One week ago, the 82 competitors in the Mini-Transat La Boulangère set sail on the second leg from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Le Marin in Martinique. This evening, the leaders in the prototype (François Jambou) and production fleets (Ambrogio Beccaria) are a little over 1,000 miles from the goal and, according to the latest routing, may well make the finish line from Thursday 14 November after just 12 days of racing. Behind them, the list of technical issues is growing. Evidently a tot or two of Caribbean rum has to be earned…
It all began just one week ago to the day. After a long stopover in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 82 solo sailors set sail on the second leg of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère with an unshakeable desire to get going and finally experience this much-awaited passage. The first few minutes set the tone, with some skippers caught off guard. Since then, the pace has been very steady with a well-established trade wind. The sailors and their gear bear the scars. This evening, a violent wind is sweeping across the fleet once again with 28 to 35 knots of breeze and a building sea.
News from Belgian Marie-Amélie Lénaerts and Briton Joe Lacey
Two sailors have been sailing at a reduced pace today. The support boat O’kayam is sailing alongside Joe Lacey (963) this evening. We don’t yet know the nature of the damage suffered aboard the British sailor’s boat but in any case various people have rallied around him and he’s safe. Also in difficulty today, Marie-Amélie Lénaerts (833) spent all day trying to effect repairs and has now picked up speed again and was making 6.8 knots at the 16:00 UTC position report. She has been escorted by Frédéric Bach (533), who has shown true solidarity during this time, putting his own race to one side to support a fellow sailor.
A variety of damage
Following a series of discussions via VHF with various racers, the support boat Yemanja has a variety of damage to report today, as explained in their message sent from on-board: “Fedor Druzhinin (759) is having to heave to in order to carry out some repairs. He’ll tell us when he’s setting sail again so don’t be surprised to see him stopped on the tracker. Julien Berthélémé (742) suffered a dark series of events last night after a major wipe-out in a squall, breaking his boom, though he has since repaired that with splints, and he ended up with a torn mainsail, a spinnaker in tatters and a twisted pulpit... He’s continuing on his way. Albert Lagneaux (882) has broken his rudder link bar but was able to replace it and he has another spare one!” We also received news today from Antoine Perrin (850), who after a fantastic start to the race (4th place after four days of racing) has tumbled back down the prototype ranking after breaking his bowsprit ball joint. The latter ball joint has fallen overboard and is therefore impossible to repair. Antoine also laments rudder issues but these remain manageable.
Limp to the finish or go into the pits?
So how are the first production boats managing to compete with the top prototypes?
In the production boat category, Ambrogio Beccaria (943) is still masterfully leading the way and is also 2nd overall! Meantime his pursuers, Nicolas d’Estais (905), Benjamin Ferré (902), Pierre Le Roy (925), Félix de Navacelle (916) and Lauris Noslier (893) are ahead of the 3rd prototype! “It’s impressive to see the production boats in such a good position”, comments Tanguy Leglatin, coach to the skippers at the Lorient Grand Large training hub. “That means that there’s been more breeze than forecast on the grib files. In the breeze, the production boats are easier to manage, you can really push them hard without asking yourself too many questions about your gear. On a prototype, you’re forced to ease off the pace in these conditions as the boats are more fragile. We experienced a similar scenario in the Mini-Transat 2009, where Francisco Lobato came close to taking the outright win in the first leg.”
Ranking on Saturday 9 November at 16:00 UTC
1- François Jambou (865 – Team BFR Marée Haute Jaune) 1,114.9 miles from the finish
1- Ambrogio Beccaria (943 - Geomag) 1,162.8 miles from the finish