.7 miles behind the leader
– 4 Valentin Gauthier – Shaman – Banque du Léman – 4.1 miles behind the leader
– 5 Ambrogio Beccaria – Alla Grande Ambecco – 4.5 miles behind the leader
– 1 Erwan le Mené – Rousseau Clôtures – 1,091.4 from the finish
– 2 Ian Lipinski – Griffon.fr – 0.6 miles behind the leader
– 3 Jörg Riechers – Lilienthal – 5.1 miles behind the leader
– 4 Aurélien Poisson – TeamWork – 7.4 miles behind the leader
– 5 Charlotte Méry – Optigestion – Femmes de Bretagne – 8.5 miles behind the leader
· Sunday 1 October: Start of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère in La Rochelle, France
· 21st edition
· 4,050 miles to cover between La Rochelle – Las Palmas in Gran Canaria and Le Marin (Martinique)
· 81 skippers at the start
· 10 women
· 11 nationalities
· 20 years: age of the youngest skipper in the race: Erwan Le Draoulec
· 62 years: age of the oldest skipper in the race: Fred Guérin
· 25 prototypes
· 56 production boats
· 66 rookies
· 15 ‘repeat offenders’
With an overall length of 6.50m and a sail area pushed to the extreme at times, the Mini Class offers incredibly seaworthy boats. Subjected to rather draconian righting tests and equipped with reserve buoyancy making them unsinkable, the boats are capable of posting amazing performances in downwind conditions… most often to the detriment of comfort, which is rudimentary to say the least.
The Mini Transat has two legs to carry the fleet from La Rochelle, France to Martinique, West Indies. The leg from La Rochelle to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a perfect introduction to proceedings before taking the big transatlantic leap.
The first leg starts on October 1, with the fleet thrust into the Bay of Biscay which can be tricky to negotiate in autumn, while the dreaded rounding of Cape Finisterre on the north-west tip of Spain marks a kind of prequel to the descent along the coast of Portugal. Statistically, this section involves downwind conditions, often coloured by strong winds and heavy seas. Making landfall in the Canaries requires finesse and highly developed strategic know-how.
The second leg begins on November 1, with the solo sailors most often carried along by the trade wind in what tends to be a little over two weeks at sea on average. At this point, there’s no way out: en route to the West Indies, there are no ports of call. The sailors have to rely entirely upon themselves to make Martinique.
Source: Aurélie BARGAT | Effets Mer