For the 20th edition and the second time, the Mini Transat -îles de Guadeloupe returns to its origins with a start from Douarnenez (France). The Breton harbour will see the fleet of 84 solo sailors set off on the 19th of September to Lanzarote, where the Mini 6,50 will stop before the Atlantic stage starts on 31st of October. The Mini Transat – îles de Guadeloupe 2015 solo sailors are expected to finish three weeks later in Pointe-à-Pitre to a warm Caribbean welcome. Created by Briton Bob Salmon in the late 1970s this 4,020 nautical mile race from France to the Caribbean is the longest solo race for the smallest of boats.
The start has been brought forward to the 19th of September to ensure that the crossing of the Bay of Biscay will take place in the safest possible circumstances. It is then that the sailors will see their first dream come true, their efforts rewarded after months of preparation, their qualification stages, and sails and final preparations.
From Douarnenez, the fleet will head to Lanzarote, the port of call until the 31st of October. The departure date in Lanzarote has been set allowing for time to cushion any delays that could be caused by tropical storms. The fleet will be challenged as they set off on an Atlantic crossing and prove their solo racing skills. Without computers, phones or chart plotters allowed, the solo sailors will be operating in a strictly “back to basics” way, using only paper charts and standard GPS for navigation. The Mini Class is about pure and basic sailing, as the skippers are not allowed to make any contact with land during the race.
For many of them, this will represent a form of “rite of passage” before starting a professional sailing career. For others, it will simply be a dream turning into reality.
Qualifying for the Mini Transat îles de Guadeloupe: Obstacle Race
Before crossing the start line in Douarnenez, the skippers must accumulate a number of miles, combining 1000nm solo-raced and 1000nm of official Class Mini races. To ensure a place is very hard, as the inscriptions are made following the qualifications. The first to be qualified will be the first to guarantee their place on the start line. Haunted by the experience of 2013, when some of them remained on the waiting list and were unable to start, the sailors prepare for the qualifying process way in advance.
This was the case for British sailor Nikki Curwen, even if she did qualify last year, she remained second on the waiting list and in the end, didn’t get to compete. Learning from this, since 2014, she has secured her qualification miles: 1000 nm solo sailed on board of her proto bought from Rémi Fermin. She then participated in the Les Sables-Les Açores-Les Sables race that ensured her qualification. Others followed suit, like podium candidates such as Tanguy Le Turquais, Damien Cloarec or Patrick Girod for the series, and Michele Zambelli or Ludovic Méchin for the prototype.
The Mini Guide is clear: to qualify for the Mini Transat is about taking time, finding yourself within the loneliness and facing up to the idea of crossing the Atlantic without any assistance. The qualification conditions are strict but worth it.
However, some of the candidates may benefit from “exceptional” procedures: that is the case for sailors living in far away countries who will have some places specially reserved for them. This is not a special dispensation, but a procedure introduced to ensure that all the sailors have the same opportunities, regardless of their country of residence.
This is the case for two sailors this year: the Chinese Xu Jingkun, who has prepared to move to Brittany with his wife to carry out his preparation. Manager of a Chinese sailing school, he represents the growing popularity of sailing in his country. On the other side of the Atlantic, the French sailor Rodolphe Victorri will also benefit from this procedure as he lives in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, a self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France, situated in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, near Canada.
The same procedure will apply to sailors building new prototypes, to promote new and upcoming projects. The Swiss Simon Koster, third on the 2013 edition on the series, has revealed a radically new prototype with innovative forms that will first race on the Trophee Marie-Agnès Peron. For Simon, there are only few races to qualify: meaning that there is little margin for error.
79 solo sailors registered so far from 13 nations
The cosmopolitan fleet showcases 13 different countries: including France, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Germany, China, Hungary, Estonia, Netherlands, Russia, Portugal, Belgium and Switzerland.
Only two women have qualified so far, both of them from the United Kingdom. Lizzy Foreman, the British solo sailor, will be 25 years old when she sets off start line in Douarnenez for the biggest race of her life. “I choose to sail solo for the adventure, the challenge, the freedom…racing solo is very different, yes it can be lonely, but this makes the lead up and finish to races very special. The Mini Class is renowned for being a friendly and supportive class”. “I am really working hard for a top 10 finish, being the first Brit and first woman to do so” says Lizzy.
Friday 11th September: Opening of the Mini Transat-îles de Guadeloupe Race Village on the quays of the Port Rhu.
Sunday 13th September: Prologue Everything Starts at Finistère
Saturday 19th September: Start of the first stage Douarnenez – Lanzarote (visible from the Rosmeur port)
16th of September: Start of the first stage.
Friday 9th October: Presentation of prizes for the first stage.
Saturday 31st October: Departure of the second stage Lanzarote – Pointe-à-Pitre
From the 14th of November: Arrival of the second stage
Saturday 28th November: Awarding prizes for the second stage Lanzarote – Pointe-à-Pitre
– Race Media