Mini Transat: Drive it like you stole it
Published on November 11th, 2019
(November 11, 2019; Leg 2; Day 10) – François Jambou (865) in the prototype category and Ambrogio Beccaria (943) in the production boat fleet are still utterly dominating the fleet of the 82 Mini 6.50 solo sailors in the Mini Transat.
However, on a somber note, Russian sailor Irina Gracheva (579) and France’s Julien Berthélémé (742) both announced to Race Management that their boats had dismasted. Otherwise, all is well aboard for both skippers, who are still in the race for now. These two dismastings are the first to occur since the start of this 2019 edition.
The sailor from the Finistère region in NW France (742) has broken his mast level with the spreader. He’s indicated his intention to continue on his way for now under jury rig. The same is true for the Russian competitor Irina Gracheva (579), who is not requesting assistance and wishes to sort out a jury rig on her own and continue her race.
At the 16:00 UTC position report, they were respectively 1197.5 and 1,163.7 miles from the finish of this 2700 nm course from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Le Marin in Martinique.
The trade winds are certainly no picnic
Despite the generally accepted idea that it’s just a long session of slipping along downwind in the sunshine from the Portuguese coast to the West Indies, in race format it’s a very different scenario. Indeed, the sailors have to contend with a shifty wind in terms of strength and direction, short seas accompanied by a big chop and unpredictable winds of 30 to 40 knots that have a tendency to catch the skippers out under the cover of darkness.
The upshot of all this is ideal conditions for wipe-outs. To get a better idea of this, you just have to look at the zigzagging trajectories on the cartography and the competitors’ sudden dips in speed. This second leg may not have the nasty conditions you might expect in the Bay of Biscay, but it is no less demanding or backbreaking for the skippers whose piloting skills are really put to the test.
Growing human and material fatigue
After more than nine days of singlehanded sailing in the trade winds, the state of human and material wear is beginning to weigh heavy. In addition to the navigation and the race strategy, the sailors are having to double up their efforts in terms of remaining vigilant and cautious as the fatigue, solitude, and pressure mount.
However, perhaps the same cannot be said for Erwan Le Mené (800) in the prototype category or Nicolas D’Estais (905) and Pierre Le Roy (925) in the production boat category. Indeed, with a very slight edge over their direct rivals in the battle for a spot on the podium, these particular sailors must be glued to the helm, allowing themselves precious little rest.
The fatigue is also extending to the boats too, evidenced by the two dismastings suffered this morning, with a number of other competitors lamenting their own technical woes. Anne Beaugé (890) currently has spreader issues. The support boat Yemanja also reports that Thomas D’Estais (819) is in the process of repairing a rudder fitting that has pulled out and Thomas Gaschignard (539) has had to repair his helm and a cracked rudder.
Meantime, the support boat Tea, reports that Jean-René Guilloux (915) lost the pin on the rigging screw attached to a stay last night but fortunately he’s managed to replace it with another on the boat. Finally, Race Management received an alert saying “Technical problem, I’m OK” from Simon Tranvouez.
The latest stand-out performances
Tired of bringing up the rear of the ranking, Christophe Noguet (744) decided to plunge southwards and this daring option might well pay off enabling him to pick off a few of his rivals before the finish in Martinique.
For his part, Sébastien Liagre (589) has sailed nearly 1,200 miles on starboard tack. Finally, on the first of the boats that is neither a Pogo 3 nor a Maxi 650, Kévin Bloch (697) has made a break for glory among the pointy bows to secure 17th place in the production boat fleet this Monday evening.
Ranking at 16:00 UTC:
1. François Jambou (865 – Team BFR Marée Haute Jaune) 631.4 miles from the finish
2. Axel Tréhin (945 – Project Rescue Ocean) 91.9 miles behind the leader
3. Erwan Le Méné (800 Rousseau Clôtures) 220.1 miles behind the leader
1. Ambrogio Beccaria (943 – Geomag) 713.5 miles from the finish
2. Nicolas D’Estais (905 – Cheminant – Ursuit) 84.8 miles behind the leader
3. Pierre Le Roy (925 – Arthur Loyd) 85.2 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.