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From an adventure to a springboard!

Say yes to the unknown, take up a challenge, go on a journey of discovery, test and push back your limits, have a thrilling ride… there are so many drivers for the 90 solo sailors setting off across the Atlantic within the context of the Mini Transat EuroChef on 26 September. Though they share the same spirit of adventure, not all of them are preparing for the intensity of the action in the same way. For some, the race will remain the adventure of a lifetime, whilst for others, it will be but one chapter in a whole lifetime of adventures.

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Since its creation in 1977 by Bob Salmon with the aim of rekindling the adventurous spirit of the first transatlantic passages, the Mini Transat has enabled more than a thousand sailors to cross the Atlantic on boats measuring just 6.50 metres in length. For the majority of them, the race is an unlikely interlude in their lives, a space open to the realisation of a dream. For the 90 skippers preparing to take the plunge this year, it’s a must in the bid to feel alive. “We’re all running on adrenalin”, assures Anne-Gaël Gourdin, who loves nothing better than setting herself new challenges. Her past is evidence of this as she’s participated in the famous Transjurassienne and the formidable Embrun Ironman. “Like a lot of people, I’m primarily here to prove to myself what I’m capable of”, explains the skipper of Cassini, whose next challenges will involve an eastbound or westbound passage across Nepal, followed by a tour of South America by foot. “For me, life isn’t defined by work, but the adventures and encounters you make along the way. In the Mini Transat, there’s an adventure aspect and a social aspect. It’s a microcosm. It’s also and above all about a great group of friends crossing the Atlantic. Naturally, there’s around fifteen or so competitors who are here to jockey for position at the front of the pack, but on a personal level, I’m essentially hoping that we’ll all make it to the finish to have a big party in Guadeloupe”, says the structural engineer, who was greatly inspired by Sam Davies during her Vendée Globe 2008 and then 2012. “Initially, my challenge involved simply learning to sail. I began with the sailing dinghy and was immediately hooked. That’s how I got involved!” explains Anne-Gaël.

The Vendée Globe as a backdrop

It’s virtually the same story for Djemila Tassin. For her the trigger was hitching a ride on a First 345 when she turned 18. “Crossing the Atlantic had always been a dream of mine and my first experience was a sheer delight. From that moment, I had but one wish: to set sail again. I’ve waited for eight years, but today it’s finally about to become a reality!” raves the sailor from the Canaries, who’s already set herself the goal of coming back in two years’ time on a more high-performance boat, as well as to line up for the legendary Vendée Globe one day. “I dream of circumnavigating the globe and doing it in race format. As such, for me the Mini Transat is more a rite of passage than an end in itself”, says the skipper of Kaïros. Indeed, the event is both a school of life and a school of sailing, but it is also a great springboard for a professional oceanic career. There are a great many sailors who have cut their teeth in the Mini. Yannick Bestaven of course, as well as Daniel Gilard, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, Bruno and Loïck Peyron, Yves Parlier, Isabelle Autissier, Laurent and Yvan Bourgnon, Roland Jourdain, Catherine Chabaud, Lionel Lemonchois, Michel Desjoyeaux, Thierry Dubois, Ellen MacArthur, Thomas Coville, Tanguy de Lamotte, as well as Thomas Ruyant, Sam Davies and Clarisse Crémer, are just some of those who have participated in this unique race, where first and foremost you do battle with yourself. “It’s an experience with a unique human element”, confirms Tim Darni, he too well aware that experiences like the Mini Transat are transformative and regenerative. They take you on a thrilling ride out of your comfort zone. Put plainly, they enable you to live your truest life. “In 2008, I witnessed the start of the Vendée Globe. I was fascinated by it from the get-go and began to dream of one day having a go at the race myself, because I find the idea of circumnavigating the globe under sail incredible. The Mini Transat is sure to be a good springboard to get me another step closer to achieving my goal”, explains the skipper of So’Kanaa Jus 100% naturel, who has already racked up four transatlantic passages (in crewed format) and has her sights on the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe in 2022.

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