Mini Transat: Horses on the track

Published on November 1st, 2017

(November 1, 2017) – The start of the second and final leg of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère commenced with some apprehension for the two week transatlantic course as a concerning weather forecast has dictated a change of course via the Cape Verde islands.

The wind shifted round to the ENE shortly before the start, and most of the solo sailors promptly hoisted their code zeros, whilst the more daring amongst them went straight for the large spinnaker.

Once the island of Gran Canaria is behind them, the fleet will be tasked with making its initial tactical choices. The general trend is likely to involve pushing along on port tack as far as the coast of Africa. However, once they get close to the shores of Mauritania, the racers are split on how to tackle the next section.

Certain routing options recommend playing with the effects of the headland by linking together a series of manœuvres under spinnaker, at times under the cover of darkness. This route is somewhat hazardous of course, given the increased risk of encountering the local fishermen, who may prove to be intrusive.

A number of competitors admitted that they were keen to head further offshore the minute they hit the steadier winds forecast. Accepting that you are likely to lose a bit of ground in order to reduce the risk at the start of what promises to be a long leg is not necessarily a miscalculation…

Position report on 1 November at 15:00 UTC

Prototypes
1 Andrea Fornaro (Sideral) 2,930.4 miles from the finish
2 Erwan le Mené (Rousseau Clôtures) 0.5 miles behind the leader
3 Ian Lipinski (Griffon.fr) 0.5 miles behind the leader
4 Quentin Vlamynck (Arkema 3) 0.7 miles behind the leader
5 Simon Koster (Eight Cube Sersa) 0.8 miles behind the leader

Production boats
1 Ambrogio Beccaria (Alla Grande Ambecco) 2,931.5 miles from the finish
2 Yannick Le Clech (Dragobert) 0.0 miles behind the leader
3 Clarisse Crémer (TBS) 0.4 miles behind the leader
4 Erwan Le Draoulec (Emile Henry) 0.5 miles behind the leader
5 Pierre Revol (Maribambelle) 0.6 miles behind the leader

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Race Facts
· 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. Due to a storm, the fleet is being routed south to Cape Verde before heading west. 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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