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CoastWaterSports 2014

24th La Boulangère Mini Transat will remain in the annals

by Rachele Vitello 20 Nov 19:41 GMT
24th La Boulangère Mini Transat © Vincent Curutchet / La Boulangere Mini Transat

The 24th edition of La Boulangère Mini Transat, unquestionably one of best events, lived up to all its promises, writing one of the most unforgettable chapters in the history of the competition and, more broadly, in offshore racing.

From Les Sables d'Olonne to Saint-François, passing through Santa Cruz de La Palma, the 90 solo sailors in competition engaged in a fiercely fought battle. All of them faced an immense challenge. Most completed the adventure, concluding, not without emotions, several years of a project. Some also fulfilled a dream. On the land side, the assessment is equally exciting and synonymous with clear popular success.

A remarkably diverse fleet

As in 2021, in order to meet ever-increasing demand, the number of participants for this 2023 edition has been expanded from 84 to 90 (31 Proto and 59 Series). Within this fleet, no fewer than 17 nationalities were represented (Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Spain, United States, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland, Uruguay, Venezuela) with a total of 27 international sailors, accounting for nearly 30% of the troops. Also noteworthy were the women (14) and the 'repeat offenders' (13). The average age? Thirty-three years, ranging from 21 to 66 years at the extremes.

Less than 5% abandonments

In major offshore races like the Vendée Globe or the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe, the abandonment rate generally hovers around 20%. In the Mini Transat, it fluctuates between 10 and 15% depending on the editions but sometimes reaches peaks, as in 1981. Already saddened before the start with the sinking of Christian Massicot during his transfer to Penzance (the departure port), the race then experienced the tail of Cyclone Irene. At the finish, the number of skippers forced to abandon (16) was then higher than those who finished the race (13). In contrast, this 24th La Boulangère Mini Transat generated only four abandonments: three in Proto and one in Series. Those of Federico Sampei (1046 - DMG MORI Sailing Academy 1) due to a dismasting, Matthieu Sapin (958 - Assurinco - Urban Corail) due to energy problems, Alpha Eon Diakite (254 - 30 days at sea for our heroes) after the loss of his keel, and Alexis Rochet (962 - Espérances Banlieues) due to steering and autopilot issues. If it's not a record, it's still an excellent score!

Romain Van Enis, the 1000th solo sailor to complete the Mini Transat

Since 1977, no fewer than 1,362 sailors (1160 solo) have lined up for the event, including 107 women. Arriving in last position in Guadeloupe after facing the breakage of a spreader shortly after leaving the Canary Islands, Belgian Romain Van Enis (630 - James Caird) is, incredibly coincidentally, the 1000th sailor to have completed the solo loop! Another figure: no less than 38 countries have been represented, with France leading in terms of numbers, followed by Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Switzerland, and Belgium. Note: Venezuela was a newcomer this year.

Foreign winners, both in Proto and Series

Until now, six foreigners had succeeded in inscribing their names on the event's record: American Norton Smith in 1979, Belgian Laurent Vancutsem in 1993, Swiss Yvan Bourgnon in 1995, Belgian Peter Laureyssens in 2005, Portuguese Francesco Lobato in 2009, and Italian Ambrogio Beccaria in 2019. This year, Uruguayan Federico Waksman (1019 - Repremar - Shipping Agency Uruguay) and Italian Luca Rosetti (998 - Race = Care) did the same. However, it is the first time in the history of the race that international skippers manage to win simultaneously in both Proto and Series!

Speed records

Taking advantage of perfectly established trade winds in the second stage, some solo sailors achieved supersonic averages aboard their Mini 6.50s. Hugues de Prémare (1033 - Technip Energies - International Coatings) literally made his boat smoke, breaking both the record for the greatest distance covered in 24 hours in a Series boat (291.47 miles set by Florian Quenot in 2019) and all categories combined (308 miles achieved by Pierre Le Roy in July 2022) with 317.25 miles covered between November 1st and 2nd last, at an average speed of 13.22 knots! To note: Félix Oberlé (1028 - Mingulay), Adrien Simon (1038 - Faun) also exceeded the symbolic 300-mile mark in a Series boat. Their respective performances: 311 and 304 miles!

Suspense until the end

If the first stage (1,350 miles between Les Sables d'Olonne and Santa Cruz de La Palma) made an impression, the second (2,700 miles between Santa Cruz de La Palma and Saint-François) did even more so. The first proved extremely complex, due to very changeable and uncertain weather. This resulted in a major turnaround in the last third of the course in favor of the west, and another at the very end of the course due to a formidable buffer effect on the Canary Island. As a result, monstrous gaps were created, and many favorites immediately took a hit, ruining, for some, their chances of performing well overall. The second stage was very open, with the choice between two distinct options from the passage of El Hierro. North or south? That was the dilemma, with little or no difference between the two in the end, thanks to well-established trade winds for everyone from the fourth day of the race. In this context, speed clearly prevailed, and those who managed to maintain the pace both physically and mentally until the end reaped the rewards. What will also be remembered? On the one hand, the 29 short minutes that Marie Gendron (1050 - Léa Nature) ultimately missed to become the fourth woman in the history of the race after Isabelle Autissier in 1987, Justine Mettraux in 2013, and Clarisse Crémer in 2017, to finish on the podium overall. On the other hand, the fifteen endless hours that Luca Rosetti (998 - Race = Care) had to wait to be assured of his victory in the Series boats.

Emotions like nowhere else

An event like La Boulangère Mini Transat generates emotions like excitement, enthusiasm, pride, disappointment, frustration, fear, nervousness, joy, euphoria, satisfaction, gratitude, admiration, solidarity, empathy, rivalry, and many more. The 90 sailors of this 24th edition were not exempt. Boat choice, physical preparation, planning, logistics, budget, search for partners... All dedicated an average of two years to their project (up to eleven for some, like Marie Gendron). In the end, although they certainly did not experience the adventure in the same way, they all finished with the same sense of accomplishment. It's no small feat to overcome the challenge of crossing the Atlantic alone on a small 6.50-meter boat. 'When you do the Mini Transat, there is a before and an after,' summarized Aurélien Dhervilly (429 - XFLR6 Seeks Propellant).

A unique atmosphere

Since its creation by Bob Salmon 46 years ago, the race has a magic of its own. It is rightly associated with moments of celebration, gathering, sharing, and joy. It combines elements such as atmosphere, emotions, memories, encounters, surprises, and unique experiences perfectly. Also the music, lights, colors, and smells. In Les Sables d'Olonne, Santa Cruz de La Palma, or Saint-François, the celebration was beautiful. Proof that if it is an exceptional human adventure, La Boulangère Mini Transat is even much more than that!

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