Various weather experts and coaches give you a pamphlet before the race that lists the most common conditions for each area on the course, but none of these happened,' reported American Classe Mini skipper Emma Creighton (USA 574) about the conditions that she encountered during the 2011 La Charente-Maritime/Bahia Transat 6.50 (AKA, the Mini Transat).
'There was nothing ‘normal’ about this year—the weather was unpredictable and the weather reports weren’t accurate at all!'
While this created its share of frustrations for the 79 skippers sailing in this infamous single-handed transatlantic race, it didn’t stop Creighton from accomplishing her personal objectives, nor did it diminish her accomplishment of becoming the second American woman to have finished this grueling ocean race since the Classe Mini was adopted as the event’s official raceboat. Moreover, these unpredictable conditions certainly didn’t deter Creighton from selflessly putting aside her own race for thirteen hours to assist a fellow sailor who was involved in a serious collision with a super tanker en route to Brazil.
Prior to setting out for her latest solo adventure, Creighton established three lofty goals: Finish in the Top 20 boats in her Prototype class; be the fastest woman across the Atlantic, and beat some of the fastest of the production- class boats. By the time her dock lines were made fast in Brazil, all of these boxes were ticked—impressive, given that she accomplished this sans a sponsor.
'I’m really proud of how I did with the boat I have, and how I did against the other women,' said Creighton who finished 19th out of the thirty-two boats in her Prototype class and was the fastest female skipper across 'the pond'.
According to Creighton, Leg One—a mere 1,100 miles that took the fleet from La Rochelle, France to Madeira, Portugal—was characterized by frustratingly light winds. 'The first twelve hours were great,' said Creighton.
'I was doing really well and I flew my new Code-0 for the first time.' Then, conditions softened, days stretched, and USA 574 eventually drifted across the finishing line, leaving Creighton disappointed with her performance. The race organizers presented her with flowers for being the first woman to reach Madeira, and Creighton soon realized the enormity of what she’d accomplished. 'After being off the boat for a little bit I quickly realized that my finishing position didn’t matter and that I should be thrilled to be in Madeira,' said Creighton. 'It was a good lesson for the future!'
The mammoth 3,100-mile second leg—from Madeira to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil—proved to be more challenging, both in terms of miles, the fickle nature of the Doldrums and the dearth of human contact.
Couple these challenges with a broken wind-direction indicator—necessitating ten straight days of hand steering—and things quickly became psychologically taxing. Then, Creighton heard the radio broadcast that fellow Prototype skipper Scott Cavanough (797) was in trouble. Soon enough, Creighton spotted 797 on the horizon and immediately went into rescue mode, standing by Cavanough for 13 hours until the cavalry arrived.
'After helping Scotty I had a major attitude adjustment,' reported Creighton. 'It really helped me put my own worries into perspectives. After this experience, it was just about going fast and pushing as hard as possible.'
While Leg Two had its trials, it wasn’t without its beauty. 'I had a few nights where I’d get lined up with clouds and a Code-5 kite and it was really fun,' said Creighton, the adrenaline hangover still audible in her voice.
'I also had a great day off the coast of Brazil with fantastic waves—I abandoned all of the recommended sail combinations and just focused on making the boat go fast. This meant flying ‘unconventional’ sail combinations, but the boat was going really nicely.' This strategy, coupled with some smart routing coming into the finishing line, set Creighton up for some fast angles, while most of her competition was slowly battling to weather.
Upon finishing, Creighton was again presented with flowers for being the fastest woman to finish, as well as the real trappings—a fresh guava, a steak sandwich and the ability to step off her boat for the first time in over 21 days.
Creighton is currently looking forward to racing Melges 24s and Melges 32s and doing some double-handed offshore work. 'I don’t want to get labeled as a singlehanded sailor who can’t play nicely with the others,' jokes Creighton, who admits that the nonstop, double-handed Barcelona World Race now tops her ambitious to-do list.
All told, the 2011 Mini Transat encompassed 4,200 miles of racing, a 1,000-mile qualifier and many, many months of careful preparation, planning and training. Please visit Creighton’s website
or Facebook page (search: Emma Creighton) for more information on her 2011 Classe Mini campaign, and please stay tuned for more news from this talented American sailor. Interview requests and sponsorship inquiries are welcome. Please contact: Emma Creighton, Skipper, USA 574| Tel: U.S. Mobile: 508-736-7616 | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | http://emmacreighton.net/