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  • Only Mini In Size

    The first leg of the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef set off this Monday 27 September at 15:30 hours local time, just a tad later than planned. The 90 sailors set sail with one reef in the mainsail, propelled along by a NW’ly breeze of between 16 and 20 knots. After rounding the windward mark, - Brieuc Lebec (914 - Velotrade) leading the way – everyone set a course for the open ocean. Right now, 1,350 miles lay ahead of them as they make for Santa-Cruz de La Palma. Game on!

    The first leg of the Mini Transat EuroChef was launched this Monday 27 September at 15:30 hours local time in France. Propelled along by a NW’ly breeze of between 16 and 20 knots, the 90 competitors set sail from Les Sables d’Olonne bound for Santa Cruz de La Palma, with a total of 1,350 miles to negotiate and almost as many obstacles to overcome. Those which will punctuate their passage across the Bay of Biscay specifically are forecast to be relatively complicated and might well have a decisive impact on the next stage of the race. As a result, to hook up with the leading group, the sailors will need to quickly find their sea legs and get into the right groove and, most of all, they’ll have to be nicely in phase with the elements so as to avoid amassing a deficit before the passage around Cape Finisterre. This same headland is where the front runners have a chance of linking onto a big downwind schuss, while their pursuers may well have to deal with rather more uncertain conditions.

    The stresses of the big day were certainly palpable this morning on the Vendée Globe pontoon. “We all made an appointment for the start some two years now. This is it, crunch time! We’re getting to the heart of the matter now and it’s quite something. I don’t really know what that is. The crowds, the noise, the encouragement… It’s a rush of emotions. In concrete terms, it’s the start of an epic and wonderful human adventure. We’ve all put a massive amount of time into preparing for the race, but the only thing we haven’t been able to do is to deal with the emotion of the start. One thing for sure is that we’re all raring to get going!” commented Basile Bourgnon (975 – Edenred), shortly before casting off. This sentiment is shared by Léo Debiesse (966 – Les Alphas). “There’s excitement in the air and a little bit of apprehension too, but on a personal level I feel confident all in all. The boat is ready and the navigation has been studied. I know where I’m going. I have a very clear plan in my head. Right now, we’re going to need to find our sea legs and get into race mode as quickly as possible”, explained the sailor from the Cévennes in south central France. In fact, the first 72 hours of the race are set to be fairly crucial with, in chronological order, an easing of the breeze this evening, a key turn to position correctly tonight at the edge of a ridge of high pressure to avoid becoming becalmed, the passage of a front to negotiate on Tuesday night through into Wednesday, and then a wind shift to hunt down to thread their way along as smoothly as possible between Cape Finisterre and the eponymous TSS (Traffic Separation System).

    A crucial Bay of Biscay passage
    “The negotiation of the Bay of Biscay promises to be quite complicated in terms of strategy. We’re going to have to nail the timing of our manoeuvres and be quick at it. We’re clearly going to have little time to rest until we round the north-west tip of Galicia, but it’s going to be an interesting ride. The match is going to be intriguing and above all wide open. That’s particularly true after the latitude of Vigo, where two different scenarios are possible today. The first might enable us to link onto a run down to the Canaries at quite a lick. The second could be a little more laborious, with a great deal of uncertainty colouring play. As a result, we’ll have to be on the pace from the get-go and not dawdle on our way to Cape Finisterre”, indicated Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork), one of the firm favourites of this 23rd edition in the prototype category. Avoiding stuffing up the introduction is clearly the mantra shared by all 90 of the solo sailors, as Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP/Pogo) confirmed: “Managing to exit Biscay quickly is definitely a key point in this first leg because after Cape Finisterre, the front runners are likely to steal a march on the rest of the fleet. However, it won’t be that easy to play the game well. It’ll be essential to be cautious as the front scheduled for Tuesday night rolls through. The latter is likely to be pretty meaty, with upwind conditions gusting to 30 knots, especially as it’s accompanied by heavy seas. We’re going to have to be careful not to break anything”.

    Avoiding amassing too much of a deficit

    Though striking the right balance between ‘material preservation’ and ‘speed’ at the appropriate times will, as ever, be one of the keys to success in this Mini Transat EuroChef, setting the right tempo will also be vital. “Setting the pace at the right time is the clear instruction I’ve given myself this year. That was what was lacking for me two years ago”, says Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre), 6th in 2019, who is well aware of the need to be in phase with the elements and to take siestas at the most beneficial moments. “If small gaps open up before the Cape Finisterre TSS, it’s highly likely that they’ll widen dramatically in the Portuguese trade wind. We’re going to have to be up there in the leading pack”, added the Franco-Italian sailor, who has already nailed his start, rounding the windward mark in second place behind Irina Gracheva (800 – Path) in the prototype category. “The Mini Transat is a race against time. Beyond the ranking, which will have a part to play, the key is to arrive in the Canaries with little or no time deficit. We know that winning the first leg is never enough to win the event, however we also know that taking your time can make things complicated further down the line”, pointed out Léo Débiesse, who is currently in hot pursuit of the trio made up of Brieuc Lebec (914 – Velotrade) – Lennart Burke (943 – Vorpommern) – Julie Simon (963 – Dynamips), which has posted a fantastic performance to start the race. A race whose denouement is currently expected to unfold on Sunday night through into Monday for the front runners.


    Quotes from the Boats

    Gauthier Verdon (879 – TGS France): “I feel a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I’m very happy to be setting sail because for my part it’s the culmination of two years’ preparation. I think this leg will be an interesting way to get into the transatlantic mindset. The first leg equates to ten days’ navigation. That much I know. However, I’m not familiar with the Canaries. I’m going to be careful not to break anything and to sail a clean course”.

    Lucas Valenza-Troubat (606 – Six Saucisses): “I’m a bit tense. That’s in my nature but I’m doing the best I can. I know things will feel better a couple of hours after the start, once I’ve got into the swing of the race. The different routing options aren’t very in line with one another with regards to the timing of the two fronts rolling through. Everything will be shaped by the first few nights. I’m going to try to sail a clean race, have some fun and avoid breaking anything to make the finish in the Canaries”.

    Arno Biston (551 – Bahia Express): “I’m so looking forward to heading off, but at the same time I have mixed feelings about the start. It’s going to be nice for our nearest and dearest, but on the other side of that, I’m eager to be off Portugal already. I have a pretty good handle on the first leg. I think it’s going to be nice. It’s boat-breaking, because there are short seas, but that shouldn’t last too long. We’ll be close-hauled so there’s little chance of us making mistakes if the boat is well prepared. I’m not overly scared by it”.

    Antoine Bos (825 – Rhino): “I’m tense but also focused and confident. I’m ready, the boat’s ready, there’s nothing more to do. I got some rest yesterday. We had a weather briefing and then I prepared my salads for the first two days. I’m trying not to think too much about how things are going to play out after that, otherwise I’ll get myself tied up in knots. I’m beginning to flip out, telling myself that it’s going to be this way or that. We’ll set sail, spend the first night at sea and then we’ll see where we stand. If we can slip along nicely from Cape Finisterre as far as the Canaries, I’ll have some of that!”

    Romain Bigot (802 – Impulso): “I’m a bit stressed out. The first weather briefing was a bit of a reality check. There are still some elements which are a bit vague, but all in all, we have a rough idea of how things will start off so that’s fairly reassuring. Start day is always emotional. It’s a big adrenalin rush. Despite the delay, I still have a few mates, my parents and my youngest sister who have stayed on here. It’s going to be boisterous at the very start and then conditions are set to abate. It’s a fairly good thing to have it this way round given that you’re in the best shape after the start. It will enable us to find our sea legs for the second or third night when we’ll have meatier conditions. I’m not too frightened by it. I don’t really have a precise objective, it’s more about finding my bearings on the boat. It’s my first transatlantic passage so we’re not going to go out all guns blazing. What really counts is making it to the Canaries”.

    Colombine Blondet (759 – DareWomen): “I really don’t like being close-hauled in 30 knots. It’s really not my bag at all, but it’ll be alright. Things should calm down after Cape Finisterre, which is bound to make the situation more pleasant. My aim is to make the finish in the Canaries and above all to make it to Guadeloupe without breaking everything”.

