The impending race start is beginning to feel very real all of a sudden! On Sunday 22 September, at 14:15 hours, 90 women and men will set sail from La Rochelle on the first leg to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. In the meantime, the sailors are sparing no effort in their preparations and the public are very welcome to come along to admire all the boats moored in the Bassin des Chalutiers. They’ll also be able to make the most of the wealth of entertain on offer in the Mini-Transat La Boulangère village, where the summery weather is making festivities all the finer.
It was at 10:00 hours this Saturday 14 September that the village for the 22nd edition of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère opened its doors at the end of the Bassin des Chalutiers. It will remain open for the next eight days and this first packed day of entertainment and encounters has really set the pace.
Lilian Thuram and Catherine Chabaud open the series of christenings
Several sailors are making the most of the festivities in La Rochelle to christen the boats with which they’ll carve out a wake across the Atlantic. Keni Piperol and Marie Gendron were first up today with some prestigious patrons. It was ex-footballer Lilian Thuram, World Champion 1998, who was tasked with smashing the bottle (of rum) over the scow bow of Keni Piperol’s Mini 6.50 (Caraïbe course au large). “I’m impressed at the sight of all these sailors preparing to cross the Atlantic on 6.50m boats. It’s incredible what they’re doing; you need to have a steely character. I hope they will feel determined, whilst having fun and bringing their A game”, said Lilian Thuram.
As for Marie Gendron (SNCF - Cassiopée), she opted for an exceptional female sailor to christen her boat, Catherine Chabaud no less, a former Mini-Transat sailor (in 1991) and the very first woman to have completed a singlehanded round the world race (Vendée Globe 1996-1997). Catherine fervently defends the protection of the oceans, a cause which Marie Gendron also holds dear.
The next christenings will involve the boats skippered by David Kremer (Sunday), Franck Colin (Tuesday) and Paul Cloarec (Friday). On Saturday 21 September, on the eve of the start, four other sailors will follow suit: Yann Blondel (patron Sandrine Quétier), Adrien Bernard, Amélie Grassi (patron: Loïck Peyron) and Tanguy Bouroullec.
Some round tables to get a better grasp of the challenges of the Mini-Transat
The public will also be able to attend a series of round tables, during which various themes will be tackled. Today, the very important topic of safety and health at sea was debated. Tomorrow, the focus will be ‘sport in the feminine’ in the presence of some of the women competing in the Mini-Transat (Marie Gendron and Marie-Amélie Lénaerts) and the female rugby players from the local Stade Rochelais rugby stadium. Following straight on from that will be another round table with the hopes of the Stade Rochelais and their coaches Sébastien Boboul and Romain Carmignani.
Presentation of the skippers tomorrow at 17:00 hours
This Sunday, all the entries will be gathered together on the main stage of the village for the official skippers’ presentation. Be sure to set a date as it’ll be the perfect opportunity to get to meet the women and men, aged 18 to 64, who are setting sail on this crazy challenge to cross the Atlantic on the smallest offshore racing boats in the world, with no means of communicating with the shore…
Bernard Bonneau, President of the Collectif Rochelais Mini-Transat: “Here we are gathered together at last, at the heart of the city of La Rochelle. The partners, skippers, families and the general public are ready to celebrate the commitment of all the singlehanded sailors who will be setting sail a week on Sunday. Seeing all these boats in the Bassin des Chalutiers is quite spectacular and within the organisation we’re particularly keen to share this Mini-Transat La Boulangère with the greatest number of people. The dream, the adventure, the competition, the innovation… The Mini has it all. It’s an extraordinary and magical race. We’re very pleased with how successful the race is proving to be and we’re eager to discover what this 2019 edition has in store for us on the Atlantic!”