This Tuesday, as they crossed under the symbolic threshold of 1,000 miles remaining, the fleet of the 24th edition of La Boulangère Mini Transat contends with somewhat unstable trade winds.
As a result, the speeds of the solo sailors have slightly dropped, and the advantage remains with those positioned along the axis of the ridge, closest to the direct route. Over the last 36 hours, they have been benefiting from a more favorable progression angle, slowly but steadily increasing their lead over the competition as the first arrivals become more imminent. They are expected to reach Saint-François on Friday. However, the final miles do not appear to be straightforward, especially since the accumulated fatigue over the past ten days is starting to take a toll on the sailors and their vessels, as evidenced by the increasing number of technical issues.
While they had been quite steady for the past five days, the trade winds are somewhat less consistent and notably unstable on Tuesday. As a result, the speeds of the La Boulangère Mini Transat sailors, which ranged between 9 and 14 knots, currently vary between 5 and 10 knots. Only Federico Waksman (1019 – Repremar – Shipping Agency Uruguay) and Carlos Manera Pascual (1081 – Xucla) continue to sail at over 12 knots. Positioned along the axis of the ridge, these two are taking advantage of an almost ideal downwind angle. The same applies to the Series boats, with Luca Rosetti (998 – Race = Care) significantly overtaking Félix Oberlé (1028 – Mingulay) and Hugues de Prémare (1033 – Technip Energies – International Coatings) this morning. Luca Rosetti now holds a lead of more than 30 miles over them. “Those in the north are doing well. They are sailing a bit tighter to the wind – they are not running downwind – which allows them to head up a bit and be rather fast,” details Christian Dumard, the race’s weather consultant. The latest routings are slightly less optimistic than those of previous days and suggest that the first arrivals in Guadeloupe may be in the afternoon or evening of November 10 (Paris time) rather than during the night of the 9th to the 10th. “In the next 48 hours, the wind will weaken to around 12-13 knots and shift more to the east. It promises to be quite variable, which won’t be so easy for the solo sailors to manage, but it is expected to strengthen again near Guadeloupe,” promises the specialist.
A bit of faltering clarity
In this context, maintaining concentration will be crucial. However, with all the accumulated fatigue since the departure from Santa Cruz de La Palma on October 28th, the level of clarity of the solo sailors is certainly not at its peak. This is evidenced by the number of small technical issues reported in the past 24 hours. Laure Galley (1048 – DMG MORI Sailing Academy 2) broke her bowsprit end cap, Josep Costa Fah (431 – Tip Top Too) broke his spinnaker pole and mainsail, and Gaby Bucau (865 – Maximum), Victor Mathieu (967 – Celeris Informatique), Uros Kruševac (Ashika II), Arnaud Rambaud (850 – Permis de Construire – ACIEO), and Xavier Condroyer (848 – Elypso – Nitby 848) all experienced breakages of rudders and/or bowsprits, to name just a few examples. How can all these breakdowns be explained, especially the numerous rudder failures? “If they are not related to a collision with a UFO (Unidentified Floating Object), they are most likely due to the hallucinatory averages that some have maintained in recent days. The level of demand and commitment of this 2023 edition is, it must be said, quite incredible. Furthermore, it is clear that the trade winds were actually stronger than indicated in the files. They have obviously been quite robust, which is why we have seen records fall,” notes François Jambou, the winner of the prototype category in the 2019 race, who is nevertheless surprised by the number of damaged appendages.
Remaining mentally strong until the end
“In the Proto category, the rudders are liftable, which normally reduces the risk of breakage by half. That being said, when they are lifted, it can quickly lead to other breakages. Downwind, when the boat bears away or luffs, it can quickly become somewhat dangerous. What we can say today is that there will be lessons to be drawn from all of this at the finish,” notes the sailor. What does he think of the current race playing out on the water? “We believed in the northern option, then in the southern option, but ultimately, it is the speeds and the downwind angles that make the difference in this second leg, more so than the strategies,” recounts the former Mini sailor, confirming that at this stage of the race, the sailors are beginning to draw heavily from their reserves. “In this speed race, it is the mentally and physically strongest who will ultimately make the difference. It will be interesting to see how it all ends. Landing in Saint-François is, in quotation marks, simpler than landing in Santa Cruz de La Palma because there are no major wind shadows, but as long as the finish line is not crossed, we know that anything can happen,” concludes François Jambou.
To follow the race, visit the tracking map, updated every 4 hours: http://minitransat.geovoile.com/2023/tracker/