    Nicolas Cousi (533 – Telerys Communication): “I feel a bit stressed, even though I’m relatively confident about the way the boat’s been prepared. We know what we’re getting in terms of the weather. It’s down to me not to do anything stupid and to set off as fast as possible so I don’t get left behind by my other little playmates. My objective is to avoid falling off the pace because the weather is a little uncertain and it’ll be important not to miss the metaphorical boat. I really love these types of conditions as the sailor can’t really make a big difference, which means you can eat and sleep more easily”.
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    A New Day, New Challenges


    As expected, the front which swept across the Bay of Biscay last night, whipped up some strong winds, gusting to 30 knots on messy seas. These tough conditions have obviously taken their toll on the Mini Transat EuroChef fleet, with a number of skippers lamenting some minor damage. However, Franck Lauvray has unquestionably paid the highest price for this boisterous episode with his prototype Alice suffering a dismasting. The skipper is currently seeking a solution for fashioning a jury rig. Out on the racetrack, the battle is continuing though, and the next complication is already looming. Indeed, Cape Finisterre, which the front runners are lining themselves up for from tonight, is shaping up to be a tricky section!

    The skippers were aware on leaving Les Sables d’Olonne last Monday that Tuesday night through into Wednesday would be bracing, with an average wind of 27-28 knots, gusting to 30, on what would be heavy, cross seas. The forecasts proved to be bang on, the whole fleet being shaken about last night. As a result, there are a number of competitors who have reported damage. In no particular order: a rudder quadrant issue for Antoine Bos (825 – Rhino), automatic pilot worries for Jean Cruse (910 – Ini Mini Myni Mi), Pierre Legendre (994 – AKKA), Lucas Valenza-Troubat (606 – Six Saucisses) and Camille Bertel (900 – Cap Ingelec), a faulty VHF for Massimo Vatteroni (Kabak), a broken spreader for Jean-Marie Jézéquel (951 – FondApro) and a broken pulpit for the German Lennart Burke (943 – Vorpommern). This Wednesday, some of these are still battling to try and resolve their little glitches. Other luckier sailors have already managed to find solutions. The situation for Franck Lauvray (436 – Alice) obviously remains considerably more complicated though. Contacted at midday by one of the event’s seven support boats, the sailor from the Pays de la Loire is currently attempting to fashion a jury rig. Once he does so, he’ll then decide which is the easiest port to make for.


    Increasing separation on the cards

    For the other skippers, the battle is in full swing and the good news is that the conditions have definitely improved since this morning. The Mini sailors are now making headway downwind, bound for the north-west tip of Spain, propelled along by a fading NW’ly wind on a playing field that is less and less lumpy. The present challenge: to make headway as fast as possible to thread their way along under a zone of high pressure, which is gradually plumping out again, in a bid to avoid getting caught up in the patch of light airs. At this particular exercise, the competitors furthest out to the west have a slight edge as they are benefiting from more pressure than their rivals further out to the east. In this regard, it’s worth noting that yesterday’s tightly bunched peloton is now sprawled out across nearly 120 miles laterally and over 130 miles in relation to the distance to the goal. These gaps are sure to have major ramifications in the coming hours as a tricky section is clearly festering level with Cape Finisterre. The leading boats are set to negotiate this same headland in the early hours of Thursday by passing between the coast and the TSS (traffic separation scheme), before dropping down towards the Canaries with their pedal to the metal, jostled along by a well-established Portuguese trade wind, whilst their pursuers may well see the gate to the expressway slammed in their faces. Indeed, those who have not managed to round the famous tip of Iberia before Thursday night through into Friday will be penalised by another burst of upwind conditions.

    One cape, two systems

    Within this context, the first gaps generated by the passage of last night’s front are only set to increase as the leaders will clearly be able to lengthen their stride, enabling them to devour the remaining 950 miles at high speed. This is evidenced by the latest routing, which shows the leaders making landfall in Santa Cruz de La Palma in five days’ time, possibly with a four day lead over the latecomers. In the meantime, the name of the game is just to hurtle along as fast as possible, whenever possible, and the battle is raging right across the playing field as a result. Heading the pack in the prototype category, Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork) and Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP/Pogo) are embroiled in an almighty duel with a lead of a dozen miles or so ahead of Irina Gracheva (800 – Path) and Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre). Among the production boats, Basile Bourgnon (975 – Edenred) and Romain Le Gall (987 – Les Optiministes) are neck and neck, hugging the direct course, whilst Hugo Dhallenne (979 – YC Saint-Lunaire), slightly off to the side just ten miles or so to their south, is also enjoying an excellent match with Alberto Riva (993 – EdiliziAcrobatica) who is hot on his heels. Further to the north, Julie Simon (963 – Dynamips) also remains in the perfect position to pounce.

    The Maelstrom

    As predicted, a front rolled over the Mini Transat EuroChef fleet last night in the middle of the Bay of Biscay, bringing with it an average wind speed of 27-28 knots, gusting to 30, and complicated, cross seas. In these boisterous conditions, besides the dismasting suffered by Franck Lauvray (346 – Alice), several minor issues have affected the fleet
    The damage includes a spreader problem for Jean-Marie Jézéquel (951 – FondApro). However, the latter informed the support boats that his mast was safe and he was awaiting daybreak to effect repairs. Pierre Legendre (994 – AKKA) and Lucas Valenza-Trouba (606 – Six Saucisses) have reported automatic pilot issues. Both of them are hoping to find a solution today, which is something that Jean Cruse (910 – Ini Mini Myni Mo) has recently managed to do. Meanwhile Antoine Bos (825 – Rhino) has a problem with his rudder quadrant but is intending to repair it himself. For his part, German sailor Lennart Burke 943 – Vorpommern) has reported that he’s broken his pulpit and has reduced speed. As such, the last few hours have been rather tricky but fortunately the wind is beginning to ease. Better still, the competitors will now be able to switch from upwind conditions to some more downwind points of sail.


    The Route, Parts 1 & 2
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


    • #3
      Rough Ending For Black Mamba

      These last hours, Georges Kick (529 – Black Mamba) ran aground on rocks at the entrance of the port of Ribabeo.

      The skipper is ok but the boat appears damaged. More information asap.

      " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


      • #4
        The Weekend's Storm System: Kind To Few, Cruel To Others



        From September 30th:

        This Thursday afternoon, whilst the front runners have negotiated Cape Finisterre and are now powering along in the trade wind, the bulk of the Mini Transat EuroChef fleet is continuing to make headway in relative ‘slo-mo’, bound for the north-west tip of Spain. The light breeze, combined with heavy seas, is hampering their progress as the skippers keep on top of their trimming whilst remaining focused on the steering to make as much southing as they can, as quickly as possible. It’s a sizeable challenge however as a low pressure system is festering in this area and is set to generate boisterous conditions in the Bay of Biscay over the course of Saturday. As a result, the skippers will be better off if they’ve got the Iberian headland in their wake!

        The wind is erratic in the Bay of Biscay and offshore of Galicia. In this way, the bulk of the peloton in the Mini Transat EuroChef is struggling to make headway. Some are clearly giving their all, focused on the trimming and the steering in race mode. Others, doubtless more tired or located closer inshore where the wind is buffeting them, are finding it much tougher to get their machines making headway on what are still lumpy seas. As a result, the fleet is now strewn across more than 190 miles and the deficits between the first and last boats look set to grow between now and the finish in the Canaries. Indeed, the leaders have now rounded or are about to round Cape Finisterre and are gradually managing to hitch a ride with the famous trade wind. This steady NE’ly breeze should enable them to devour the miles to the finish in La Palma at a blistering pace, as is already being evidenced in the speeds posted by the first prototypes and that of Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork) in particular. The latter is currently hurtling along at an average of over 14 knots, whilst the majority of his adversaries are racking up single figure speeds. At the latest polling, the skipper from Lille, who has sailed an absolute blinder of a course offshore of La Coruna, has really stolen a march on his pursuers with a lead of nearly 30 miles ahead of Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP/Pogo, whose tracker should be transmitting again by the 18:00 hours polling) and Irina Gracheva (800 – Path), who are sailing neck and neck, with Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre) on the hunt not far behind.


