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Pre-start impressions

Whilst the stress was palpable at the start of the first leg, on 27 September in Les Sables d’Olonne, the atmosphere this Friday morning was a lot more relaxed in Santa Cruz de La Palma, just a few hours before the second leg kicks off. Extracts.


Nicolas Guibal (758 – Les œuvres de Pen Bron): “Overall the boat is well prepared, but my main autopilot is playing up. I’ve dismantled it and tested it a bit every day. It seemed to be working again but now it’s on the blink. I’m setting sail with that in mind, which is preferable because at least I know what awaits me. I already know I’m going to have to deal with this issue. Out on the water, we’re going to have a lot on our plate at the start with some small wind shifts to hunt down. As there isn’t any breeze, we’re going to have to be on top of our game and try to avoid the wind shadows as much as possible so we can extract ourselves from the Canaries as fast as possible. Down below, I’ve already put all the weight up forward with that in mind. I’m heading completely into the unknown. We should have more downwind conditions than in the first leg. Crossing the Atlantic is a first for me and I’m going to try and make the most of it. I know it’s going to be long, as we’re setting out for nearly three weeks on the water. I hope my mates who have planned to come and see me in Guadeloupe won’t have left by the time I get there (laughs)! At least it gives me a goal to get a shift on before everyone leaves (laughs)!”

Cyril Oms (591 – Fantomas): “I have no idea what to expect in this second leg. I feel a bit confused. However, I am a lot less stressed than I was in the first leg. I’m preparing myself as best I can, so we’ll just see what happens. I’m not particularly apprehensive, though I’ve no idea how I’m going to feel. I’m just going with the flow. Ultimately, I’ll be happy if I make it to the finish, because I have quite a few energy issues even before I set sail. I hope it’ll be alright. My goals will be to try and get to the other side as quickly as possible and avoid any breakage.”

Nicolas Cousi (533 – Telerys Communication): “I was very stressed in Les Sables d’Olonne as I was under pressure to make it to the Canaries. Here, my goal remains to make the finish in Guadeloupe, but now I also want to hang onto my 40th place, which is a little unexpected in relation to the numerous training sessions I’ve done and somewhat linked to the fact that we had to make a pit stop in Spain. In the ranking some guys are close to me, but others have a 2-hour deficit, so it should be okay. Competitively the pressure is clearly on now and I really intend to give my all in this second leg, which I didn’t do in the first. Setting sail a month ago, I was scared of posting a ridiculous performance, of being the last to finish without a technical issue. I don’t have quite so many hang-ups today. Finishing 40th overall and 40th in the leg wouldn’t be bad.”

Ronan Jézégou (692 – Diaoulic): “This morning I called my nearest and dearest to say goodbye, trying not to forget anyone. Mentally it was important for me to speak with them one last time before leaving. I’ve really made the most of the past fortnight and it was only two or three days ago, returning to La Palma on my own, that I realised we were setting sail again and that this time we’re setting out on the main chunk of this Mini Transat EuroChef. That’s when the stress picked up a notch. I’m now just taking things one day at a time. I’ve never crossed the Atlantic. It’s really going to be a journey of discovery. I hope we’ll have a bit of trade wind. I don’t really know what awaits us in terms of weather as there is a lot of uncertainty. One thing for sure is that it’s going to be a lot longer than forecast. I have lots of questions running round my head, but they’re the same as the ones I was asking myself two years ago, when I started the project. I don’t know how I will react or how I’ll deal with life all alone on my boat in the middle of the ocean. Finding the answers to those questions is why I’m here. These are the moments I was looking for, because for me, this Mini is also a kind of journey of introspection.”

Cécile Andrieu (893 – Groupe Adré): “I’m trying not to tell myself what an extraordinary thing this is. I didn’t sleep very well. I woke up several times. I’m super excited. I really want to rediscover what I felt during the second part of the first leg, namely the ability to feel completely unstressed and at ease on the boat, whilst really enjoying myself. Things worked pretty well like that and I really want to try and switch back into that mode. We’ll start out with light airs, which will set the nerves on edge. It’s a long way. Speed and fun will be the key words for me. It’s going to be quite the journey of discovery. Yesterday, when we were all running the routing software, I got swept up in the days. I haven’t yet managed to put dates on the durations as it seemed such a long time. I’ve never sailed so far singlehanded. Those who already have a Mini Transat to their credit have a different kind of knot in their stomach I guess. It’s the unknown for me. On the water, it’s going to be a big jumble after three or four days of racing. I think experience will pay dividends. Before the first leg, I told myself that securing a spot in the Top 15 would be really great and a Top 10 unreal. I’m 7th in the provisional ranking and I hope I can continue in that vein. There are lots of people behind me, who are very dangerous, but I’m going to focus on my race. To do well, you really have to just think about yourself, trust yourself. That’s what I’ll try to do.”

Yannick Lemonnier (491 – Port of Galway): “I’ve come into this from Ireland where it’s windy, but my boat really loves the light airs. We make a good team. The second leg? In fact, I don’t know where I’m going as I don’t have a router. I pretty much know what needs doing in terms of clouds… and in reality my router will be my barometer along with the AIS. After that, it will all be done on feeling. In any case, we’re all heading in the same direction, that’s the good news! For me it’s an adventure of sorts… there are already two tracks on my chart that go across the Atlantic and I’ll be adding another. Last year, I competed in a 500-mile race, but sailed 1,700 miles to be able to tick that box. I’m used to spending time at sea. My boat is 17 years old and has pointy ends, so I won’t be competing with the top players. I’ll just be sailing the way I know how and we’ll see how things pan out. Ultimately, it’s the boat / skipper combo which secures the result at the end of the day.”

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