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23rd Mini Transat EuroChef Leg 2

As planned, the second leg of the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef kicked off this Friday at 14:00 UTC. Propelled along by a light NE’ly breeze, the 86 participants still competing in the event left Santa Cruz de La Palma bound for Saint-François with a hefty 2,700-mile sprint ahead of them as well as a great many unknowns.

Unknowns associated with the exercise itself which, for the vast majority of sailors, will be their transatlantic debut, but also unknowns linked to the weather. Indeed, in addition to the wind shadows created by the Canary Islands, the solo sailors will also have to deal with some lacklustre trade wind and the great many uncertainties caused by this scenario.

Mini Transat EuroChef 2021 Leg 2 start - photo © Vincent Olivaud
Mini Transat EuroChef 2021 Leg 2 start – photo © Vincent Olivaud

As predicted, very light airs (between 4 and 5 knots of NE’ly breeze) set the tone for the start of the second leg of the 23rd edition of the Mini Transat EuroChef this Friday afternoon, offshore of Santa Cruz de La Palma. For the next 24-36 hours then, the solo sailors will have to be patient and opportunistic in their bid to escape the Canaries archipelago. The challenge? To elude the wind shadows created by the islands as best they can, especially that generated by the island of Tenerife which culminates at an altitude of 3,715 metres. “The effects of the Teide may be felt across more than 60 miles. As a result, the Mini sailors will have to try to find the best passage between La Gomera and El Hierro, which they have to leave to starboard. It won’t be that easy, especially as they’ll have to deal with numerous light patches and some poorly established trade wind”, explains Christian Dumard, weather consultant for the race. Within this slightly tricky context, there are likely to be a few surprises in store, with some significant gaps possible further down the track. “We’ll need to be on top of our game. Tonight is likely to be very important”, assured Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Tollec MP/Pogo), current leader in the prototype ranking with a lead of less than 1hr10 ahead of Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre) and Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork), and also with a cushion of less than 10 hours over Russian sailor Irina Gracheva (800 – Path), who might well be able to pull a blinder in the opening miles of the course. “The conditions are perfect for me and above all they’re perfect for my boat. I know I have a card up my sleeve in light airs, though I haven’t lost sight of the fact that when it’s very light and very fluky, everyone’s at risk of getting trapped or making a big mistake. It’s game on for me, in any case”, explained the skipper, who has already shown on countless occasions that she’s absolutely formidable in light conditions.

Mini Transat EuroChef 2021 Leg 2 start - photo © Vincent Olivaud
Mini Transat EuroChef 2021 Leg 2 start – photo © Vincent Olivaud

Zoning in on the zen and the cunning

“The game promises to be pretty open from the get-go. We’re going to have to look lively and be opportunistic, because you can quickly pay a heavy price for just one mistake and, equally, a good option can quickly enable you to make big gains”, confirmed Léo Debiesse (966 – Les Alphas), he too particularly at ease in the light. “It will inevitably be a bonus to escape the archipelago in the leading group, but after that there’s still a long way to go. Even if someone manages to stand out in the coming hours, it’s not game over for the others. I think mental strength will be invaluable. You’ll need to post a solid performance right the way to the finish”, assures the sailor. Getting off to the best start this afternoon, rival Anne-Claire Le Berre (1005 – Rendez-Vous Equilibre) has a similar mindset. “Initially, it’s fair to say that exiting the Canary Islands is likely to be a bit complicated, but beyond that, however things play out tonight, the game will be wide open behind. To my mind, the key point will be in five-six days’ time once we can see how things are shaping up for the second part of the race. Today, things are fairly uncertain given that the trade wind is not established at all, but at a given point, a decision will have to be made about which course to take”, explained the racer.

Heading into the unknown

In fact, in a few days, after plunging southwards for a while, the Mini sailors will have no other option than to hang a right to make for the Antilles Arc. At that stage, they’ll have to find the best possible compromise between making fast headway and sailing the least distance possible. “We’ll have to deal with the situation according to the weather reports we receive every day via SSB. One thing for sure: there will be a range of options. The name of the game here will be to not only make the right strategic choices, but also to manage to make fast headway for a long period”, added Tanguy Bouroullec. Though he’ll be able to rely on the experience he’s gained from his first two participations in the race, the same will not be true for the vast majority of the fleet, which is preparing to make its transatlantic debut, not without its share of apprehension. “Like a lot of sailors, I don’t know what to expect as I don’t know where I’m going. Indeed, the unknown is exactly what we’ve all come in search of in some way. It’s a challenge in itself. Making it to the other side and having done it will be a wonderful thing. Today, it is that sentiment that far outweighs the sporting aspect. After working on this project for a year and a half, this project boils down to and is shaped by this moment right here,” says Anne-Claire Le Berre, echoing the sentiment of nearly all her rivals.

