Mini Transat: Winner’s Debrief

Published on December 2nd, 2013

(December 2, 2013) – The biennial Mini Transat is a transatlantic race for solo Mini 6.5m competitors, and when Benoît Marie (FRA) crossed the finish line December 1 to win the 2013 edition, his accomplishment is notable as much for the race as for enduring what preceded the race.

The start from Douarnenez, France was originally planned for October 13, but was postponed due to severe weather conditions on the race course. A weather window allowed for the start on October 29, but worsening weather conditions forced the cancellation of this leg, with the fleet taking shelter in the ports on the north coast of Spain.

The weather finally eased to allow for a restart in Sada, Spain on November 13, but only 73 of the original 84 competitors could continue. Additionally, the two planned legs – 1257 miles from France to Canary Islands, and 2764 miles from Canary Islands to Guadeloupe – were reduced to one 3700 mile leg direct to Pointe-à-Pitre, with a gate at the Canary Islands for safety.

The race is unique in its limits on communication. “It is a very pure race from a sailor’s perspective, with no routing or outside weather data once the race starts,” notes past competitor Jonathan McKee (USA). “You don’t even know where the other boats are during the race!”

Benoît only learned of his victory in the Bay of Pointe à Pitre, when a spectator boat told him that no one else had crossed the line. Here he comments on his victory

“This year has been really tough. The wait could be highly demotivating and the more we waited, the harder it was to get into race mode. I really took care never to let it unsettle me. From Sada, we knew we would face strong winds, it was on us almost immediately.”

There were many early casualties along the descent of Portugal. “It was really an equipment breaking sea. The first night, I really reduced sail and applied myself to stay at an average speed of twelve knots; it was more than enough. I elected to sail in a seamanlike manner to avoid having to stop in Lanzarote for repairs. That didn’t not stop me having my worries about equipment: my mainsail blew out several times at the third reef. I had to sew it. I also had rudder damage. I was forced to fix it with retaining lashings regularly …”

Heavy favorite Giancarlo Pedote (ITA) finished just three hours behind to take second. Having led for more than 90% of the time, Giancarlo slowed just before the finish to repair his broken bowsprit.

“For three days I had no positions, my BLU was inaudible,” said Benoît. “I knew I was well placed, my boat was fast these in these conditions. I especially tried to sail the cleanest trajectory, not to ease off … I did not know my position, but he should have nothing to regret.”

The weather proved favorable, assisting Giancarlo to set the 24 hour course record of 273.89 miles on November 14. “Of the 3,700 miles of the Mini Transat, I think I was close hauled for just 3 miles out of the Bay of Sada. Everything else I did downwind … and that is truly magical.”

Rémi Fermin, praised the simplicity
It’s a safe bet that Rémi Fermin (Boreal) will be more than satisfied with his third place finish. Having previously started in 2011, he was unable to defend his chances after breaking his mast and he vowed to return. On the boat he designed and built, with an economy of means that borders on indecency (boat fiberglass, fixed keel), Rémi is now demonstrating that we can achieve great things. Somehow, his journey fits right in line with the first adventurers of the Mini Transat, when we knew why we were leaving, but we did not know when and how it would happen. Behind Rémi, Bertrand Delesne (TeamWork Proto) and Bruno Garcia (Sampaquita) are still fighting for fourth place. They should finish in the depths of the Guadeloupe night.

Justine and the boys
Still in second behind Aymeric Belloir (All Chante World against Cancer), Justine Mettraux (TeamWork) now has to fend off the return of Simon Koster (Go 4 It). If she can keep her place, she will claim the best female performance in the history of the Mini Transat. She has the temperament, the question remains whether the technical problem which which appeared to cause her to loose 50 miles yesterday, is finally solved. Behind the leading trio is Renaud Mary ( who is sailing a good race. His northern option has paid and he is now looking at a very nice fourth place. We can still expect more changes in the series boat ranking. Damien Audrain (Gerinter) and Alberto Bona ( could follow the same path and threaten Jean-Baptiste Lemaire (L’Ouvre du Marin Breton), who is positioned in the south of the fleet. Others might also make spectacular jumps up the classification, such as Pip Hare (The Potting Shed) or François Lamy (Guadeloupe Espace Océan) whose homecoming is anticipated as that of the prodigal son. The key for them is that the trade winds seem to want to rejoin the party. To celebrate arriving at the Caribbean, it is the least we can ask.

Ranking (prototypes) at 16.00 (GMT +1)
1. Benoit Marie (667 – benoitmarie.comm)
2. Giancarlo Pedote (747 – Prysmian)
3. Rémi Fermin (741 – Booréal) with 67.5 nm to finish
4. Bertrand Delesne (754 – TeamWork Proto) + 45.2 nm
5. Bruno Garcia (240 – Sampaquita) + 52.5 nm

Ranking (series boats) at 16.00 (GMT +1)
1. Aymeric Belloir (810 – Tout le Monde chante contre le Cancer) with 312.5 nm to finish
2. Justine Mettraux (824 – TeamWork) + 258.3 nm
3. Simon Koster (819 – Go 4 it) + 319.3 nm
4. Renaud Mary ( + 627.8 nm
5. Jean-Baptiste Lemaire (607 – Ouvre du Marin Brereton) + 630.4 nm

View the positions of the Minis on the cartographie here

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