        Trade wind, transitions or storms?

        Though the latter posse and a handful of other skippers will literally take off for the Canaries – where they’ll likely complete the 1,350-mile course that makes up this first leg on Sunday night through into Monday -, their fellow rivals won’t all suffer the same fate. Some will have to contend with flukier conditions coloured by more transition phases. Others may well suffer the influence of another low pressure system set to roll across the Bay of Biscay on Saturday. According to the latest forecasts, this closed zone of low atmospheric pressure could generate a SW’ly wind of 30 to 40 knots. It goes without saying that this would make the situation much worse for those to the north of Cape Finisterre. Within this context, it’s advisable not to hang around. The skippers seem to have got the message through studying the daily weather report and the battle out on the water has stepped up a gear. This is particularly true in the match at the front of the production boat fleet. Basile Bourgnon (975 – Edenred) and Julie Simon (963 – Dynamips), who are racing within sight of one another, are embroiled in a remarkable brawl and astern their rivals are keen not to let them have all the glory. In this way, around ten boats are grouped within a radius of barely ten miles.

        Franck Lauvray set to pick up a tow

        So, what else has happened out on the high seas today? Cyril Oms (591 – 591 – Fantomas) and Nicolas Cousi (533 – Telerys Communication), each faced an issue with their mast base after the front rolled through on Tuesday night through into Wednesday, but have now managed to effect a repair. Camille Bertel (900 – Cap Ingelec) has broken her calculator and mast wand and is trying to come up with a solution with the help, via VHF, of her closest rivals. Franck Lauvay (346 – Alice), who has been making headway under jury rig since yesterday, should be able to pick up a tow this evening from Adrien Hardy. Finally, there is some good news regarding Marc-Eric Siewert (614 – Absolute Sailing Team). The sailor, who had disappeared from the radar screens due to a faulty tracker, has been located by Race Management thanks to the support of the French Navy who dispatched a plane to the zone. The German sailor is continuing on his way without incident and is currently 185 miles off Cape Finisterre, around 25 miles behind Briton Piers Copham (719 – Voiles des Anges). He should be visible on the cartography again from the 18:00 hours polling.

        " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

 Photo Gallery


        • #5
          PUBLISHED ON 2 October 2021


          Alerted to the issuing of a severe weather warning affecting the areas of North Finisterre and South Finisterre, virtually all the competitors in the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef have taken the decision to take shelter. This Saturday, besides the four leaders in the prototype category, who are continuing to drop down towards the Canaries at high speed, solely Briton Piers Copham (719 – Voiles des Anges), Frenchman Georges Kick (529 – Black Mamba) and German Melwin Fink (920 – SingForCom) have made the decision to stay out on the racetrack. For the latter skipper, the gamble might well pay off… in spectacular fashion. The reason for this is that although the youngster will have to deal with some bracing conditions tonight, once he comes out the other side he may well have a lead of around thirty hours over the rest of the competitors in the production boat category in this first leg.

          The conditions forecast for tonight in the Bay of Biscay and then offshore of Cape Finisterre are shaping up to be particularly meaty, with up to 50 knots in the gusts on heavy seas. Virtually the whole of the Mini Transat Eurochef fleet has decided to err on the side caution and good seamanship and seek shelter. In this way, some 82 skippers in all have headed into a series of different ports in Galicia and Portugal: Baiona, Muxía, Portosín, Camariñas, Viana do Castelo and La Coruña. All of them are hoping to set sail again as soon as they can tomorrow morning once the cold front has rolled through. And they won’t be able to hang around either as they’ll quickly get scooped up by a NW’ly breeze of 20-25 knots, which is forecast to back round to the west and then south-west over the course of Monday. At that point, they’ll have the wind on the nose and will have to put in a series of tacks, which obviously won’t make their progress towards the Spanish archipelago very quick.

          On track for a very bracing night

          Meantime, the three Mini sailors who have decided to continue racing, may well be able to rack up some precious miles for the next stage of the race, especially Melwin Fink. Indeed, the young German, aged just 19, could well pull off a veritable heist in terms of positioning on the leader board. Having passed Cape Finisterre as 17th production boat at midday yesterday, the skipper of SignForCom might well have amassed a lead of nearly 150 miles over his fellow rivals in 24 hours’ time. However, to do so, he’ll have to succeed in preserving his gear as best he can as the front rolls over the top of him. The latter will be less violent over the race zone he’ll be navigating (between Vigo and Porto), whilst further north the wind is set to gust to 50 knots with 4.5-metre waves. That said, it is still likely to be a boisterous night with gusts of up to 40 knots forecast between 17:00 hours this evening and 01:00 hours on Sunday morning, as the wind shifts around between the south-west and the north-west.

          Tanguy Bouroullec back in contention

          Further towards the front of the pack, at the latitude of Gibraltar, the top four prototypes in the fleet are continuing their descent downwind. Still propelled along by a fairly shifty NE’ly breeze of around fifteen knots, they are naturally focused on trimming and steering their steeds. Leading the way, Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork) has seen his lead shrink considerably over the past 12 hours. In fact, he has gone from a cushion of over 45 miles ahead of his three closest rivals yesterday afternoon to a lead of just 8 miles over Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP/Pogo). Positioned around thirty miles or so further east, the latter is coming back strong and getting the very best out of his foiling Pogo. Behind him, Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre) remains in ambush 37 miles back, but Irina Gracheva (800 – Path) has now dropped off the pace a little due to having an older and above all less powerful boat than those of her rivals. They are likely to finish the leg from Monday morning in La Palma and the good news is that the trade wind will continue to accompany them pretty much all the way to the line.
          " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

 Photo Gallery


          • #6
            Orca Attacks, Collisions & Winners

            4 OCTOBER 2021
            FLASH INFO
            PUBLISHED ON 4 October 2021

            Just before midday this Monday, while sailing some 30 miles off the coast of Portugal, Victor d'Ersu collided with a fishing boat.
            The sailor is OK. However he has damaged a spreader and his bowsprit. He is trying to repair to keep on racing.


            " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

   Photo Gallery


            • #7

              Gnarly weather, orca attacks, ship collisions, and a spewing volcano.
              Someone needs to hire an exorcist before the 2nd leg!


              • #8
                Fink's Serie Breakaway Demonstrative

                This Wednesday, the whole of the fleet competing in the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef is making headway with a very fluky NE’ly breeze both in terms of strength and direction. As a result, the 84 competitors still out on the racetrack must not only optimise their sail choices but also focus on being in step with the wind. German sailor, Melwin Fink (920 – SignForCom) is proving to be especially adept at this and has been carving out an almost perfect trajectory since yesterday. This is evidenced by the fact that he has stretched out his lead over the Austrian sailor Christian Kargl (980 – All Hands on Deck) to 140 miles, whilst extending his advantage over the peloton to over 220 miles. As such, barring damage, the youngster is on a direct course for victory in Santa Cruz de La Palma where he’s expected to cross the finish line between 08:00 and 10:00 UTC tomorrow.


                Good news: the day’s grib files have evolved since those issued yesterday and the sailors in the Mini Transat EuroChef will likely benefit from more pressure than forecast as they make for the Canaries. Indeed, the routing simulations which indicated a finish on Thursday evening for the leaders of the series boats, are now suggesting that the German skipper may well cross the line by mid-morning tomorrow, Thursday (UTC). However, his rivals are now expected to make landfall from Friday morning, with bunches of finishers likely through until Monday evening. If we look in detail at the routing, Christian Kargl is due to make the finish between 03:00 and 08:00 UTC on 8 October. Meantime, his pursuers, Hugo Dhallenne (979 – YC Saint Lunaire) and Julie Simon (963 – Dynamips) are expected between 09:30 and 13:30 UTC. The small group further back, which comprises Loïc Moisand (955 – Stratos), José Linares (860 – Vamos Vamos), Gauthier Verdon (879 – TGS France), Thomas Grandin (138 – Poch’trot), Rémi Lamouret (880 – Gironde au Large), Pierre Meilhat 485 – Le Goût de la Vie), Nicolas Guibal (758 – Les œuvres de Pen Bron) and Francesco Renella (446 – Koati) is due to finish on Sunday. The final competitors, including Camille Bertel (900 – Cap Ingelec), Pilar Pasanau (240 Gemese – Peter Punk), Marc-Eric Siewert (614 – Absolute Sailing Team) and Benjamin Costa (796 – Mini Malist), look set to complete the 1,350-mile course on Monday.

