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The Mini Transat, a special race in an era of hyperconnectivity

The Mini Transat EuroChef remains a rather special event in the offshore racing universe. In this particular race, gone is the computer, the satellite link, the photo and video sends and the chats with family and friends. The link with land amounts to a daily report broadcast via SSB radio by Race Management to provide an update on the weather situation, the 48-hour forecasts and the distances to the goal of each competitor. In fact, this device, which is a polar opposite to the phenomenon of the digital hyper-communication and hyper-connection that is expanding exponentially in today’s world, is the golden ticket to adventure with a capital A.

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“Being completely independent and cut off from the world during the race requires significant levels of preparation and anticipation. It’s a massive wake-up call in terms of making you aware of your responsibilities and it naturally prompts you to be a better sailor. You’re forced into a position where you’re having to think about every element and you can only rely on yourself. That suits me down to the ground as one of my main drivers in the Mini Transat is to raise my game as a sailor”, notes Pierre Le Roy (Teamwork). Though some fear solitude, the sailor from Lille considers positive solitude to be a necessity. “It’s a personal matter. It’s often controversial because it all depends on your temperament. When you’re alone at sea and things get tough, you question your motivation and you end up wondering what you’re doing there. Everyone reacts in different ways of course, but as far as I’m concerned, I don’t tend to think about that too much. I know why I’m doing the Mini and why I’m crossing the Atlantic. The isolation doesn’t weigh too heavily. Aside from the fact that I can’t keep in touch with my family, which is a very peculiar thing, being cut off from all the news from the outside world is very relaxing ultimately. From that point, our only concern is to get the boat making headway in the right direction. It’s the opposite of your everyday experience and that instils a peace of mind which I find incredible. That’s another reason why I do the Mini Transat”, explains the meteorologist, who is lining up a second time for the race start.

It’s a fact, we lead hectic lives. Amidst work, studies and a social life, we don’t really have the opportunity to take any time out. Living in a society which is increasingly connected certainly has a part to play in that. Hugo Picard, who holds sway on the social networks under the pseudonym The Sailing Frenchman and boasts over 127,000 followers on YouTube, 11,000 followers on Instagram and over 5,500 on Facebook, ranks among those who are a part of a hyperconnected generation, is someone who is a master of the Internet and the latest technologies. One might imagine then that at sea being deprived of these tools may leave a gaping void for such people and yet the reverse is true. “Not having any means of communication at sea is no big deal. What I love is to make an image, edit it and tell a story. When I sail, I no longer think about posting something, I no longer think about the stories, or anything else”, says the skipper of SVB Team. At the start, some five years ago, when he launched his channel, the skipper from the Pyrenees didn’t really have any idea of the scale of what he was taking on and that it was through this medium that his partner would decide to commit to his project. “I started out doing it for my mates and my family as a way of jabbering on and showing them my passion and they really lapped up my stories of boats. I love the ‘sharing’ aspect. I’ll obviously tell them all about my Mini Transat on my return, but today, I’m longing to get far away from it”, admits Hugo, who has naturally arranged to continue fuelling his various networks during the race with the help of a communications agency.

There will be a number of other skippers who will be keen to follow suit, but others, like Georges Kick (Black Mamba), aren’t really concerned by such things. “I’m generally not a very connected person. I don’t shy away from having the ability to continuously access applications, data and a raft of information in today’s world. I enjoy the ubiquity of interfaces that make tools accessible and I’m well aware that hyperconnectivity is a guarantee of a certain responsiveness, but I can very easily do without it. In the Mini Transat, we don’t have access to anything and I consider that to be a holiday. Obviously, I won’t know what’s happening on the planet when I’m at sea, but I assume that if it’s that important, I’ll always find out all about it soon enough!”

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