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The first prototypes expected into Guadeloupe tomorrow

The denouement of the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef is nigh, for the prototypes at least, who are expected to make landfall in Saint-François from tomorrow, Friday 12 November. With less than 15 hours to the finish, Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork), nicely settled in the driver’s seat for six days already at the head of the fleet, is continuing to consolidate his lead and with it his place as champion of the leg and the event. Behind him, barring technical glitches, Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre) looks set to hang onto his current second place. However, things could be a little trickier for Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP /Pogo). Indeed, though the winner of the first leg is assured of a podium place in the overall ranking, there’s a chance he may be pipped at the post in this second leg by Sébastien Pebelier (787 - Décosail) or Irina Gracheva (800 – Path). Suspense reigns supreme tonight!

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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!

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