                Perfectly in step

                In the meantime, concentration is key as there is between 12 and 20 knots of NE’ly breeze accompanying the fleet, with some sizeable wind shifts at times. Within this context then, it’s important to adapt your sail plan as best you can and be right on top of your trimming, whilst also absolutely nailing the timing of your gybes. Melwin Fink, who passed the latitude of Madeira midway through last night, seems to be controlling his trajectory impeccably. Aged just 19, the sailor’s background in dinghy sailing and the many miles he’s clocked up offshore on the family boat, particularly in the Baltic Sea, seem to have stood him in good stead as he’s bang on the pace in the Mini fleet. Over the past few hours, this has notably enabled him to stretch away from the skipper in second place, Austrian Christian Kargl, increasing his lead to 139 miles at 10:00 UTC this Wednesday compared with 103 miles at the same time yesterday.

                Victor d’Ersu (985 – Babouchka) forced to retire from the race

                Further astern, Hugo Dhallenne also has his foot to the floor. Over the past 12 hours, he’s once more managed to gain the edge over Julie Simon thanks to positioning himself around fifty miles further to the east than his rival, where he is able to benefit from more pressure. Moreover, he is currently the fastest of the fleet, boasting an average speed of 11.6 knots. For him, as is the case for the others, the name of the game is naturally to reduce his deficit in relation to the leader as much as possible and to secure the best possible place on the scoreboard prior to the second leg. This act two will sadly not include Victor d’Ersu (985 – Babouchka). Indeed, after the sailor from Saint Malo collided with a fishing boat on Monday morning offshore of the Portuguese coast, he managed to carry out a complete check of his steed this Monday morning in the port of Cascais. Unfortunately, there is serious structural damage leaving him no other option than to inform Race Management of his official retirement from this 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef.

                " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

       Photo Gallery


                • #9

                  As planned, the second leg of the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef kicked off this Friday at 14:00 UTC. Propelled along by a light NE’ly breeze, the 86 participants still competing in the event left Santa Cruz de La Palma bound for Saint-François with a hefty 2,700-mile sprint ahead of them as well as a great many unknowns. Unknowns associated with the exercise itself which, for the vast majority of sailors, will be their transatlantic debut, but also unknowns linked to the weather. Indeed, in addition to the wind shadows created by the Canary Islands, the solo sailors will also have to deal with some lacklustre trade wind and the great many uncertainties caused by this scenario.


                  As predicted, very light airs (between 4 and 5 knots of NE’ly breeze) set the tone for the start of the second leg of the 23rd edition of the Mini Transat EuroChef this Friday afternoon, offshore of Santa Cruz de La Palma. For the next 24-36 hours then, the solo sailors will have to be patient and opportunistic in their bid to escape the Canaries archipelago. The challenge? To elude the wind shadows created by the islands as best they can, especially that generated by the island of Tenerife which culminates at an altitude of 3,715 metres. “The effects of the Teide may be felt across more than 60 miles. As a result, the Mini sailors will have to try to find the best passage between La Gomera and El Hierro, which they have to leave to starboard. It won’t be that easy, especially as they’ll have to deal with numerous light patches and some poorly established trade wind”, explains Christian Dumard, weather consultant for the race. Within this slightly tricky context, there are likely to be a few surprises in store, with some significant gaps possible further down the track. “We’ll need to be on top of our game. Tonight is likely to be very important”, assured Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP/Pogo), current leader in the prototype ranking with a lead of less than 1hr10 ahead of Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre) and Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork), and also with a cushion of less than 10 hours over Russian sailor Irina Gracheva (800 – Path), who might well be able to pull a blinder in the opening miles of the course. “The conditions are perfect for me and above all they’re perfect for my boat. I know I have a card up my sleeve in light airs, though I haven’t lost sight of the fact that when it’s very light and very fluky, everyone’s at risk of getting trapped or making a big mistake. It’s game on for me, in any case”, explained the skipper, who has already shown on countless occasions that she’s absolutely formidable in light conditions.

                  Zoning in on the zen and the cunning

                  “The game promises to be pretty open from the get-go. We’re going to have to look lively and be opportunistic, because you can quickly pay a heavy price for just one mistake and, equally, a good option can quickly enable you to make big gains”, confirmed Léo Debiesse (966 – Les Alphas), he too particularly at ease in the light. “It will inevitably be a bonus to escape the archipelago in the leading group, but after that there’s still a long way to go. Even if someone manages to stand out in the coming hours, it’s not game over for the others. I think mental strength will be invaluable. You’ll need to post a solid performance right the way to the finish”, assures the sailor. Getting off to the best start this afternoon, rival Anne-Claire Le Berre (1005 – Rendez-Vous Equilibre) has a similar mindset. “Initially, it’s fair to say that exiting the Canary Islands is likely to be a bit complicated, but beyond that, however things play out tonight, the game will be wide open behind. To my mind, the key point will be in five-six days’ time once we can see how things are shaping up for the second part of the race. Today, things are fairly uncertain given that the trade wind is not established at all, but at a given point, a decision will have to be made about which course to take”, explained the racer.

                  Heading into the unknown

                  In fact, in a few days, after plunging southwards for a while, the Mini sailors will have no other option than to hang a right to make for the Antilles Arc. At that stage, they’ll have to find the best possible compromise between making fast headway and sailing the least distance possible. “We’ll have to deal with the situation according to the weather reports we receive every day via SSB. One thing for sure: there will be a range of options. The name of the game here will be to not only make the right strategic choices, but also to manage to make fast headway for a long period”, added Tanguy Bouroullec. Though he’ll be able to rely on the experience he’s gained from his first two participations in the race, the same will not be true for the vast majority of the fleet, which is preparing to make its transatlantic debut, not without its share of apprehension. “Like a lot of sailors, I don’t know what to expect as I don’t know where I’m going. Indeed, the unknown is exactly what we’ve all come in search of in some way. It’s a challenge in itself. Making it to the other side and having done it will be a wonderful thing. Today, it is that sentiment that far outweighs the sporting aspect. After working on this project for a year and a half, this project boils down to and is shaped by this moment right here,” says Anne-Claire Le Berre, echoing the sentiment of nearly all her rivals.

                  As expected, the introduction to this second leg of the Mini Transat EuroChef has been somewhat tricky for the 85 competitors still out on the racetrack. Amidst the wind shadows generated by the islands (especially that related to Tenerife, which culminates at 3,715 metres), as well as the weak, erratic airs and the countless light patches, the solo sailors have had to be focused and opportunistic, whilst remaining right on top of trimming their steeds in order to weave their way along the channel between Gomera and El Hierro as swiftly as possible with the aim of gaining southing. Though all of them have managed to extract themselves without ever really stalling in the end, some have come out a lot better than others. Among the prototypes, Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre) has had a particularly favourable passage by sailing a blinder thanks to a slightly more offshore route around El Hierro than his direct rivals. This Saturday, he boasts a lead of 0.6 miles over Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP/Pogo), the current leader in the overall ranking, and over 2 miles ahead of the triplet formed by Irina Gracheva (800 – Path) – Sébastien Pebelier (787 – Decosail) – François Champion (950 – Porsche Taycan).

