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Mini Transat: Triage before the turn

Published on November 3rd, 2017

(November 3, 2017; Day 2) – After two days of racing in this second leg of the Mini-Transat la Boulangère, the fleet is already lamenting a number of issues. For some, there’s nothing irremediable and they should be able to effect repairs at sea. Other competitors will have to make a pit-stop before they take the giant leap across the Atlantic; all the more so, given that the wind is likely to hold out until they reach the Cape Verde islands.

In summary, there are three sailors who are lamenting rudder damage this evening: Arthur Léopold-Léger (Antal – XPO) who intends to effect repairs at Mindelo, Timothée Bonavita (Prism) who has a spare rudder aboard and will try to switch old for new at sea and Erwan Le Mené (Rousseau Clôtures) who has reported that he wants to make for Dakar, which is two degrees further south than the Cape Verde gate and equates to a detour of over 200 miles.

Thibault Michelin (Eva Luna) has also hit a UFO, but his speed would suggest that he has the situation under control. Other competitors have also amassed their share of material damage: Pilar Pasanau (Sail One Peter Punk) has wrapped her large spinnaker around the stay and is sailing under mainsail alone whilst she awaits milder conditions to sort things out. Charlotte Méry (Optigestion – Femmes de Bretagne) has broken her bowsprit fork in a manœuvre.

We can well imagine that other solo sailors have technical issues too but have decided not to talk about it so as to keep their adversaries in the dark. Psychological warfare has its part in racing too.

As expected, it’s at the front of the race that we find the fastest speeds. The men and women out at the front are benefiting from a slightly steadier breeze to continue pushing their machines hard. Ian Lipinski ( is gradually consolidating his position at the head of the fleet. Solely Jorg Riechers (Lilienthal) and Andrea Fornaro (Sideral) are managing to keep up, though their positioning a lot further to the west is not in their favour. Meantime, on the same course as Ian Lipinski, Patrick Jaffré (Projet Pioneer) is positioned nearly forty miles shy of the leader.

Among the production boats, Rémi Aubrun (Alternative Sailing – Constructions du belon) is still holding off those in his wake. However, he is clearly under threat from Tanguy Bouroullec (Kerhis – Cerfrance) and Cédric Faron (Marine Nationale), the latter sailing a superb trajectory which has enabled him to move up into the top trio.

Of course, the fact you’re not in the top ten doesn’t mean that the race is any less intense. There are just fifteen miles between Slobodan Velikic (Sisa 2) in fourteenth and Elodie Pédron (Manu Poki et les Biotechs) in twenty-fourth. Mathieu Lambert (Presta Service Bat), Estelle Greck (Starfish) and Nolwen Cazé (Fée Rêvée) are grouped within a two-mile radius.

A mistimed gybe or a missed gust and the competitors can quickly drop ten or so place in the provisional ranking. Whenever this happens, there is but one solution: focus on your route plan and avoid letting yourself be influenced by anything other than how the weather is evolving. Some sailors take drastic measures to ensure they do just that, switching off the SSB the minute the rankings are announced.

Position report on 3 November at 15:00 UTC

1 Ian Lipinski ( Andrea Fornaro (Sideral) 2,495.2 miles from the finish
2 Jorg Riechers (Lilienthal) 11.1 miles behind the leader
3 Andrea Fornaro (Sideral) 17.4 miles behind the leader
4 Patrick Jaffré (Projet Pioneer) 37.3 miles behind the leader
5 Arthur Léopold-Léger (Antal – XPO) 44.6 miles behind the leader

Production boats
1 Rémi Aubrun (Alternative Sailing – Constructions du Belon) 2,534.4 miles from the finish
2 Tanguy Bouroullec (Kerhis – Cerfrance) 7.5 miles behind the leader
3 Cédric Faron (Marine Nationale) 15.6 miles behind the leader
4 Clarisse Crémer (TBS) 16.1 miles behind the leader
5 Erwan Le Draoulec (Emile Henry) 16.6 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’

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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