Mini Transat: Long race, Small boat
Published on August 19th, 2015
The 74 Mini 6.50 sailors competing on the Mini Transat îles de Guadeloupe will set off September 19 from the Bay of Douarnenez in France for the first leg to Lanzarote in the Canaries. Ready for the adventure, the competitors do not necessarily know what surprises can be in store for them on this one of a kind race.
A gentleman and his wife
In 1977 Jean-Luc Van Den Heede watched, at the start in Penzance, just a few hours before the start of the delivery trip to the Canaries, an elderly gentleman stepping out of his chauffeured Rolls Royce and on to his boat to take the helm. This same competitor was one of the last to arrive in the Canaries, just a few days before the start of the second leg. To those surprised by his slow progress from England to the Tenerife, he replied that he was enjoying being at sea so much while his wife was waiting for him in the Canaries. Not so gentleman-like!
In 1983 Roland Jourdain who had started the race sinks off La Corunna. Picked by a Spanish trawler, he is handed over to the Guardia Civil in the Spanish harbour. The Spanish authorities confused the name of his boat with that of a sailing boat travelling back from the Caribbean suspected of drug running. It is not all sailors who see their journey ending by being thrown into a prison cell.
A tribute to Portsall
In 1983 Stéphane Poughon beats Bernard Abalan, whilst Dominic Vittet finished fourth on the race. The three skippers all using Lucas designed prototypes had their boats built at the same time in the Centre Nautique de Portsall-Kersaint yard.
Such kind guard dogs
Like true guard dogs, the accompanying security boats are there to ensure the safety of the competitors and to intervene only when needed. Their role however is not limited to just this basic requirement. It is quite often the accompanying boat that finds the right words to motivate a discouraged skipper. It is rumoured, that on one edition of the race in the 80s or 90s, on a day of dead calm, a competitor tied up to the security accompanying boat for drinks and canapés. What could be more convivial!
A Japanese sailor
In 1999 a Japanese sailor entered the race; his main handicap was that he did not speak a word of French, let alone English. In order to allow for minimal levels of communication between the accompanying boats, a code of one to ten was made up with corresponding basic messages ranging from “all is well on board” (one) to “I need assistance” (ten)… During the second leg a competitor, who had had no radio contact for a number of days and who was starting to find the solitude too much, finally saw a sail on the horizon; rushing to the VHF to make radio contact, all he had in response was a curt “one”.
Three boats – one skipper
Three prototypes have won the Mini Transat. In 1981 Jacques Peignon sailed his proto Berret Îles du Ponant to victory. In 1987 it is Gilles Chiorri who wins on the same prototype renamed Exa. In 2009 Thomas Ruyant wins with the Finot-Conq Faber France, which was used to win in 2013 by Benoît Marie. Only Sébastien Magnen, the architect, builder and sailor, manages to win twice in a row on board his boat Karen Liquid in 1997 and 1999.
It is these comic or dramatic moments that make up the history of the Mini Transat. Above all it is the story of a race on which the human aspect is so important and where the architects and competitors’ creativity is encouraged and one whose relationship between the size of the boat and the sea makes this a one of a kind adventure. Above all it remains one of the last accessible dreams to all.
The key numbers for the 20th edition
– 74 participants
– 28 prototypes to compete for the Eurovia / Cegelec Trophy
– 46 production boats to compete for the BIO-ACTIF Ocean Trophy
– 16 nationalities (AUS, BEL, CHN, ESP, EST, FRA, GBR, GER, HUN, IRL, ITA, NED, POL, POR, RUS, SUI)
– 4 Women / 70 Men
– Average age: 33 years old
♦ The youngest: 22 years old at the start – Julien HEREU (FRA) and Quentin VLAMYNCK (FRA)
♦ The eldest: 56 years old at the start – Carlos LIZANCOS, Spanish, born on 19/02/1959
– 54 sailors will compete on the Mini Transat Îles de Guadeloupe for the first time
– 20 return competitors, making up a total 24 Mini Transat participations
Background: For the 20th edition and for the second time, the Mini Transat – Îles de Guadeloupe returns to its origins with a start from Douarnenez (France). The Breton harbour will see the fleet of 74 solo sailors set off on September 19 to Lanzarote (Canary Islands), where the Mini 6.50 will complete stage one of the race. The second stage will start on October 31, taking the fleet across the Atlantic to finish some three weeks later in Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe). The 2,700 nautical mile race from France to the Caribbean is the longest solo race for the smallest of boats.