Mini Transat: Crawling to Gran Canaria

Published on October 10th, 2017

(October 10, 2017; Day 10) – This first leg of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère will certainly be etched on the sailors’ minds. Now embroiled in a snail-pace race to the promised land, the solo sailors are finding it hard to know what strategy to adopt given how much the rankings are fluctuating from one position report to the next.

This is particularly true amongst the production boat category, where the leaders are bunched together within a handful of miles. This morning, the trio furthest west made up of Rémi Aubrun (Alternative Sailing – Constructions du Belon), Erwan le Draoulec (Emile Henry) and Benoît Sineau (Cachaça 2) was leading the slog to the finish.

However, since midway through the afternoon, the group favouring the east appear to be benefiting from a better angle in relation to the wind to make Las Palmas. Valentin Gautier (Shaman – Banque du Léman) has snatched pole position, with others also likely to reap the dividends, including Clarisse Crémer (TBS), back in sixth position and credited with the top speed of the production boat fleet.

In such shifty conditions, it would seem that the best strategy is to stick to your guns in the hope that your initial options will ultimately pay off. Traversing the race zone is the best way to be completely out of step with the capricious breeze… and yet temptation is a powerful force.

In the prototype category, the battle is also set to rage between Arthur Léopold-Léger (Antal XPO) and Ian Lipinski (Griffon.fr), the latter a tad faster than his adversary. Is this slight difference in speed enough to make up the deficit of nearly 18 miles between the two competitors?

As a general rule, Arthur’s lead should be enough to be confident of taking the crown. However, in light of the conditions offshore of the African coast, it’s still all to play for. Indeed, it’s nigh on impossible to predict for whom or when victory will be sealed, though it would seem reasonable to gamble on a mid-morning showdown.

For those skippers still sailing offshore of Madeira, the big question is more about whether they’ll make the finish before their nearest and dearest have had to jump on a plane back home. There are still 300 miles to go for Martin Callebaut (Extasea), Andreas Deubel (www.andreasdeubel.com), Marc Miro Rubio (Alfin) and friends.

In normal trade wind conditions, it could be a done deal in 48 hours. For now though, they’ll just have to sit pretty until the wind kicks back in. Once again, the Mini-Transat is certainly earning its nickname of the ‘longest of transatlantics’.

Ranking at 15:00 UTC

Prototypes
1- Arthur Léopold-Léger – Antal XPO – 78.4 miles from the finish
2- Ian Lipinski – Griffon.fr – 17.8 miles behind the leader
3- Erwan Le Mené – Rousseau Clôtures – 47.8 miles behind the leader
4- Romain Bolzinger – Spicee.com – 49.9 miles behind the leader
5- Simon Koster -Eight Cube Sersa- 56.9 miles behind the leader

Production boats
1- Valentin Gautier – Shaman – Banque du Leman 118.4 miles from the finish
2- Erwan Le Draoulec – Emile Henry – 9.1 miles behind the leader
3- Rémi Aubrun – Alternative Sailing – Constructions Du Belon – 9.3 miles behind the leader
4- Benoit Sineau – Cachaca II – 12.1 miles behind the leader
5- Ambrogio Beccaria – Alla Grande Ambeco – 14.7 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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