Mini Transat: Respite in forecast
Published on October 10th, 2019
(October 10, 2019; Leg 1, Day 6) – The competitors in the Mini-Transat La Boulangère have now been at sea nearing one week and they’ve already seen it in a vast array of colours. After a long run in meaty conditions, the wind has eased slightly today, treating some of the sailors to a little respite.
However, this reprieve will be short-lived. Indeed, another obstacle is looming over the final section of the course since a ridge of high pressure is sprawled across the path of the Mini sailors.
At the 12:00 UTC position report, François Jambou (prototype) and Ambrogio Beccaria (production boat) were still leading a very scattered fleet that stretches right back to the Briton Joe Lacey, who will be relieved to round Cape Finisterre shortly.
The first retirement is Pavel Roubal, who was airlifted to safety last night offshore of Portugal. He activated his distress beacon last night at 23:30 UTC while he was sailing along the Portuguese coast, getting picked up by the MRCC in Lisboa at 02:00 UTC. The transom of his Mini 6.50 was ripped out. He landed in Lisbon this morning and contacted Race Officials to inform them that he was okay.
Among the 86 sailors in the Mini-Transat La Boulangère still officially in the race, two others are on a pit stop: David Kremer in Baiona and Jonathan Chodkiewiez in La Coruña.
These two racers haven’t yet indicated to Race Management whether or not they’ll be able to set sail again to complete this demanding first leg between La Rochelle and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Meantime, the racers sprinting down the coast of Portugal are in a very quick and exhausting phase, which has been grueling for both their bodies and their gear.
We’ll find out more about that once they make the finish line and the skippers can talk about their race, but it’s highly likely that these conditions have caused a bit of damage that is hindering their progress to varying degrees.
This seems to be the case for German skipper Morten Bogacki. In fact, he’s been making headway at a reduced speed since this morning and is doubtless trying to resolve some technical issues.
Jambou and Beccaria staying on track
François Jambou is setting a furious pace in the prototype category. In 24 hours (from yesterday 12:00 UTC to today at the same time), he’s covered an astonishing 251 miles. His direct rivals (Axel Tréhin and Tanguy Bouroullec) are struggling to keep up, but there’s still absolutely all to play for with over 400 miles to the finish, with plenty of traps along the way.
In the production boat category, Ambrogio Beccaria is giving all he’s got and remains today’s leader after sailing his usual virtually flawless race. Julien Letissier, Félix De Navacelle, and Guillaume L’Hostis are his closest pursuers. Astern of them, a compact group remains in ambush. At the 12:00 UTC position report, there were just 10 miles separating 5th (Florian Quenot) and 10th place (Lauris Noslier).
A complicated final sprint on the cards
Somewhat predictably perhaps, this first leg of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère has been varied to say the least. The sailors have had to deal with all kinds of conditions and make headway on pretty much every point of sail and it’s those sailors with versatile profiles who will have their spoils of the top spots in the Canaries.
Though the breeze is gradually easing, it’s in two days that things are set to become seriously complicated as a ridge of high pressure sprawls menacingly across their path between Madeira and the Canaries. This will result in a very light, or virtually inexistent breeze.
According to the latest routing, the first competitors may well make landfall in Las Palmas from late October 12 to 13.
Ranking at 12:00 UTC
1- François Jambou (865 – Team BFR Marée Haute Jaune) 437 miles from the finish
2- Axel Tréhin (945 – Project Rescue Ocean) 37.4 miles behind the leader
3- Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Cerfrance) 45.8 miles behind the leader
1- Ambrogio Beccaria (943 – Geomag) 485 miles from the finish
2- Julien Letissier (869 – Reno Style) 7.7 miles behind the leader
3- Félix De Navacelle (916 – Youkounkoun) 17.4 miles behind the leader
The 87 Mini 6.50 solo sailors competing in the biennial Mini-Transat La Boulangère got underway from La Rochelle on the first leg to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on October 5. The Mini 6.50 Class has competition in two divisions: the prototypes and the production boats.
Production boats are built out of fiberglass, have alloy masts, 1.6 meter draft, and prohibit material such as titanium, carbon fiber, and epoxy resin. Ten boats must have been built to qualify as an official production boat.
Prototypes, on their side, are free of these restrictions and have been, for years, the very first laboratory for sailing innovations. Canting keels, daggerboards, swinging wing masts, long poles for huge spinnakers, have been tried first on minis. New hull shapes with very wide waterlines and foils are the now the latest innovations.
The first leg started October 5 (delayed from September 22 due to storms) from La Rochelle, France and extends 1350 nm to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. After an often complicated exit of the Bay of Biscay, sailors will expect some long slips down the Portuguese coast before arriving after 7 to 10 days in the Canary archipelago.
The second leg will start November 1 from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and will take from 15 to 20 sailing days to complete the 2700 nm course and reach Le Marin in Martinique, French West Indies. Due to the numerous islands, the restart from the Canary can be tricky before reaching the famous trade winds that offer a long downwind run.