Mini Transat: Between here and there

Published on November 8th, 2017

(November 8, 2017; Day 7) – These are what the experienced solo sailors competing in the Mini-Transat La Boulangère call the crucial days, those where you realise that from here on in there’s no way back and that there are no options until you reach Martinique. Little by little, as they get further apart, the VHF conversations become few and far between and each solo sailor enters another world and another time.

Focusing on getting the boat making headway, not letting yourself be overwhelmed with emotion, looking ahead rather than behind and living in the here and now. Such a recipe is key for those setting sail on their first Atlantic crossing, especially in a Mini, where outside contact will become increasingly rare, until the moment where the focus switches to the finish in Martinique. The journey into solitude starts here.

At the head of the fleet, Ian Lipinski (Griffon.fr) has a rather different mindset. His focus is on the competition element and the sailor from Lorient in Brittany is continuing to drive his prototype hard. Indeed, he’ll soon have a lead of over 100 miles in relation to second placed Simon Koster (Eight Cube Sersa).

In the production boat category, Erwan Le Draoulec (Emile Henry) is continuing to gently stretch away from Clarisse Crémer (TBS). The youngster of the race has made sure he is equipped to deal with any dips in morale in the form of instructions posted up all over the boat and even a photo of his coach, Tanguy Leglatin, on which he’s listed the best remedies for the blues. However, it has to be said that the heady scent of victory is a great vaccine against such malaise.

Behind the leaders, some sailors didn’t hang around to change course, even if the routing recommended a northerly option. Clearly the rotation of the wind to the east, on the left-hand side of the race course, has inspired certain solo sailors to gamble on the return of the NE’ly trade wind over the coming hours or days.

If this is the case, having gybed again, they’ll be able to link onto a route that will take them considerably closer to the direct course, whilst their neighbours to the north will find it difficult to drop back down. In the meantime, their provisional rankings are set to tumble because in taking this option, these daring sailors will distance themselves from the great circle route and hence the shortest course between Cape Verde and Martinique.

This has already happened to Tanguy Bouroullec (Kerhis Cerfrance) and Pierre Chedeville (Blue Orange Games – Fair Retail) in the production boat category and Camille Taque (Foxsea Lady) on her prototype. Similarly, it will be wise to keep an eye on how the rankings evolve for Jörg Riechers (Lilienthal), Andrea Fornaro (Sideral), Quentin Vlamynck (Arkema 3), Luc Giros (Cabinet Rivault Nineuil – Enedis) and Sander Van Doorn (Air Charge), as they wait to reap the rewards of their investment.

The last competitors still in Mindelo of the Cape Verde archipelago are planning to set sail again very soon. For Pavel Roubal (Pogo Dancer) this should be tomorrow morning. Thibault Michelin (Eva Luna) has finished his repairs and should be heading back out to sea shortly.

For Romain Bolzinger (Spicee.com), who is posting slow speeds, there is no other option than to continue. Race Management has sent their support boat, Top50, over to investigate what the problem is. In any case, Romain has not activated his distress beacon and is not requesting assistance. Top50 should be on site late tonight.

Position report on 8 November at 15:00 UTC

Prototypes
1 Ian Lipinski (Griffon.fr) 1,243.0 miles from the finish
2 Simon Koster (Eight Cube Sersa) 99.7 miles behind the leader
3 Jorg Riechers (Lilienthal) 108.8 miles behind the leader
4 Andrea Fornaro (Sideral) 163.9 miles behind the leader
5 Kéni Piperol (Région Guadeloupe) 205.7 miles behind the leader

Production boats
1 Erwan Le Draoulec (Emile Henry) 1,433.0 miles from the finish
2 Clarisse Crémer (TBS) 30.3 miles behind the leader
3 Tanguy Bouroullec (Kerhis – Cerfrance) 38.1 miles behind the leader
4 Tom Dolan (offshoresailing.fr) 88.2 miles behind the leader
5 Benoît Sineau (Cachaça 2) 91.4 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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