A very lively start, two returns to port

02 11

19:15

This Saturday at 14:33 UTC, 82 sailors took the start in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria of the second leg of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère in what proved to be a bracing introduction. The racers very quickly had to get their bearings in a fine trade wind, which is set to propel them along the route to Le Marin, in Martinique. A few hours after kick-off, two female sailors announced their return to land, to try to effect repairs: Amélie Grassi (Production) and Marie Gendron (Prototype).

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There was a clash of emotions this lunchtime on the pontoons of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, when the 82 sailors competing in the second leg of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère took turns to cast off. A combination of excitement, impatience, happiness, apprehension and a sensation of vertigo prior to the leap into the unknown and a fierce desire to get out on the racetrack resulted in both laughter and tears and sometimes a mixture of both.

A fantastic start!
Once at sea, the racers soon get into the zone and at 14:33 UTC they set sail off Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. With all these sailors hoisting their spinnakers, it was a veritable feast for the eyes. Some attacked hard to be first across the start line, whilst others opted to set off in a second and even a third wave of competitors. The race is long though (2,700 miles) and in the Mini-Transat, there are as many objectives as skippers. In a fine trade wind and fairly heavy seas, the start was intense and some sailors were perhaps caught off guard after their stopover in the Canaries. Indeed there were a number of broaches and the first few minutes set the tone for this second leg, which is forecast to be quick. 

Frights for Raphaël Lutard and David Kremer 
Two sailors suffered some minor technical issues just before they took the start. Raphaël Lutard noticed that his antenna attachment had come loose. The skipper of prototype number 900 returned to port to scale his mast and resolve the problem and then immediately headed back out onto the racetrack, crossing the start line just quarter of an hour after the rest of the fleet. Nothing crippling then. For his part, David Kremer suffered some problems with his autopilot. He too had to return to port and finally crossed the start line 1hr30 after the rest of the fleet. 

Return to port for Amélie Grassi and Marie Gendron 
Two female sailors paid the price for this brisk introduction to proceedings. Amélie Grassi (5th in the first leg among the production boats) damaged her bowsprit. Meantime, Marie Gendron (4th in the first leg among the prototypes) reported various technical issues. They’ll be returning to the marina in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria where they’re expected to make landfall this evening, at which point we’ll find out more about their intentions. With regards the Russian sailor Fedor Druzhinin, he’s encountered some problems with his mast wand, which he’s trying to resolve within the protection of the coast. 

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Last reactions from the sailors prior to the start of the second leg: 

Axel Tréhin (prototype, winner of the first leg): “It’s been nearly two and a half years that I’ve been preparing for this second leg where everything will be decided. The weather situation is fairly pleasant. We’re going to be sailing downwind the whole time, making fairly fast headway. We’re going to need to be on our game from the get-go and continue to keep up the pace after that and not drop the ball when there are minor hassles to deal with. We’ll have to be on the attack all the way! At the start of the race, it will essentially be about knowing how much southing to put in before setting a course to the West.

Andrea Pawlotzki (production, 51st in the first leg): “There’s a bit of tension but I’m keen to get going. If I wasn’t here, I may well be shut away in an office all day in front of my computer. Instead of that though, I’m readying myself to do something exceptional, so inevitably I’m happy. I’ve already crossed the Atlantic once and I know roughly how things will play out. However, it’s my first time singlehanded and in race format. I like being at sea for a long time and there’s a great deal of introspection and thought to come I think.

Masa Suzuki (production, 34th in the first leg): “Prior to the first leg I was a bit scared. However, finishing it safely reassured me. Completing a transatlantic passage is one of my biggest dreams. It’ll be my longest sail ever as I’ve only sailed for ten consecutive days singlehanded before. Finishing the leg would be a victory in itself.” 

Clément Machetel (production, 49th in the first leg): “I can’t do any worse than in the first leg, which wasn’t at all conclusive for me. I’m setting sail with a desire to do well, to make up the ground I’ve lost and I hope that my gear will hold out. The priority is to quickly get into the swing of things, not to lose contact with my playmates and to find the right tempo.” 

Nicolas Barriquand (production, 40th in the first leg): “It’s going to be a massive journey of discovery. We’re incredibly lucky to have this opportunity. To ease the pressure, I’m telling myself that I’m going for a nice little boat trip, albeit just a little longer than usual. I’m a bit disappointed by my ranking in the first leg and I would like to climb ten places or so and also not get caught up by my playmates behind.