                  Zigzag mode awaits

                  Among the production boats, Léo Debiesse, always very at ease in the light airs and transition phases, is living up to his reputation. This afternoon, the skipper of Les Alphas is powering along out front with a lead of 2.8 miles over Julie Simon (963 – Dynamips), 3.5 miles ahead of Chloé Le Bars (1007 – Association MJ pour l’Enfance) and 5 miles in front of the chasing pack. As mentioned before, this chasing pack is stretched across more than 35 miles in length and the same laterally, with certain competitors, like Valentin Foucher (990 – Mini Chorus – CARE BTP) or Spaniard Miguel Rondon (1006 – Kristina II) opting for a different route to the East in a bid to try to make up the ground they lost under the influence of more wind shadows than their rivals last night. A fruitful option? Nothing could be less certain. The reason for this is that salvation seems to be located on the other side as the wind is curving round in that area. In fact, plunging southwards certainly seems to be a guarantee of finding more pressure, but the act of repositioning yourself to the west will guarantee a shorter route. As such, in the coming hours (from this evening onwards if all goes to plan), the Mini sailors will begin to link together a series of gybes so they can zigzag their way down the Atlantic. Appearing to be fairly simple on paper, out on the water, the sailors will have to be able to exploit the numerous variations in the wind as best they can by finding the right compromise between making fast headway and not extending the distance to travel too much.

                  Two more retirements

                  Meantime, Pilar Pasanau and Tanguy Aulanier have unfortunately got very different concerns. The former, faced with autopilot issues as well as backache, decided to throw in the towel yesterday evening. The Spaniard, for whom this is her fourth participation in the event, is obviously extremely disappointed to have to cut her race short. The same is true for the skipper of La Chaîne de l’Espoir whose Ofcet 6.50 collided with Camille Bertel’s boat (900 – Cap Ingelec) during yesterday’s start phase. His bow is seriously damaged and though he initially attempted to effect repairs, the engineer has since been forced to face facts and has now also retired from the race.

                  This Sunday, whilst making headway offshore of the coast fringing the Western Sahara, the fleet competing in the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef has scattered every which way. Indeed, it now spans over 180 miles in latitude and 130 miles in longitude, evidence that the 84 competitors still out on the racetrack are each sailing their own race. Some of them have clearly placed the emphasis on heading due south where they can rack up good speeds, whilst others are opting for a compromise by zigzagging their way down the Atlantic so as to gradually reposition themselves over to the west. One other, Australian Christiaan Durrant (1015 – Little Rippa), has clearly targeted the shortest route by sticking as closely as possible to the great circle route, which should logically give him pride of place on the leader board in the near future. A position report which, at this stage of the race, doesn’t really give a true indication of which competitors are best placed to hook onto favourable conditions going forward.

                  The current pattern in the North Atlantic between the Canaries and Cape Verde is fairly simple: there is breeze to the south and very little to the north. Therefore, the sailors participating in the Mini Transat EuroChef must draw up their strategies accordingly and the fact is that they are diverging, as evidenced by the substantial gaps that have opened up in the past 24 hours. Indeed, the bulk of the chasing pack has clearly opted for a compromise and is continuing to zigzag its way southwards down the Atlantic by linking together a series of gybes in line with the slight variations in the breeze. The further along the racetrack they get, positioning themselves over to the west in the process, the more they’re benefiting from a little more E’ly wind, which is enabling them to reduce the distance to sail whilst gaining southing where they can benefit from more pressure. Though this would appear to be the wisest tactic, there is nothing today to confirm whether or not it will ultimately reap the greatest rewards. The other two strategies observed out on the racetrack are also likely to bear fruit in the medium term. In fact, the competitors who have opted for a virtually straight-line course, due south, are clearly enjoying more pressure, which might well enable them to make up for the extra distance covered. In this regard, it’s particularly worth keeping an eye on the Austrian Christian Kargl (980 – All Hands on Deck), way out to the west, who is currently creaming along at over ten knots, whilst the leaders at the 13:00 UTC position report among the production boats, namely Federico Waksman (912 – Little Crazy) from Uruguay, Léo Debiesse (916 – Les Alphas) and Léandre de Schrynmakers (906 – Drago), positioned on the opposite side of the race zone, are racking up an average speed fluctuating between 5 and 6 knots.

                  Speed versus the shortest route

                  It’s a very similar scenario amongst the prototypes with Romain Tellier (865 – Guénify-Stid). As he bombs along at 11.9 knots some 160 miles offshore of the African coast, his rivals positioned between 75 and 100 miles further east may have less ground to cover, but they’re half as quick. So will speed be key in this leg? Australian Christiaan Durrant appears to be convinced that the reverse is true as he’s placed all his chips on the shortest possible trajectory rather than the fastest. Opting for the great circle route is a bold move, but certain routing seems to indicate that it’s not as crazy as all that. As we wait to get a look at the bigger picture in a few days’ time, the skipper of Little Rippa will soon naturally reap the rewards on the leader board, the latter being drawn up in relation to the distance to the goal. Things should become a tad clearer in around three days. Indeed, this coming Wednesday, roughly 100-150 miles to the north-west of the Cape Verde archipelago, the bulk of the fleet should begin to hang a right. In the meantime: It’s worth noting that Romain Bigot (802 – Impulso) has been forced to climb to the top of his mast to resolve an issue whilst Lucas Valenza-Troubat (606 – Six Saucisses), who reported that he had a touch of sunstroke yesterday, is now much improved.

                  As has been the case for the past 36 hours, the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef fleet – with the exception of three competitors who are favouring a trajectory close to the great circle route – is continuing to zigzag its way down the Atlantic in a bid to gain more southing and hence more pressure, whilst also repositioning itself to the west so as to avoid sailing too great a distance. Everyone is trying to find the best possible compromise then, whilst lining themselves up as best they can in anticipation of a long band of calm conditions sprawled right across the racetrack as they attempt to make for the West Indies. The challenge for the solo sailors will be to work very hard to sidestep this extensive light patch stretching out to 20° North and try to slip along in a narrow corridor of breeze just below that. As such, we’ll have to wait until tomorrow evening before we see the competitors really bend their course round to the west.

                  Right now, it is absolutely anyone’s game among the 84 competitors still out on the racetrack in the Mini Transat EuroChef, as evidenced by the big gaps that have opened out in the fleet’s north-south and east-west divide, which has increased still further since yesterday and will likely continue to do so over the coming days. The reason for this is a small stationary low-pressure system lying in the middle of the Atlantic with, to its south, a band of calm conditions stretching out across over 100 miles. To avoid it, the sailors will have no other choice than to go around it, which will force them to head down to at least 20° North, which is around 150 miles north of the latitude of the Cape Verde archipelago. From there, they’ll be able to start driving westwards, an option which will finally take them much closer to the West Indies. In the meantime, they’re trying to find the best possible compromise to gain southing whilst gradually clawing back ground in the right direction, a very fine balance which is far from easy to nail. Right now, the competitors furthest south are enjoying a slight advantage in terms of speed, but all in all, across every stage of the fleet, the competitors are powering along at an average speed of between 7.5 and 11.5 knots.

                  More pressure to the south

                  Among the prototypes, François Champion (950 – Porsche Taycan) is leading the way thanks to being positioned further over to the west than his direct rivals, which logically gives him the edge on the leader board, the latter drawn up in relation to the distance to the goal. He is however making three knots less speed than the little group comprising Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP/Pogo), Sébastien Pebelier (787 – Décosail), Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre) and Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork), who are sailing within sight of one another 70 miles further south and posting double-figure speeds. It’s fair to say that the speed differentials are less striking among the production boats, a category in which Cécile Andrieu (893 – Groupe Adré) pipped Brieuc Lebec (914 – Velodrade) to the top spot at midday this Monday. The former is hurtling along at an average speed of 8.3 knots, which is the exact same speed as her rivals 100 miles further south, Loïc Blin (871 – Technique Voile – Les Entrepreneurs du Golfe, Giovanni Mengucci (1000 – Alpha Lyre), Giammarco Sardi (992 – Antistene), Miguel Rondon (1006 – Kristina II) and Valentin Foucher (990 – Mini Chorus – CARE BTP).

                  Gambling on a vein of breeze to the north

                  So, who has the edge? We should get some kind of answer in 24 to 36 hours’ time. However, we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out whether those on a southern option or those on a direct course will score most points. Elsewhere, close to the great circle route, Australian Christiaan Durrant (1015 – Little Rippa) as well as Victor Eonnet (525 – Fondation Arthritis – Amiens Naturellement) and Antoine Bos (825 – Rhino) are a little less rapid than the rest of the chasing pack, but they are continuing to make headway at an average speed of over 5 knots. The name of the game for them is to tick off as many miles as possible now, because in four or five days they’ll invariably begin to stumble in the calm conditions. Their mission before that point will be to try to hunt down a narrow vein of breeze in which they can continue to weave their way along towards the West Indies without stalling too much and, ideally, reap the benefits of a much more direct trajectory.

