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Mini-Transat departs France, Championship of Champions, U.S. Match Racing Championship

by David Schmidt 8 Oct 2019 22:00 BST October 8, 2019
2019 Mini-Transat La Boulangère start © Christophe Breschi

The 1,350 nautical mile Mini-Transat La Boulangère race departed the city of La Rochelle, France, on Saturday, October 5, following a considerable delay due to weather, finally giving sailors the chance to aim their bows towards Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the finish of the first leg of this two-stage race. Once in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, sailors will have a chance to temporarily regroup before then punching on towards the race's ultimate finishing line in Martinique's bay of Le Marin. En route, the 87 singlehanded sailors who are contesting this race aboard Classe Mini yachts (read: 21.3' LOA) will be challenged by the course, by the conditions, and by their fellow competitors and will have to make all decisions alone and with precious little sleep.

Sadly for American offshore interests, none of the competing Classe Minis will be flying sails that read "USA", however European interests are better represented, with France leading the hunt in terms of total number of boats entered.

Competing sailors can either enter a prototype (read: custom build) or production Classe Mini, and the two classes are scored separately. The race's tracker function reveals that amongst the protos, skipper Axel Trehin, sailing aboard Project Rescue Ocean (FRA 945) was leading the chase, followed by François Jambou, sailing aboard Team BFR Marée Haute Jaune (FRA 865), and Marie Gendron, sailing aboard Cassiopée-SNCF (FRA 930). Amongst the production builds, skipper Ambrogio Becarria, racing aboard Geomag (ITL 943), was in the pole position, followed by Lauris Noslier, sailing aboard Avoriaz (FRA 893), and Pierre Le Roy, sailing aboard Arhtur Loyd (FRA 925).

For years, the Mini Transat has served as a talent pipeline for shorthanded sailors seeking to step up into the bigger Class 40 or IMOCA hardware, but the recently-announced addition of a mixed-sex, two-person offshore event in keelboats at the 2024 Olympics also places additional emphasis on single- and shorthanded events as a possible Olympic proving ground.

Clearly, France is well-positioned for glory, both in the 2019 Mini-Transat La Boulangère and likely also in the inaugural offshore event at the 2024 Olympics, and while Sail-World wishes all competitors racing in the Mini-Transat La Boulangère safe passage and plenty of speed, we sure wouldn't mind seeing a return to the days of American sailors participating in this storied event.

Meanwhile, much closer to home, US Sailing's Championship of Champions, which was contested in Sonars, was sailed last weekend on the waters off of Stamford Yacht Club, in Stamford, Connecticut. To qualify, entrants must win a national or North American class championship title, meaning that the starting line was packed with talent. But, after 13 races, the Seattle-based team of Dalton Bergan and Ben Glass (Team 5) beat out 19 other teams. They were joined on the podium by Vincent Porter and Andrew Barrett (Team 17), and Chris Raab and Geoffrey Ewenson (Team 15).

"We went upwind to check our settings over and over again without resting much between races," said Glass in an official US Sailing press release. "It seems to have paid off."

And in San Francisco, California, the St Francis Yacht Club hosted the Kilroy Realty U.S. Match Racing Championship (October 3-6). While "the Bay" is known for its wind-machine properties, Sunday proved to be a light-air affair that forced the race committee to cancel the day's racing. Fortunately, better air earlier in the series allowed the committee to successfully score the regatta. Skipper Pearson Potts and his team claimed victory for their third consecutive year, beating out seven other teams, including teams skippered by Peter Holz and Jeffrey Petersen, who finished the regatta in second and third places, respectively.

"We came in to defend; we never really saw ourselves [that way]," said Potts in an official press release. "So we tried to win rather than defend. Any time you come to St. Francis... there are so many currents and variables," he said.

And finally, in America's Cup news, both INEOS Team UK and Luna Rossa have launched their first-generation AC75s. This brings the total count of launched AC75s to four, with only Stars & Stripes Team USA yet to unveil their build. It will certainly be interesting to see where these teams end up in terms of the designs of their second-generation boats. Stay tuned!

May the four winds blow you safely home,
David Schmidt

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