Mini Transat - Ready to take off

Mini Transat 2013
The Mini Transat start from Douarnenez was originally planned for October 13, 2013 at 13.00. Departure was postponed due to severe weather conditions on the race course. After 16 days of waiting to find a weather window for the fleet of 84 Mini 650s, Douarnenez was able to hold the start of the first leg of the Mini Transat 2013 on Tuesday, October 29 at 9:19. The worsening weather conditions forced the cancellation of this leg and the Mini Transat fleet found shelter in the ports on the north coast of Spain. 62 competitors are now in Sada and 11 boats are en route to the Galician port where the race to Pointe-a-Pitre will start on the afternoon of Tuesday 12 November. A gate will be positioned off Lanzarote and competitors who wish to may make a stop at the Canaries.

30 days have now elapsed between the theoretical start date from Douarnenez and the new start date from Sada, close to La Coruna, for what will be the longest leg ever sailed in the history of the Mini Transat. It's been almost a month of tough times and misfortunes before a positive way forward could be found.

On the pontoons of Sada, the competitors are steadily getting into race mode. Computers are operating at full capacity, the latest weather files and the analysis of the best experts are tracked, compared, disected ... only a few competitors remain at sea, the last have left the port of Moras, where Jean-Pierre Dick took refuge during the Vendée Globe before crossing the Bay of Biscay, and they should arrive tonight.

Right now, everyone is in a hurry to the long wait to be over. They first had to wait in Douarnenez pending an unlikely weather window. A wait that was all the more infuriating because the two weeks of preparation for the Mini Transat took place in idyllic weather conditions. Two days earlier and the fleet would have comfortably been passing Cape Finisterre and then hurtling on Lanzarote. This is something that the organisers will be exploring for the next edition, to be able to adjust a possible start by bringing it forward a few days if weather conditions require. In Douarnenez, the Race Director was watching for the best time to release the fleet. Every time a window seemed to open the next set of files contradicted the hope of finding the right moment.

Finally on October 29 the race could get underway in a west to northwesterly wind of 25 knots whicheased during the first night. It was during this same night that the Race Director noted a further deterioration of the forecast and decided, as anticipated in the latest changes to the Sailing Instructions, to divert the fleet to Sada, after a first half leg. Unfortunately, the bad weather arrived faster than expected, and it was ultimately decided to stop the race and advise those competitors still a long way from the port of Sada to proceed to Gijon, where weather conditions were better.

In the great Asturian harbor everyone was once again waiting, this time to join up with the first competitors who had sought refuge in Sada. Despite the small number of boats in Sada, it was most logical that the entire fleet would rally at the Galician port: to have required the competitors at Sada to sail east to Gijon, would have been a kind of double jeopardy. Added to the frustration of not being able to receive a finishing position, would have been a useless delivery considering that the ultimate goal was to achieve the shortest route possible to pass Cape Finisterre. For the competitors sheltering in Gijon, it was now necessary to find a way to leave in convoy. The return to the west was not to be a sinecure: the passages around l’Estaca de Barres and Cape Ortegal was in angry seas and winds gusting up to 40 knots at times. Many competitors admitted that it was the first time they faced such difficult conditions.

Now all of our little family, or almost, are gathered at or near Sada to make the first start of this Mini Transat Douarnenez - Pointe a Pitre. From Monday the winds will shift to the north. The fleet will finally know the intoxication of surfing off-wind. After the hard graft comes the reward.

What they said: Sofie de Clercq (Ville de Marseillan)
'During my delivery, I had an autopilot problem. To get some rest I decided to heave to several times. But at no time did I think to stop. In any case, I'm really glad I did that. The scenery was really beautiful and I discovered something that I never would have known otherwise. In Minis, 35 knots is acceptable, but 40 knots, it's just too ... '

Hugues Chollet (Soutenez le Bel Espoir)
'I never thought I'd be able to do what I did. When we left Gijon, we were not making headway, we couldn't make decent progress. Like many others, I stopped at Moras. At this time, I was at the bottom of a hole, really depressed. With some other competitors we found ourselves on one of the accompanying support boats where they gave us a good meal. The next day, morale had returned, it was almost beautiful. We knew there would be wind, but I told myself, this is a challenge, you have to go. We took a good bashing, but we made it. Looking back, I am proud to have managed it.'

ceq 2RQn - Mini Transat 2013