Published on 4 October 2021
Prototype: Three leaders enjoy a very close finish at the end of the first leg
Tanguy Bouroullec – Fabio Muzzolini - Pierre Le Roy: such is the order of the winning trio (prior to the jury’s approval) in the prototype category of the first leg of the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef. And what a leg! Punctuated by a bracing passage across the Bay of Biscay, a decisive rounding of Cape Finisterre which enabled a small group of four to make good their escape, as well as a remarkable finish with less than 1h10 separating the three leaders, the latter has certainly lived up to its reputation!
The scenario for this first leg (1,350 miles between Les Sables d’Olonne and Santa Cruz de La Palma) has proven to be completely insane, practically from beginning to end. It all began in the Bay of Biscay, and in particular during the second night, with the passage of a front which quickly opened up gaps within the fleet and enabled a small group of four sailors to distinguish themselves, before they managed to make good their escape in style in their passage around Cape Finisterre. “Exiting Biscay really wasn’t that easy. We knew it’d be a decisive passage, but we didn’t expect the door to slam shut like that just behind us. We were lucky there”, exclaimed Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP/Pogo). A sense of astonishment shared by Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre): “It’s crazy that there were only four of us to slip under the ridge of high pressure. I didn’t think it would shut down like that behind us”.
Colossal separation from the rest of the peloton
Indeed, whilst these two skippers, accompanied by Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork) and Irina Gracheva (800 – Path), managed to pick their way along in a vein of breeze before hooking onto the Portuguese trade wind and then slipping along with their pedal to the metal towards the Canaries, their adversaries in the prototype category became ensnared in a patch of light airs. Worse still, they then had to negotiate the passage of a second front that was even more active than the first, which prompted them all to take the decision to seek shelter in various Galician ports, putting their race on hold for nearly twenty hours or so. “It’s fair to say that for the overall ranking in the prototype category, it’s created a hole”, commented the winner of this first act (prior to the jury), in which nearly all the remaining competitors are still over 600 miles from the finish this Tuesday morning.
As a result, this first round was decided via a four-way match and it lived up to its promise right down to the wire. Indeed, though it seemed evident at one point that Pierre Le Roy had made the break and was on a fast track to victory after a killer tactical move off the north-west tip of Iberia, Tanguy Bouroullec managed to snatch back control to the north of Madeira, before being put under pressure at the virtual gate positioned close to the Selvagens Islands by Fabio Muzzolini. “For my part, it was clearly a surprise to see Tartine sans Beurre appear on the AIS this morning. I even thought that my system was acting up because the day before I had a 40-mile lead over him,” explained the skipper of Tollec PM/Pogo, staggered by his Franco-Italian rival’s amazing comeback.
A story of angle and pressure
Positioned 45 and then 60 miles further east than his two main rivals, the latter not only benefited from a better angle of attack, but also more pressure during the last night before the finish. In this way, after lamenting a deficit of up to 56 miles in relation to the two leaders, he managed to get right back into the thick of the action, inserting himself between the two. “I’d hoped to pull off the same move as Axel Tréhin a couple of years ago, but no… For me though, it’s great to finish in second place. I’d feared that I would be too far behind the first boats in this leg. Today, within this context, anything’s still possible and that is just fabulous!”, commented Fabio, who finished 1 hour and 3 minutes behind the first boat in the end, and 5 minutes and 52 seconds ahead of the third competitor.
One hour on a transatlantic scale is precious little
“I don’t understand how the other two, and Fabio in particular, made up so many miles on me. I’m looking forward to seeing the cartography to get a grasp of everything that’s happened”, indicated the skipper of TeamWork who, for his part, was really flying offshore of Portugal and had boasted a lead of up to 45 miles over the second boat before seeing his lead melt away and even completely disappear. “We’re pretty much tied prior to the second leg, which is so cool”, assured the skipper from Lille. This is a view shared by Tanguy Bouroullec: “It promises to be a fantastic second leg! The match is still open. One hour on a transatlantic scale is nothing and Irina (Gracheva) is not very far behind either”, concluded the skipper from the Finistère.