Shake Up at the Mini Transat

Published on October 7th, 2017

(October 7, 2017; Day 7) – The sailors racing the Mini Transat are still under the influence of light winds on the race zone. In both the prototype and production boat categories, the situation is becoming clearer at the head of the race. Ian Lipinski (Griffon.fr) and Arthur Léopold-Léger (Antal XPO) are going it alone at the front of the leading pack, whilst Clarisse Crémer (TBS) is extending right away from her pursuers. Swiss skipper Valentin Gautier (Shaman – Banque du Léman) and Erwan Le Draoulec (Emile Henry) look to be the only sailors still in a position to challenge her takeover. However, behind the favorites, there is massive upheaval.

In order to understand all the jostling in the rankings over recent days, take a look at the respective positions of the skippers just 48 hours before. In the production boat category, after Rémi Aubrun’s long reign (Alternative Sailing – Constructions du Belon), it was the turn of Tanguy Bouroullec (Kerhis Cerfrance) to take over the regency for a few hours, in readiness to hand over power to the new queen of the Pogo 3s, Clarisse Crémer (TBS). Her place at the top of leaderboard is much deserved, given how regularly she and travelling companion Erwan le Draoulec (Emile Henry) have impacted the front of the pack since the start in La Rochelle.

In that time, some sailors have fallen victim to the light airs, including Rémi and Tanguy, who are now positioned over 50 miles shy of the head of the race. However others, those more familiar with evanescent breeze and hunting down gentle puffs of air, have reaped the benefits, as is the case for Valentin Gautier and Frédéric Moreau (Petit Auguste et Cie), the latter a regular on the Alpine lakes. These light airs are also favourable to the older generation boats, like the Pogo 2 and the Nacira 6.50, which have a smaller wetter surface and have got right back into the action as a result.

Like Frédéric Moreau, Yann Burkhalter (Kalaona) has also sailed an excellent leg to get back into the top 10, with some equally great performances posted by Mathieu Lambert (Presta Services Bat) and Estelle Greck (Starfish), who have both been making steady progress for the past four to five days since they found their sea legs.

In the prototype category, with the exception of Arthur Léopold-Léger, who must really be savoring his time on the racetrack after the abrupt end of his Mini-Transat 2013, the dilemma for those in hot pursuit of Ian Lipinski essentially comes down to “how to limit the damage” in the face of the utter domination by the cheeky Raison design.

A chasing trio made up of Simon Koster (Eight Cube Sersa), Erwan Le Mené (Rousseau Clôtures) and Romain Bolzinger (Spicee.com) are nearly a hundred miles off the pace of the leader this evening. Patrick Jaffré (Projet Pioneer), sixth, is 130 miles behind the leader, whilst Julien Héreu (Poema Insurance) and Thibault Michelin (Eva Luna) have been relegated to some 200 miles astray of the head of the fleet. In these conditions, the age of the boats is no longer the main point of reference.

As such, Jonathan Chodkiewiez (Tasty Granny) on one of the oldest prototypes, is managing to stay in contact with Charlotte Méry (Optigestion – Femmes de Bretagne) and Quentin Vlamynck (Arkema 3), who would surely have preferred other conditions to test the potential of his highly innovative machine.

A way off the front of the pack, the strategic considerations are somewhat different. Aboard Mariolle.fr, Julien Bozzolo hasn’t forgotten his disco ball and playlist so he can treat himself to what must be particularly stimulating breakfasts for both his stomach and his ears. It’s party time too for Camille Taque (Foxsea Lady) as she has managed to resolve her power issues and can now communicate with her playmates by VHF once more.

The news is also good for the Croatian sailor. Indeed, currently in Porto, Slobodan Velikic (Sisa 2) is trying to repair his bowsprit and a hole in the deck resulting from a broken stanchion. Apparently, the familiar Mini solidarity has kicked into action once again since Portuguese sailor Antonio Fontes, who competed in the Mini in 2015, has rallied together his friends to track Slobodan down and give him a helping hand.

Ranking at 15:00 UTC

Prototypes
– 1 Ian Lipinski – Griffon.fr – 305 miles from the finish
– 2 Arthur Léopold-Léger – Antal XPO – 32.8 miles behind the leader
– 3 Simon Koster –Eight Cube Sersa- 56.6 miles behind the leader
– 4 Erwan Le Mené – Rousseau Clôtures – 95.7 miles behind the leader
– 5 Romain Bolzinger – Spicee.com – 98.7 miles behind the leader

Production boats
– 1 Clarisse Crémer – TBS 418.5 miles from the finish
– 2 Erwan Le Draoulec – Emile Henry – 25.2 miles behind the leader
– 3 Valentin Gautier – Shaman – Banque du Léman – 29.7 miles behind the leader
– 4 Rémi Aubrun – Alternative Sailing – Constructions du Belon – 56 miles behind the leader
– 5 Tanguy Bouroullec – Kerhis Cerfrance – 63 miles behind the leader

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Race Facts
· 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’

Background
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

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