Eight women daring for more!
- Start of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère on 22 September 2019
- Eight women at the start
Female sailors have always played a major role in the history of the Mini-Transat and the 22nd edition is no exception to the rule. On 22 September 2019 in La Rochelle, eight women will set sail singlehanded in a bid to cross the Atlantic. There will be six French women, one Belgian and one Russian who will all be making their debut appearance in the event.
The Class Mini has helped make great inroads into the feminization of sailing. A number of great female sailors have kickstarted their career by participating in the Mini-Transat la Boulangère, including Isabelle Autissier, Catherine Chabaud, Ellen MacArthur and Sam Davies… More recently, other women have secured stellar results in this initiatory event: 2nd place for the Swiss sailor Justine Mettraux in 2013 (production boat), 2nd place too for Clarisse Crémer in 2017 (production boat). Among the five women preparing for the Vendée Globe 2020-2021 (singlehanded non-stop round the world race), four have already taken the start of the Mini Transat! They are Clarisse Crémer, Sam Davies, Pip Hare and Isabelle Joschke. Suffice to say that the Class Mini is a fantastic launch pad… In fact, this particular trend is something that appealed to La Boulangère. Indeed, the company that has become title sponsor of the race supports women’s sport through its various partnerships.
Eight ‘rookies’ for the 2019 edition
There is already a long and illustrious history between the Mini-Transat and women. In 2017, there were ten at the start. This year, there might well be eight: one on a prototype and seven on production boats. With boat number 930, Marie Gendron, 27 years of age, is the only woman to register a prototype. Last year, she notably finished 11th in Les Sables-Les Açores-Les Sables.
Five young women are signed up in the production boat category. Benefiting from a great support team, Amélie Grassi has been lucky enough to have the legendary Loïck Peyron aboard her little Mini, which goes by the name Tyrion. She’s already taken the start of numerous events since last year, securing 2nd place in the Pornichet Select and the Mini Fastnet (with Davy Beaudart), and a 7th place in Les Sables-Les Açores-Les Sables. Amélie could well be one of the hot favourites in the Mini-Transat La Boulangère 2019. The other entries are Belgian sailor Marie-Amélie Lénaerts, Russian Irina Gracheva and French sailors Anne Beaugé and Céline Sallés. Though all of them are naturally keen to perform well, it’s fair to say that the adventure aspect is uppermost in their minds for their respective projects.“A sense of curiosity is drawing me onwards. I’ve always wanted to go and see elsewhere, to push open doors and try new things. My main driver: to enjoy it to the full, learn to become a good sailor and come out the other side enriched by this life experience”, explains Marie-Amélie Lénaerts.
Two other female sailors are not yet officially signed up, but there’s still a very good chance they’ll be at the start. Second on the waiting list, Axelle Pillain is within touching distance of the goal. As for Violette Dorange, just 18 years of age, she isn’t yet signed up but is set to head off on her 1,000-mile course (non-race format) to qualify for the transatlantic race and then join the waiting list.
The eight women in the running for the Mini-Transat La Boulangère 2019:
In the prototype category:
Marie Gendron (FRA/930) – 27 yrs – 1st participation
In the production boat category:
Irina Gracheva (RUS/579) – 35 yrs – 1st participation
Amélie Grassi (FRA/944) – 25 yrs – 1st participation
Marie-Amélie Lénaerts (BEL/833) – 32 yrs – 1st participation
Céline Sallès (FRA/514) – 29 yrs – 1st participation
Anne Beaugé (FRA/890) – 34 yrs – 1st participation
Axelle Pillain (FRA/781) – 1st participation (waiting list)
Violette Dorange (FRA/955) – 18 yrs – 1st participation (not registered)
List of qualified skippers, available here
Justine Mettraux, 2nd in the Mini Transat in 2013 (production boat): “I raced a Mini 6.50 for two years and I have very fond memories of the experience, particularly the Mini-Transat 2013, which was my first singlehanded transatlantic. This event was also a watershed moment in my career; it enabled me to get into the world of offshore racing. My solid results on the Mini circuit were the trigger for me to join a crew in the Volvo Ocean Race (crewed round the world race with stopovers). The Mini circuit is very formative. It enables you to establish a solid foundation from which to move up into other more demanding classes.”
Isabelle Autissier : “For me the Mini-Transat was where it all kicked off! I took part to participate and at the end, I made the podium. I adored it… so I’ve continued.”
Marie-Amélie Lénaerts (BEL/833) : “A sense of curiosity is drawing me onwards. I’ve always wanted to go and see elsewhere, to push open doors and try new things. My main driver: to enjoy it to the full, learn to become a good sailor and come out the other side enriched by this life experience.”
A WORD FROM CHRISTOPHE AILLET
Christophe Aillet, CEO of La Boulangère & Co: “Allow yourself to do more sport, be fulfilled and make your ultimate dreams a reality… These are the messages we’re seeking to convey through our commitment to sport. We’re very admiring of these everyday women, who sign up for this daring race. In addition to being a sport practised in harmony with nature, sailing puts men and women on an equal footing.”