La Charente Maritime Bahia Transat 6.50 is also popularly known as the Mini Transat. The race has now witnessed Artemis Offshore Academy’s Pip Hare cross the finish line into the Brazilian port of Bahia making her the first female to finish the race. Pip accomplished her goal of finishing in the top fifteen for leg two of the race in a time of 21 days, 10 hours, 22 minutes, and 13 seconds giving her a well-earned 15th place.
The race included a record number of six female skippers amongst the 79 competitors with Pip being the first female sailor to finish the race in the 45-boat Series fleet. The 4,200nm ‘Everest’ event for the Mini Class, was split into two legs, leg one from La Rochelle to Funchal Madeira (1,100nm), and leg two onward to Bahia, Brazil (3,100nm).
'I am absolutely thrilled,' explained Pip. 'I learned a huge amount on this leg and at the end I was fighting closely with some guys who have been training in these boats for four years, so I am very proud to have been able to compete with them.'
The Mini class attracts sailors who often fund their own racing campaigns by fitting the qualification races and training around their full-time jobs. These sailors relish the challenge of completing this mammoth race in small (21 foot) 6.50-metre boats.
For many sailors who complete this race it is the opportunity of a lifetime, which they have worked towards for many years. However, for some sailors it is the first rung on a ladder into the professional solo sailing world. Dame Ellen MacArthur first competed in the Transat 6.50 and credits this race for giving her the first taste of solo offshore competition. Pip has benefitted from being an Artemis Offshore Academy Associate member joining in the early season training at the Centre d’Entrainement Méditerranée in La Grande Motte, then getting logistical assistance periodically during the season.
Pip finished with an overall position of 17th place with a cumulative time of 31 days, 10 hours, 52 minutes and seven seconds for the two legs.
'Unbelievable! The atmosphere was amazing, the sail in was so tough and stressful with Ysbrand and Hugo hot on my heels. I arrived to music, a huge crowd cheering, fireworks, and one hundred arms all hugging me! I could not stop smiling; it is one of the best moments of my life to date.'
This year the competitors experienced uncharacteristically difficult weather systems which tested them to the limit:
'The long trade wind sailing that we all looked forward to was not there very often. Sometimes it would be heaven surfing down waves in the sun, but then the conditions would change and we would have head winds and huge waves, lightening and squalls. It seemed to never end. It was really important to remain positive and to keep pushing and pushing and pushing, there was no rest, and the competition was fierce and close,' said Pip.
The 2011 route of the biannual race was the longest in the race’s history. The 79 Mini’s were split into two classes – the one-design class of the Series Mini (with a minimum of 10 identical boats built) and the unique cutting edge designs of the Proto Mini’s.
In the proto fleet, already known for extreme designs, David Raisen’s radical 'Teamwork Evolution' set a new record for the second leg in an impressive 17 days, six hours, 32 minutes and six seconds. Fifteen boats were forced to retire or abandon ship during the race due to a variety of reasons including dismasting, electrical problems, leaks and collisions with unidentified floating objects.
Remi Fermin was dismasted 1,029nm from the finish and was able to construct a jury rig at nine metres high to finish the leg in 25th place in 23 days, 11 hours, three minutes and 54 seconds. 'To sail like this, to continue racing and look after yourself at sea in such a way is a truly special skill,' commented Pip.
The experience has increased Pip’s already huge enthusiasm, and she’s looking forward to the 2013 edition of the race. 'My plan is to find sponsorship for a full time campaign for 2013 - chasing a podium position in the Series fleet. This is now unfinished business!'
Top three overall Series results:
1st Gwénolé Gahinet (ASSO Watever) 29d:16h:46m:40s
2nd Pierre Brasseur (Voiles Ocean) 29d:20h:22m:40s
3rd Benoit Mariette (Odalys Vacances) 30d:0h:42m:58s
17th Pip Hare (The Potting Shed) 31d:10h:52m:7s
Top three overall Proto results:
1st David Raison (Team Work Evolution) 26d:3h:28m:40s
2nd Thomas Normand (Financiere de L’Echiquier) 27d:2h:58m:25s
3rd Antoine Rioux (Festival des Pains) 30d:0h:42m:14s Event website