Published on 22 September 2021
Repeat offenders or addicts?
Out of the 90 sailors taking the start of this 23rd Mini-Transat EuroChef, fourteen of them have been in this position before. Among them, are those who made their race debut in the guise of an adventure and are now making their comeback with some solid sporting ambitions. There are also those who, having been forced to retire from their previous participation, are adamant that they will succeed in going all the way this time. Then there are those who are keen to get back to basics and those who are continuing on their quest for victory in the hope that this edition will be the one.
“The Mini Transat is a hard drug and I’ve really acquired a taste for it”, assures Georges Kick (Black Mamba), the most senior sailor in the event who, having made his race debut in 2019, is primarily returning this year to top up his pleasure sensors. Is the race that addictive? The answer is a resounding yes if we are to consider the abundance of so-called ‘repeat offenders’. Sometimes the decision to return is immediate, sometimes it takes several years and other times it takes several decades, as is the case for Pierre Meilhat. The latter is making his comeback in this 23rd edition, some 28 years on from his debut performance, which sadly concluded with a dismasting on the second leg, offshore of the Canaries. “My memory regularly plays back the film of the falling spar which put paid to the realisation of a dream. As a result, I had no choice but to return because, though time is ticking by, there’s still a story to be written”, explains the skipper of the Pogo 2 in the colours of the Le Goût de la Vie (Zest for Life) association.
Come back stronger and more confident
It’s a similar scenario for Irina Gracheva, she too forced to throw in the towel during her race debut in 2019 following a dismasting smack bang in the middle of the Atlantic. “When the damage occurred, I was rather taken aback, but the first thing that came to mind was that I had to come back and have another crack at it. In the end, I believe that it was a blessing in disguise. After an extra two years on the circuit, I’ve racked up numerous miles at sea. I’m returning with a more high-performance project. I have a more modern and more reliable boat. I’m stronger and above all I’m more confident”, explains the skipper of Path, whose journey has nevertheless involved a great deal of hard work and numerous sacrifices in her bid to take up the gauntlet. “I arrived in France in March 2020 to begin my preparation. I knew that with COVID-19, it would be impossible for me to return to Russia for my work or to see my family. That’s naturally been difficult, but I really wanted to follow through with my project despite all these sacrifices”, says the sailor, who is convinced that in life there is no such thing as failure, only a series of lessons.
Back for more, yes, but with a purpose
Finding the energy to put together a Mini Transat campaign is not as simple as all that however, as Tanguy Bouroullec can testify. After his first two participations in the event in 2017 then in 2019, each culminating in a 4th place (in the production boat and then prototype categories), the sailor from the Finistère took the time to mull over his decision. “I needed to get my head around it all. A race like this requires a lot of commitment and time. To line up for the start, you really have to be sure you want it because the task at hand is far from simple”, says the skipper of Tollec MP / Pogo, who is gunning for gold in Guadeloupe, albeit with the emphasis on continuing to work up his boat, a genuine concentration of technology, which is notably equipped with foils, built at the family yard in Quimper. “In 2019, my Pogo Foiler had only just been launched prior to the race start. I felt a slight sense of frustration about not being able to perform to her full potential as I didn’t know her inside out at that point. Today, I’m back to get her making headway as best she can”.
No two transatlantic passages are ever the same
So, this year’s event will be Tanguy’s third attempt, while Spanish sailor Pilar Pasanau will be back for her fourth participation. However, the record number of participations is held jointly by Pierre Rolland and Bruno Thélier, who have both competed in five Mini Transats. The former pulled off the challenge of finishing the race four times between 1987 and 2009, a performance he shares with Lionel Lemonchois, Bertrand Delesne and Frédéric Guérin. “Every edition is different. The first naturally remains a journey of discovery, but the others are never the same, however things play out, if only in relation to the weather. As far as I’m concerned, I return every four years, with the aim of doing better than I did the time before”, reveals the skipper of Geseme – Peter Punk, who someday plans to line up for the start of the Vendée Globe. “The Mini Transat is a race which pushes you to be the best version of yourself in every domain, as a sailor but also as a person. There’s no better way of upping your game and moving forward time and time again”.
The repeat offenders in this 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef: Luca del Zozo (Race=Care), François Champion (Porsche Taycan), Irina Gracheva (Path), Pilar Pasanau (Geseme – Peter Punk), Christian Kargl (All Hands on Deck), Lina Rixgens (Avanade), Pierre Meilhat (Le Goût de la Vie), Sébastien Pebelier (Decosail), Fabio Muzzolini (Tartine sans Beurre), Tanguy Bouroullec (Tollec MP Pogo), Pierre Le Roy (Teamwork), Georges Kick (Black Mamba), Victor Turpin (Pays d’Iroise) and Matteo Sericano (Gigali).