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                  • #10
                    The South Side Speeds Up

                    As expected, those in the south have regained the advantage on the leader board in both the prototype and production boat fleets this Friday. The reasoning behind this is that the front runners are powering along at an average speed of over 10 knots towards the goal, whilst those further north are struggling to post speeds which are only half as fast, with no other option than to dive southwards to avoid stalling even more in the zone of calms sprawled right across the middle of the Atlantic. As such it’s crunch time in this 23rd Mini Transat Eurochef, with the deficits building inexorably within the fleet. Deficits which will be complicated to make up further down the track.


                    This very scenario has been in the pipeline for several days and today it’s a done deal: the southerners are coming back strong on the leader board. Having initially accepted that they would lose ground by extending the distance to sail, they’re now harvesting the fruits of their labour further down the racecourse by benefiting from a NE’ly breeze of between 15 and 18 knots, which is propelling them along at pace in the right direction at last, whilst their adversaries further north are now struggling to make headway and slipping down the leader board in the process. Indeed, by targeting a more direct trajectory, they have also taken the risk of getting dangerously close to a vast band of calm conditions stretching lazily across the middle of the Atlantic. As a result, they’ve been stung by a fairly drastic penalty. Worse still, they’re likely to have a heavy price to pay at the finish. Indeed, over the coming hours, as their rivals continue hurtling along at an average speed of over 10 knots due west, they will only be able to post speeds of between 4 and 6 knots with no other solution than to zigzag southwards before they too can finally bend their course round towards the West Indies.

                    The southerners come back strong

                    Within this context, certain skippers are bound to see their hopes turn to dust. Indeed, it’s likely to be a low punch for sailors like Melwin Fink (920 – SignForCom), the current leader in the overall ranking, as well as for some famous hard hitters like Léo Debiesse (966 – Les Alphas), Julie Simon (963 – Dynamips), Jean Marre (991 – Sport dans la Ville – Time for the Planet) and Gaël Ledoux (886 – Haltoflame – Having been jockeying for position at the front of the fleet for some time, they’re now slowly but surely tumbling down the leader board to be eclipsed by sailors like Loïc Blin (871 – Technique Voile – Les entrepreneurs du Golfe), Jean Cruse (910 – Ini Mini Myni Mo), Marine Legendre (920 – EY – Pile Poil), Quentin Riché (947 – Race for Pure Ocean) and twenty or so others, they too ultimately set to be replaced by the likes of Italians Alberto Riva 993 – EdiliziAcorbatica) and Giovanni Mengucci (1000 – Alpha Lyre), Romain Le Gall (987 – Les Optiministes – Tribord), Basile Bourgnon (975 – Erdenred) and Austrian Christian Kargl (980 – All Hands on Deck), to name but a few.

                    A hike in average speed

                    It’s an almost identical scenario in the prototype category for competitors like Matteo Sericano (1011 – Gigali) and François Champion (945 – Porsche Taycan) who, having been the pacesetters for the past five days, are now gradually falling back, far behind the new leaders. These newbies now include Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork) – who’s sailed an absolute blinder to the south over the past 24 hours -, Tanguy Bouroullec (696 – Tollec MP/Pogo) and the impressive Arno Biston with his 16-year-old boat (551 – Bahia Express). Today, all of them are posting great speeds of between 10 and 15 knots despite their 100 miles of lateral separation. Evidence, if it were needed, that though the trade wind is not yet very strong, it is blowing at roughly the same intensity for all the solo sailors to the south and should remain so for the next 48 hours. However, this news may be of benefit to the latest ETAs, with the routing now bringing forward the potential denouement from the morning of Saturday 13 November to the afternoon of Friday 12 November.

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                    • #11
                      Under 1,000 Miles For Leaders

                      As the leaders in the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef fleet have just managed to limbo under the ‘1,000-miles to go’ mark in their race to Saint-Francois, the trade wind is finally making its presence felt out on the racetrack. The latter remains fairly wheezy at less than 20 knots, but it’s beginning to become more uniform from north to south. What this means is that from tomorrow all the 84 competitors still competing in the event will benefit from pretty much the same breeze. Within this context, those who have banked on a southerly option will be able to reap the benefits of their positioning over the next 24 hours. After that, they will have virtually zero advantage in terms of pressure.


                      Though those in the south have clearly had the advantage over recent days in terms of wind strength, things are about to change out on the racecourse. Indeed, the trade wind is slowly but sure re-establishing itself. It still remains a little lazy, generating between 13 and 18 knots depending on the time of the day, it’s gradually becoming more balanced in the corridor where the solo sailors are making headway. Ultimately, or from tomorrow in practical terms, all the skippers, whether they’re located to the south or 500 miles further north, will then benefit from the same wind strength. As such, the differences in speeds should be much more uniform. Needless to say that those who have opted for a more direct trajectory, especially Antoine Bos 825 – Rhino), Victor Eonnet (525 – Fondation Arthristis – Amiens Naturellement), Anne-Gaël Gourdin (626 – Cassini) and Pierre Meilhat 485 – Le Goût de la Vie), will be delighted to be able to power along again at double-figure speeds. In contrast, those who have invested heavily in the south will see their separation become less and less advantageous. For them, the challenge over the next 24 hours will clearly be to claw back as many miles as possible in between times, before they lose their edge.

                      Reaping every possible benefit

                      Inevitably, this fact has not escaped Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork), leader in the prototype category for the past two days. The latter is currently sailing with his pedal to the metal and boasting an average speed in excess of 12 knots, whilst the majority of his rivals, with the exception of Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre), are making between 6 and 8 knots. It’s a pretty similar scenario for Hugo Dhallenne (979 – YC Saint Lunaire) in the production boat category. Currently second in the overall ranking after the first leg, he too has put all his chips on the southerly option, particularly so yesterday. He’s now making headway at the same latitude as Lille and he too is making the most of the added bonus has has in terms of breeze right now over his playmates, the closest of whom are 60 miles further north. In this way, mirroring his game plan from the first leg, he is galloping along without really sparing a thought for himself or his steed, in the knowledge that the closer to the Antilles Arc he gets, the stronger the wind will be. Put plainly, those in the fleet who are furthest ahead, will still have a slight edge over the others, and this is set to be the case right the way to the finish. A finish which, according to the latest routing, is shaping up to be Friday 12 November for the first prototypes and overnight on 13 through into 14 November for the leaders in the production boat category.

                      Of note elsewhere on the racetrack: the Spanish sailor Marc Claramunt (657 – Abicena) is dealing with an issue with his autopilot ram, but is hanging on in there.


                      This Sunday – start day in the Transat Jacques Vabre -, the fleet competing in the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef now boasts a lateral separation of nearly 600 miles. That is a colossal figure, which is also reflected in the gaps between the competitors. To the north, Antoine Bos (825 – Rhino) is sticking to his guns on a shorter, more direct route, around a hundred miles south of the great circle route, whilst at the opposite end of the racecourse, the vast majority of solo sailors, headed by Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork), are continuing to invest in the south and are currently making headway at the latitude of Guinea-Bissau. The challenge right now: to make a few extra umpteenths of a knot, which could make all the difference further down the racetrack.

                      But how low will they go? Such is the question on everyone’s lips, but if we’re to believe the latest routing, the answer may well lay as far as 11° north, a point which Pierre Le Roy should reach before too long. For now, the skipper from Lille, who has been heading the fleet since around 08:00 UTC yesterday morning, is still banking heavily on the south, his goal being to make the most of having more pressure. “With just one or two more knots than his rivals further north, he stands to gain 12 to 15 miles on them per 24-hour stint. That might not seem like a lot, but over 7 days out on the racetrack, there could well be a heavy toll to pay at the finish”, assures Christian Dumard, the race’s weather consultant, whose grib files confirm that there is indeed more breeze further south. So yes, the skipper of TeamWork is having to sail a course which is nearly 450 miles longer than that of the great circle route, but in reality, what you need to focus on is the additional ground he’s covering in relation to his direct rivals. In this instance, it’s only 30 to 40 extra miles and such a deficit can be quickly made up, even with a small speed differential, if we take into consideration the fact that there’s still 1,300 miles to go before the fleet makes landfall in Guadeloupe.

