Mini Transat First leg- The Fleet battles with upwind and squalls

Racing off Madeira in the Prologue race - La Charente-Maritime to Bahia Transat 2011
Christophe Breschi
After recovering from an extremely challenging first leg which included six days of upwind sailing, one day longer then the rest of his competitors as he was much further west, Scott Cavanough from Australia is almost ready for the second leg of the La Charente-Maritime to Bahia Transat 650.

The first leg was extremely disappointing for Scott, who at one stage for over two days was just outside the top ten. The Prototype division all finished within 24 hours of each other. Many of the top sailors trying for one of the very sought after top ten positions were also stuck in the west and finished not far in front of Scott.

After the second leg, which is three times longer then the first leg of the race, placings will be based on combined times of the two legs so for Scott finishing within the top 15 is still a possibility.

The first leg ended the way it started, not so well although with Scott showed form in the middle part of the race. The race start was not good and being trapped four-five deep on the line (due in part to the one minute of silence just before the start for follow competitor Jean-Marc who died on the way to La Rochelle two weeks prior to the race start) caused some confusion. Once clear of the line, Scott managed to claw back some places only to lose a few places at the windward mark because of problems with the new spinnaker pole system, which was replaced just days before the start as he broke the inboard end of the pole on route to La Rochelle.

Scott being towed to the start of the La Charente-Maritime to Bahia Transat 650 - La Charente-Maritime to Bahia Transat 2011
Christophe Breschi

Then sometime during the first night Scott managed to a catch portion of fishing net on the keel. Once he discovered the net on sunrise a quick swim with a knife was required to clear the net. Having lost all this time early in the race Scott regained a deal of it on the way to Cape Finisterre, arriving at the Cape just after Sebastian Pico. Then about 4am Scott managed to catch more fishing equipment on the keel, this time he was aware it was there as the boat went from four knots to zero very quickly.

During this short time in the water, Scott managed to smack his right knee on the keel and on exiting the water he was in a lot of pain. The boat was put back on course and the gennaker unfurled again before Scott went inside to open the medical kit. The race doctor went through the kit with everyone before the fleet left, so they knew what to do if there were any medical issues onboard. The pain relief bag was found and some anti-inflammatory drugs administered. With his knee strapped up, Scott had quick chat with his friend Thibault onboard Mini 791, just to let him know of his issues. After a well earned sleep Scott was rather surprised to find himself just behind Pico.

Later that day the wind continued to build from the south to a solid 25 knots with up to 45 knots in the squalls during the night. Life onboard a Mini becomes unbearable being completely wet all the time, launching and slamming off waves at just under seven knots of boat speed. Every now and again, on a big drop, Scott could feel the keel wobble on impact, making him wonder if the keel would stay with the boat.

Fishing net that Scott removed from the keel on the second day - La Charente-Maritime to Bahia Transat 2011
Christophe Breschi

On the second day of squalls Scott saw a consistent 30-35 knots of wind. During the first two days of upwind Scott was hampered by his sore knee, which made tacking in the strong winds impossible. Even hand steering was a very painful exercise. Scott battled on to Madeira having to do one more day of upwind, as the other competitors were in the east reaching with gennakers. Scott finished the first leg just under 24 hours behind first place, this result showing how competitive the Proto division is. 29 boats all finished within this time.

The second leg, 3100nm long, will take 17-25 days so there will be plenty of opportunity to make up lost time on the leaders.

With Scott turning 30 on the 2nd of November he will be pushing himself and his machine very hard in order to arrive in Brazil in time for his birthday drinks.

During the stopover in Madeira Scott competed in a friendly prologue race with local children and sponsors onboard the boats. In this race Scott finished third.

Scott finishing third in the Prologue race at the stop in Madeira - La Charente-Maritime to Bahia Transat 2011
Christophe Breschi

The second leg of the Mini Transat starts on the 13th of October from Madiera, Spain.

Be sure to watch the website to stay updated on the race.

Scott Cavanough and Skippy are trying to raise money for a very good cause. A charity that supports children with brain tumours. All donations are tax deductible in Australia. Click here to find more information

In the last few days before the race Toll Logistics also became a partner of Scott’s challenge. Australians know them well for being the largest Logistics and Transport Company in Australia. They are also well known in France as for the last few years, they have been shipping the fleets of all of France’s biggest and well known Transatlantic races back to France after their completion, including the fleets 2009 mini Transat and the 2010 Route du Rhum. They are also returning the fleet of this year's mini Transat fleet back to France.

Toll Logistics becomes a partner with Scott Cavanough - La Charente-Maritime to Bahia Transat 2011
Christophe Breschi

Skippy ready to Rumble just before the start - La Charente-Maritime to Bahia Transat 2011
Christophe Breschi