With two days to go until the start of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère, the pressure is mounting considerably on the pontoons that line the Bassin des Chalutiers in the port of La Rochelle.
Torn between media engagements and the arrival of their nearest and dearest to see the start, skippers are being guided by their mood and their character. Some have shut themselves away in a little bubble far away from the race village, others are focusing on trivial material tasks, whilst others are making the most of these last moments on shore… We get a few knee-jerk reactions gleaned from the pontoons…
Antoine Cornic (Destination Île de Ré) second participation, 10th in 2001
“Having already done the Mini-Transat, I know what you need to carry aboard and what isn’t really necessary. I’m pretty sure that all those who are setting sail again like me share the same philosophy. As a result, we’re bound to feel fairly calm right now. The whole family will be here by tomorrow for the start and I’m sure they’re more stressed than I am.”
Henri Patou (Da.fr), second participation, 20th in 2011
“My last Mini-Transat was six years ago in 2011. It’s the fact that I competed in Les Sables – Les Açores – Les Sables last year that’s allowed me to get back into the swing of things and to think about the way I prepare again. I get the feeling that the newcomers are increasingly well prepared. Aside from the apprehension of setting sail on something new, they don’t appear to be particularly overwhelmed.”
Pierre Chedeville (Blue Orange Game – Fair Retail), first participation
“It’s fair to say that through my job (officer of the merchant navy), I’ve done a fair bit of sailing, but paradoxically I’ve never done a transatlantic. There isn’t much that worries me; I know I feel comfortable at sea. I’m just a bit afraid that I’ll get bored.
“As a result, I’ve got a fair few books on my reader. But it may well be that given that due to the standard of those competing in the production boat category, I won’t even have time to start the first chapter. I wouldn’t be surprised if we all end up flat out on the attack, but I’m fairly serene about it all.”
Tom Dolan (OffshoreSailing.fr), second participation, 22nd in 2015
“Two years ago, I remember being stressed. I didn’t know what lay ahead and the panic set in. Right now, my only stress is primarily linked to posting a disappointing result and making a strategic error that drags down your result. If I have one piece of advice to give the newcomers, I’d say be careful to avoid going into the red from the get-go. A Mini-Transat is a long race and you have to go the distance.
Pilar Pasanau (Peter Punk), third participation, 33rd in 2013, DNF in 2015
“In my first Mini-Transat in 2013, I went the distance, but I wasn’t very happy with my performance. In 2015, I had to retire to La Coruña. This time I fully intend to finish and I’m hoping to post a good result. I have a key asset in my favour, the boat knows the route by heart. In 2013, Bruno Garcia sailed her into fifth place; if I weaken, she’ll know where to go. I’m really confident.”
Stan Thuret (Rêve de Cinéma), first participation
“It’s an unknown quantity that I’m keen to see play out. I’m itching to know if I’m going to feel at ease or if I’m going to feel frightened. It’s a mixture of excitement and apprehension. The idea of being alone, seeing a beautiful sunrise, is something I’m eager to live to the full.
“I want to give the best of myself and make it to the other side burnt out. I’ve discovered what I’m made of over recent years in full-on sports like the triathlon and long-distance trail running. I’m at ease with long distances so the Mini-Transat should really suit me.”
Others won’t be setting sail on this 2017 edition, but fully intend to be on the start line in 2019. Blaise Bernos is among these future candidates for the adventure. He’s already launched into the construction of an Ofcet, which he’s due to take delivery of in December, leaving him nearly two years to prepare.
“Overall, they seem to be fairly relaxed. Really the idea is to clear your mind and focus on fairly simple things: doing some sport and relaxing inside a little cocoon. Seeing the guys about to set sail is prompting me to ensure that I’m as well prepared as possible so I can fully focus on the race. I’ve got two years to achieve that…”
Facts and figures:
Sunday 1 October: Start of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère in La Rochelle, France
4,050 miles to cover between La Rochelle – Las Palmas in Gran Canaria and Le Marin (Martinique) 81 skippers at the start
20 years: age of the youngest skipper in the race: Erwan Le Draoulec
62 years: age of the oldest skipper in the race: Fred Guérin
56 production boats
15 ‘repeat offenders'