Mini Transat EuroChef 2021 Leg 2 start - photo © Vincent Olivaud
Mini Transat EuroChef 2021 Leg 2 start – photo © Vincent Olivaud

To note:

  • Lina Rixgens (982 – Avanade) has officially reported her retirement to Race Management. The German sailor noticed a problem with her keel-bulb joint and after trying to resolve it without success, has now thrown in the towel. It’s bitterly disappointing for the sailor who was already thwarted by issues with her rudder fittings during the first leg. 
  • Tanguy Aulanier (986 – La Chaîne de l’Espoir) collided with Camille Bertel (900 – Cap Ingelec) during the start phase, damaging the bow of his Ofcet 6.50. The skipper has quickly had his boat hauled out to assess the extent of the damage and decide how best to proceed. 
  • Pilar Pasanau (240 – Gemese – Peter Punk) turned back shortly after the start of the second leg having detected some autopilot issues. The Spaniard is trying to come up with a solution before heading back out to sea.
Mini Transat EuroChef 2021 Leg 2 start - photo © Vincent Olivaud
Mini Transat EuroChef 2021 Leg 2 start – photo © Vincent Olivaud

Quotes from the boats:

Hugo Dhallenne (979 – YC Saint Lunaire): “I’m really keen to get out there. I want to do my best and get to the finish as soon as possible. In the first leg, I must admit that I sailed with my foot to the floor without really sparing my steed. In this second leg, the plan is pretty much the same. I’m intending to sail flat out in the hope that the machine and the sailor can hold out to the end. The weather’s very squirrely, so we’ll have to make the best of what we get. The models are pretty much in agreement for the first few days, but then we’ll have to choose between a northerly or southerly course according to the weather reports we’ll receive via SSB and that decision will be key. I’m going to sail my own race without worrying what the others are up to. I’m not going to cover my playmates because we don’t have enough means at our disposal in Mini to find out where they’ve gone in any case. I’m eager to set sail and eager to finish!”

Melwin Fink (920 – SignForCom): “I’m super excited and super motivated about this second leg. I’ve managed to really get some good rest. The three-week stopover was long, a bit too long maybe. I’m really very happy to be heading back out to sea and setting a course for the Caribbean. It’s going to be a completely different race to the first leg. This leg is going to be longer as well as much more open on a strategic level. We’re starting out from scratch again pretty much, which is highly motivating. I hope to have some fun and obviously I want to finish and rank well. I’m focused on the race. I’ve tried to prepare my boat as best I can and I’ve had great support. It’s all down to me now, or almost!”

Pierre Le Roy (1019 – TeamWork): “I feel quite stressed as the weather is fairly complex with some really clear-cut options, which could cause some grief if we get it wrong. There are three of us who were virtually tied at the end of the first leg, so we know that the Mini Transat will be won in this second leg. It’s incredible. Added to that, I think we’ll lose contact with one another fairly quickly. After two or three days, we’ll lose sight of the others. It’ll be important to sail our own race, sail well and then we’ll see what happens at the finish. I know how I operate. I mull things over for a long time to be 200% sure of what I’m doing, even though there’s always an element of uncertainty. I know that I’m not going to go back on my decisions. At the finish, either I’ll be happy or I’ll have messed up, but I’ll accept it either way. I don’t think I’ll have anything to regret if I’ve followed through on my analysis. I’ll feel satisfied at the finish if I feel that I’ve sailed well, but I’m clearly gunning for victory.”

Christian Kargl (980 – All Hands On Deck): “The match is wide open and I’m incredibly keen to get down to battle again. My third place in the first leg was a bit unexpected for me and I’m going to have to really work hard to stay at the front of the pack as I’m up against rivals who are both young and very motivated. I’m the ‘old hand’ of the group, but I fully intend to give my all to stay in contact with the others from start to finish. We’ll have to make some good decisions and have a long-term strategy. It won’t be easy to find the compromise between going fast and not extending our course too much, but it’s going to be interesting. There will doubtless be some very different options within the fleet, but we can only work out what’s what once we get to the other side. I have nothing to prove to myself, but I want to show others that, despite my age, I’m not as rusty as all that and that I’m capable of posting another Top 3 spot”.

Fabio Muzzolini (945 – Tartine sans Beurre): “The podium in the prototype category remains open, added to which the two most powerful boats are unlikely to be favoured, so I believe anything’s possible. We’ll see what happens in Guadeloupe. I think the fleet will be bunched together at the start. It’s going to be interesting to play around, even though there’s going to be some sizeable traps, with some notably areas with precious little breeze. The first five days are likely to be dangerous and I can’t even imagine the scenario if I’m pinned to the racetrack whilst the others escape. That could lead to a bad atmosphere aboard. We’re lined up for a fortnight at sea and I think I’ll only be able to get my head around that when the time comes. In the first leg, I quickly managed to get into my race and I’ll try to do the same here. In contrast to two years ago, this year it’s less about the adventure aspect for me. I’ve really dedicated all my preparation to this Mini Transat and all my strategic decisions will revolve around me giving my all. I’ll be happy if I’m still on the podium at the finish.”

Basile Bourgnon (975 – Edenred): “I’m hungry for it. The spirit of revenge after the first leg is uppermost in my mind so I hope this one will play out differently. They aren’t the usual weather conditions for a transatlantic, but there are lots of opportunities on the cards, making it possible to catch up if you’re behind. It’s going to be tiring and quite long. Being alone and at sea for a long time is no big deal for me. I hope I don’t run out of food and water. I also hope there will be a bit of breeze nonetheless so we can go fast as it’s a race after all. The conditions mean anything’s still possible. I don’t think I’ll pay too much attention to the rankings for the first few days, so I don’t feel destabilised or influenced in some way, but clearly we’re going to have to make the right choices.”

by Mini Transat EuroChef

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