                      Trouble ahead for the leaders?

                      Some of the skippers appear to have been crunching the numbers with Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre) and Irina Gracheva (800 – Path) mirroring each other’s strategy. The same is true among the production boats for Basile Bourgnon (975 – Edenred), Giammarco Sardi (992 – Antistene) and a little posse led by Loïc Blin (871 – Technique Voile – Les Entrepreneurs du Golfe) and including Anne-Claire Le Berre (1005 – Rendez-Vous Equilibre), Giovanni Mengucci (1000 – Alpha Lyre), Pierre Blanchot (890 – Institut Bergnonié) and Romain Le Gall (987 – Les Optiministes – Tribord), with a certain Hugo Dhallenne (979 – YC Saint Lunaire) clearly keen to be part of the mix after making a dazzling comeback from a rather lacklustre start to the race. Though the latter is currently in 25th position, the sailor is likely to be one of the men to watch over the coming days. It was no great surprise though, he has plenty of pluck and is capable of maintaining some extremely high speeds. Another competitor worth monitoring closely is Tanguy Bouroullec (979 – Tollec PM/Pogo). The current leader in the overall prototype ranking, his performance is by far the steadiest on his southerly option out of the small group of four escapees in the first leg. For now, he’s managing to post similar speeds, but it remains to be seen whether or not this will last. Will his 100 miles of lateral separation be beneficial or not? Place your bets ladies and gentlemen.


                      This Saturday, after eight days of racing, the leaders in the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef fleet are at the midway point in this second leg between Santa Cruz de La Palma and Saint-François. Though the remaining 1,350 miles are fortunately shaping up to be somewhat quicker than those now astern of them, the route to the West Indies is not yet the big trade wind highway that so many sailors look forward too. In fact, the latter breeze remains wheezy, even at the latitude of Cape Verde, which means the solo sailors are being prompted to invest even more in the south in the hope of benefiting from more pressure.

                      Generally, when one evokes the trade wind, a steady breeze synonymous with the inter-tropical regions, the first image that springs to mind is one of a long gallop under spinnaker, boisterous surfs and the odd wipeout that goes with all that. The snag is that since leaving the Canaries, on 29 October, the breeze has never fully established or is proving to be somewhat sluggish, added to which, a vast area of calm conditions is sprawled across the middle of the Atlantic. Though there are a handful of implacable sailors continuing on their northern trajectory – prisoners of their option now -, including Antoine Bos (825 – Rhino), Anne-Gaël Gourdin (626 – Cassini), Hugo Picard (1014 – SVB Team), Pierre Meilhat (485 – Le Goût de la Vie) and Victor Eonnet (525 – Fondation Arthritis – Amiens Naturellement), all the competitors have now got the message that salvation lies to the south. As a result, all of the competitors are continuing to invest in this direction, considerably extending their courses in the process. This is evidenced by the fact that the bulk of the peloton is today making headway between 300 to 400 miles from the great circle route. Most incredible of all though is the fact that the majority of solo sailors are continuing to drop southwards and at quite a rate too since certain routing shows a way through as far down as 11° north, which is level with the latitude of Guinea-Bissau no less!

                      As far as 11° north?

                      Rarely, if ever in the event’s history has there been such a scenario as this, even when the Cape Verde archipelago was a compulsory passage point, as was the case in the 2017 edition. “It is somewhat unlikely though that the Mini sailors will actually drop down that far as they obviously don’t have such precise weather data as the kind we boast on land”, reckons Denis Hugues, Race Director. Indeed, given that the sailors themselves only get the rather succinct information sent to them each day via SSB, it would seem rather doubtful that they would gamble on a plan of this scale. In the meantime, it’s blatantly clear that those who are furthest south are also the fastest, as evidenced by Pierre Le Roy’s exemplary course. Around fifty miles lower down the racecourse than his direct rivals, the skipper of TeamWork, who just so happens to be a meteorologist by profession, is the only one in the fleet to be racking up double-figure speed at the latest polling. Thanks to his position, he is able to make the most of a tad more pressure than the others, though he too is having to deal with a very irregular breeze. Indeed, there is between 18 and 24 knots of wind, fluctuating up to 30° in direction. To say things are unsettled then is an understatement and things are unlikely to become any easier on the approach to the Antilles Arc. In fact, the first squalls are already looming…

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                      • #12
                        Pierre Le Roy Under 200 NM To Finish!

                        This Thursday, Pierre Le Roy has less than 250 miles to go to reach Saint-François and complete the 2,700-mile passage that makes up the second leg in this 23rd edition of the Mini Transat EuroChef. Though the skipper from Lille is on a straight-line course for victory, it’s out of the question for him to take his foot off the accelerator, even with a cushion of over 80 miles ahead of his closest rival. Yesterday, we noted that in offshore racing, there are countless examples of the importance of not counting your chickens and in the Mini Transat history books, there are naturally many tales regarding skippers whose hopes and dreams have been shattered just a few boat lengths from the finish. In 2003 for example, the jockeying for position was intense in both the prototype and production boat fleet. Whilst leading the race, Sam Manuard dismasted 80 miles shy of Salvador de Bahia after breaking his lower shroud. For his part, Michel Mirabel, beside himself with fatigue after a merciless battle with Erwan Tymen for first place, ran aground on a rocky bar just five miles from the entrance to All Saints’ Bay, where he got cut-off by the tide, unable to advance.


                        Pebelier and Gracheva worth watching

                        However, let’s not be pessimistic. It’s highly likely that, even though he’s remaining vigilant, a smile is beginning to spread across the face of the meteorologist from Lille aboard his Raison design in the colours of TeamWork as, barring damage or a unfortunate twist of fate, he looks set to take the win in both the leg and the overall ranking. According to the latest routing, he’s expected across the finish line between 07:00 and 09:00 hours local time (between 11:00 and 13:00 UTC), with a lead of nearly 10 hours ahead of Fabio Muzzolini, and nearly double that over the third skipper. The latter should be Tanguy Bouroullec, current leader in the provisional ranking. However, we now know that he was recently handicapped by technical woes. Woes, which were supposed to have been resolved yesterday. What these were is unknown but they may potentially have left the door open for two serious contenders, Sébastien Pebelier and Irina Gracheva. The former is directly in his wake, around twenty miles behind. The second is positioned around forty miles further south. For all of them, the final gybe will be vital in lining themselves up for the sprint finish.

                        Further squeezing up in the production boats

                        Amongst the production boats, denouement is still a way off, but the ETAs are becoming clearer now. The latest update suggests the leaders are expected in this Sunday, from 09:00 local time, or 12 noon UTC. Alberto Riva (993 – EdiliziAcrobatica) and Giammarco Sardi (992 – Antistene) may well be the first to make landfall and fly the flag for Italy in a remake of the last edition, in 2019, with the dazzling victory posted by Ambrogio Beccaria. However, it’s still anyone’s game, especially given the fact that, since yesterday, the leaders have squeezed up together again. This is evidenced this Thursday by the fact that the top five are now grouped within a 20-mile radius, Jean Cruse (910 – Ini Mini Myni Mo) and Hugo Dhallenne (979 – YC Saint Lunaire) having notably made up ground on Loïc Blin (872 – Technique Voile – Les Entrepreneurs du Golfe) and the two transalpine skippers. For them, the last 600 miles are set to be nail-bitingly tense, to the great delight of observers the world over!

