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Melwin Fink on track for the heist of the century?

Alerted to the issuing of a severe weather warning affecting the areas of North Finisterre and South Finisterre, virtually all the competitors in the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef have taken the decision to take shelter. This Saturday, besides the four leaders in the prototype category, who are continuing to drop down towards the Canaries at high speed, solely Briton Piers Copham (719 – Voiles des Anges), Frenchman Georges Kick (529 – Black Mamba) and German Melwin Fink (920 – SingForCom) have made the decision to stay out on the racetrack. For the latter skipper, the gamble might well pay off… in spectacular fashion. The reason for this is that although the youngster will have to deal with some bracing conditions tonight, once he comes out the other side he may well have a lead of around thirty hours over the rest of the competitors in the production boat category in this first leg.

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The conditions forecast for tonight in the Bay of Biscay and then offshore of Cape Finisterre are shaping up to be particularly meaty, with up to 50 knots in the gusts on heavy seas. Virtually the whole of the Mini Transat Eurochef fleet has decided to err on the side caution and good seamanship and seek shelter. In this way, some 82 skippers in all have headed into a series of different ports in Galicia and Portugal: Baiona, Muxía, Portosín, Camariñas, Viana do Castelo and La Coruña. All of them are hoping to set sail again as soon as they can tomorrow morning once the cold front has rolled through. And they won’t be able to hang around either as they’ll quickly get scooped up by a NW’ly breeze of 20-25 knots, which is forecast to back round to the west and then south-west over the course of Monday. At that point, they’ll have the wind on the nose and will have to put in a series of tacks, which obviously won’t make their progress towards the Spanish archipelago very quick.

On track for a very bracing night

Meantime, the three Mini sailors who have decided to continue racing, may well be able to rack up some precious miles for the next stage of the race, especially Melwin Fink. Indeed, the young German, aged just 19, could well pull off a veritable heist in terms of positioning on the leader board. Having passed Cape Finisterre as 17th production boat at midday yesterday, the skipper of SignForCom might well have amassed a lead of nearly 150 miles over his fellow rivals in 24 hours’ time. However, to do so, he’ll have to succeed in preserving his gear as best he can as the front rolls over the top of him. The latter will be less violent over the race zone he’ll be navigating (between Vigo and Porto), whilst further north the wind is set to gust to 50 knots with 4.5-metre waves. That said, it is still likely to be a boisterous night with gusts of up to 40 knots forecast between 17:00 hours this evening and 01:00 hours on Sunday morning, as the wind shifts around between the south-west and the north-west.

Tanguy Bouroullec back in contention

Further towards the front of the pack, at the latitude of Gibraltar, the top four prototypes in the fleet are continuing their descent downwind. Still propelled along by a fairly shifty NE’ly breeze of around fifteen knots, they are naturally focused on trimming and steering their steeds. Leading the way, Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork) has seen his lead shrink considerably over the past 12 hours. In fact, he has gone from a cushion of over 45 miles ahead of his three closest rivals yesterday afternoon to a lead of just 8 miles over Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP/Pogo). Positioned around thirty miles or so further east, the latter is coming back strong and getting the very best out of his foiling Pogo. Behind him, Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre) remains in ambush 37 miles back, but Irina Gracheva (800 – Path) has now dropped off the pace a little due to having an older and above all less powerful boat than those of her rivals. They are likely to finish the leg from Monday morning in La Palma and the good news is that the trade wind will continue to accompany them pretty much all the way to the line.

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