Mini Transat: Sweet and steady
Published on November 5th, 2019
(November 5, 2019; Leg 2; Day 4) – The fleet of 82 Mini 6.50 solo sailors in the second leg of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère is complete once again after Jean Lorre’s return to the racetrack at the start of the afternoon. The speeds are steady, on a trajectory close to the direct route, pushed by a trade wind that should accompany them all the way to the finish.
The front runners might well make landfall in Martinique after just 11 days at sea as the eagerly awaited conditions for champagne sailing are upon them and the sailors are relishing their time on the water, albeit with a careful eye on possible broaches.
“We’ve known since the start that the race could be very quick and that’s being confirmed. Even the support boats are finding it hard to keep up!” explains Denis Hugues, the Race Director.
A rare occurrence worth highlighting is the fact that the leader of the production boat category (Ambrogio Beccaria) is hot on the heels of the first prototype (François Jambou).
Indeed, this second leg is certainly living up to the competitors’ expectations as it offers up a long 2,700-mile run, making good speed under spinnaker throughout. Florian Quenot (946) made the most of the conditions last night to shatter the record for the greatest distance covered in 24 hours on a production Mini 6.50: 291.47 miles at an average speed of 12.1 knots.
However, this high speed sailing is both exhilarating and perilous with an abundance of broaches and minor damage. A message received from the support boat Yemanja sets the scene: “There is still a sustained 20-25-knot NE’ly wind, the seas are fairly rough, not heavy but not ordered either. We have fine weather with a few low clouds.
“Some conversations over the VHF between Minis suggest that things have been pretty grueling for them. The majority are sailing with two reefs in the main and a medium spinnaker or code 5. There’s a lot of talk about which route to choose…”
Talking of the route choices, it’s interesting to note that the competitors furthest North are tending to drop southwards to avoid some stormy zones that are set to develop from tomorrow.
For now, Ambrogio Beccaria (943) is today’s hot topic on his Pogo 3. Not content with stealing a march on his direct rivals, the Italian is also in a face-off with the most honed prototypes. In fact, this evening he is second overall, with only François Jambou’s proto ahead of him.
The chasing pack is in hot pursuit but Ambrogio is assuming his status as favorite in stellar fashion, knowing full well that it wouldn’t take much to curb his fantastic progress. It’s worth noting that behind the star Pogo 3s and production scows, certain competitors with older boats are enjoying a fantastic race, as is the case for Kevin Bloch (697), well placed in the Top 20 with his boat built in 2007.
As for Jean Lorre (570), he’s been back on the racetrack since early afternoon after a pit stop in El Hierro to fix his stay chainplate. There are also some small groups forming to cross the Atlantic in unison with seven competitors bunched into barely 5 miles from Thomas Gaschignard in 23rd place to Pierre Casenave-Péré in 30th!
Aboard the boat that is the current title holder for the event (in the hands of Ian Lipinski), François Jambou (865) is still in control of the fleet of prototypes. Finishing the first leg just six minutes after winner Axel Tréhin (945), François has now gained a considerable edge over his main rival (42.8-mile lead at 16:00 UTC). Tanguy Bouroullec (969), the third figure in this battle for gold, is some 16.9 miles shy of François.
The match for outright victory is sure to be prime viewing right to the wire. Astern of the top three are four competitors eager stay in contention: Erwan Le Méné (800) is right in line with the leaders, whilst Antoine Perrin (850), Morten Bogacki (934), and Fabio Muzzolini (716) have favoured some northerly separation.
Ranking at 16:00 UTC:
1. François Jambou (865 – Team BFR Marée Haute Jaune) 1,966.9 miles from the finish
2. Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Cerfrance) 16.9 miles behind the leader
3. Axel Tréhin (945 – Project Rescue Ocean) 42.8 miles behind the leader
1. Ambrogio Beccaria (943 – Geomag) 1,972.3 miles from the finish
2. Benjamin Ferré (902 – Imago Incubateur D’aventures 16.8 miles behind the leader
3. Pierre Le Roy (925 – Arthur Loyd) 46.6 miles behind the leader
The biennial Mini-Transat La Boulangère has competition for the Mini 6.50 Class 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.
Eighty-seven started the first leg on 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.
Eighty-two started the second leg on November 2 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.