                        " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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                        • #13
                          Le Roy's Dual Leg And Overall Victory Dedicated To His Father

                          This Friday 12 November at 13:02 UTC, Pierre Le Roy crossed the finish line in the second leg of the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef (2,700 miles between Santa Cruz de La Palma and Saint-François in Guadeloupe) with a sizeable lead of around ten hours over his closest rival. Third at the end of act one, just 1h09 shy of the leader Tanguy Bouroullec, the skipper of TeamWork has demonstrated real flair and determination during act two by opting for an extreme trajectory to the south. A strategic choice that was as bold as it was hard-fought, it enabled him to secure a fine leg victory as well as first place in the overall ranking (prior to the jury’s decision). He dedicates his success to his father. We get his reactions on his arrival dockside.


                          You’ve pulled off the double, the leg and the event win. Were there moments that you doubted yourself?

                          “I was stressed for four days. I was convinced of the merits of my southerly option. I was convinced, and rightly so, that my rivals were to the north of me. I imagined that I was going to line all of them up behind me, but until they repositioned themselves, it was impossible for me to know how dangerous they could be. Right to the wire, I was in fear of Fabio’s (Muzzolini) red spinnaker appearing out of the blue at the last moment, as was the case in the first leg. I didn’t want to see a remake of that. I put in an absolutely crazy amount of effort, right to the last. Even last night, I gave it everything I had. There was no doubt about it!”

                          On setting sail from the Canaries, there were three of you virtually tied on points. We knew that this second leg would be decisive…

                          “We talked about it a lot in the prototype fleet. It was eagerly awaited. I’m happy because it didn’t come down to a question of speed. The weather was the clincher. I had my plan fixed firmly in my mind. I based my race around that. I trusted in myself. On leaving La Palma, I said to myself that either I would win the race with flair, or I’d take the ‘safe’ option by lining myself up astern of the other three, which would have served no purpose whatsoever.”

                          Dropping down to 12° north considerably extended your route. It was a daring choice and one that was very full-on. It surely can’t have been an easy thing to follow through on?

                          “I said to myself that I couldn’t possibly sail by playing it safe. I didn’t want to arrive in Guadeloupe in the knowledge that I’d known what I had to do but hadn’t done it. I didn’t know where the others were, but I pushed hard into the south. I really went on the attack. It’s fair to say it wasn’t that easy, physically or psychologically. By positioning myself a very long way down in terms of latitude, I likely got caught up in more sargassum than the others. I spent 48 hours battling with the seaweed. I removed it rather than getting some sleep, cleaning around the rudders at one point and around the keel the next. That’s all I did. I got myself into quite a state… I’d never got to a point with boating where it hurt like that. Never before had it hurt so badly.”

                          Upon setting sail from Les Sables d’Olonne you indicated that you hoped this Mini Transat would make you a better sailor. Is that the case?

                          “I don’t know, but I’m pleased with what I’ve done. I’m going to talk about something personal. That’s not something I ever do, but this is dear to me. Two years ago, during my first participation in the race (he finished 5th in the production boat category), my dad was at the finish. Last year, I said to him that once he recovered from his illness, we’d go off on the boat together. He passed away the week I got the hull. I thought about him throughout, like never before. This victory is for him. My energy to dig deep came from that place. Everything I put into this was to pay homage to him.”

                          That likely makes you feel even more proud of what you’ve achieved here…

                          “Either way, this is how I wanted things to play out. By making a solid decision about the weather aspect and never letting up. It hurt, but that’s how I wanted to win. I’m happy with the way I sailed. I love being at sea. It’s all I’ve done for two years and I love it. I really hope to be able to continue sailing further down the track. I’m crazy about offshore racing.”

                          That’s clear. So what are your hopes right now?

                          “I’d really love to sail a bigger boat with on-board computers so I can refine the routing. What we do on Minis involves traditional methods, though that’s a fantastic way to learn. I’m bringing with desires. The Route du Rhum would be incredible, the Vendée Globe even more so, though there’s a big hurdle to cross first. These are matters I’ll be discussing with my partners. In fact, I’d like to thank them for sticking by me and believing in me. I’ll try to sort all that out next year in a bid to continue sailing. I feel so good at sea!”

                          A word about your boat?

                          “She’s incredible. David Raison created something quite remarkable. The boat is constantly planing. In 15-16 knots of breeze, she just flies. I’d really like to pay tribute to his architect, as well as to all those who helped assemble her. My thoughts go out to these craftsmen, who have an incredible amount of know-how, and also to Cédric Faron who helped me bring it all together. TeamWork was only launched back in February and I’m so fond of her. We’ve written a wonderful story together”.


                          Whilst Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork) has taken the outright win (prior to the jury’s decision) in Saint-François, the fight continues at every stage of the fleet in the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef. In the prototype category, Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre) will likely be next to complete the 2,700-mile passage in the second leg between Santa Cruz de La Palma and Saint-François this evening (midway through tonight UTC), with the trio made up of Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP/Pogo) - Sébastien Pebelier (787 – Décosail) - Irina Gracheva (800 – Path) set to follow in his wake, albeit in no particular order. In the production boat category, the competition is becoming fiercer still, even though Hugo Dhallenne (979 – YC Saint Lunaire), who is continuing to make a blistering comeback and is now heading the top trio, is packing a real punch in his bid for final victory.

                          This Friday, though Pierre Le Roy has taken the win in style in this 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef, 83 competitors are still out on the racetrack, all of them vying to bring their A game into play, well aware that the final sprint is underway. Among the prototypes, a great slew of finishers is due across the finish line in quick succession and suffice to say that the outcome is eagerly awaited. Third place is an especially hot potato, set to go all the way to the wire, because although the winner of the first leg, Tanguy Bouroullec, might appear to have it in the bag, Sébastien Pebelier and Irina Gracheva remain on the hunt with a different angle of attack in relation to the island of Guadeloupe. In their wake, François Champion (950 – Porsche Taycan) and Arno Biston (551 – Bahia Express) are also bunched together and won’t give up without a fight. Safe to say then that the runners-up prizes are still very much up for grabs and the suspense is positively unbearable among the production boat fleet.

                          Hugo Dhallenne continues his thundering attack

                          In this category, rarely in the history of the race have we seen the leaders bunched so tightly together with less than 48 hours from the finish. Indeed, the top five are grouped with a 5-mile radius, the bulk of the peloton hot on their heels. At this stage of play, predictions are simply impossible as evidenced by the fact that the leading group are constantly jockeying for the top spot. Yesterday, Italians Alberto Riva (993 – EdiliziAcrobatica) and Giammarco Sardi (992 – Antistene) were leading the way, whilst today Loïc Blin (871 – Technique Voile – Les Entrepreneurs du Golfe) has snatched back the reins despite a continued fearsome reprisal by Hugo Dhallenne, who’s now up to third place, tickling the foil moustaches of the top duo. Everything hangs in the balance as we wait to see whether he’ll manage to pull a blinder and slip by them to snatch victory, despite mixed results in the first half of the race. As we await the response, one thing for sure is that he looks set to take victory in the overall ranking after his second place in the first race some 1h52 behind the German sailor Melwin Fink (920 – SignForCom) who is over 160 miles off the pace today.

                          First place without a leg victory?

                          If he could secure the win, he would bag a near-perfect score. Where the reverse is true, together with Gilles Chiorri, he could become one of only two sailors in the history of the Mini Transat to take victory in the event without winning any legs. “It just goes to show that consistency, as is often the case in offshore racing, is one of the keys to performance, just like mental strength”, says the winner of the 1997 edition. An edition whose racetrack stretched from Concarneau in Brittany to Fort-de-France with a stopover in Tenerife, in which he finished 5th and 2nd in the two legs, aboard an ancient prototype, which had won the event in 1981 in the hands of Jacques Peignon. “The main point of interest in my Mini Transat relates to my finish in the Canaries. Whilst heading the fleet, I was unable to locate the finish line. Angry with the Race Committee, who I reckoned were incapable of setting this famous line correctly, I entered the port where Jean-Luc Garnier, the then event organiser convinced me to get back out there and cross it. I set sail with two reefs in the main and three fenders on each side of the boat and finished in 5th place with an 18 or 20-hour lead over Laurent Bourgnon. Laurent took the win in the second leg, but finished behind in the combined time,” recalls Gilles. So yes indeed, anything is possible in this Mini Transat…
                          " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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