Our Mini-Transat

Vasily Alekseyev recalls that, as he was the first stage of the transatlantic race Mini Transat La Boulangère.

At exactly 10:38 on October 5, the fleet of 87 participants of the transatlantic race crossed the start line of the first stage of La Rochelle Gran Canaria and headed into the open ocean.

Original launch was scheduled for September 22. However, a few days before the appointed time, it became clear that he in time will not take place over the North Atlantic, one after the other there was a powerful cyclone, dispersing in the Bay of Biscay stormy headwind and 3-5 metre waves. So on the appointed day was held by only a parade – seeing off the participants, after which the athletes were race-prologue length 36 miles, and returned to port.

For our members this break was very welcome. The fact that during the prologue the yacht Fyodor Druzhinin was damaged in a collision, and these days were able to use for repair. And Irina Gracheva just used these unexpected vacation for a good rest before a long race.

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Mini-Transat race is traditionally French; the French constitute the vast majority of participants. However, among the athletes are representatives of most countries of Europe. The long journey to participate in the race made Japanese Masa Suzuki from Tokyo. Russian athletes for the second time participate in the “Mini Transat”, the first was Yury Firsov in 2015. Before the start of the race Irina Gracheva took tenth place in the rating list of all racers in the class Mini 6.50. Race no prizes or prize Fund, the race itself is not considered by sportsmen as a “competition for the win.” Its completion is considered as personal or even national achievement.

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Finally, on 2 October it was announced that the launch is scheduled for the fifth. Passed on the eve of final briefing for skippers and early in the morning, another at twilight, one yacht after another was pulled into the sea.

From the very start of the yacht went against the weak, gradually intensifying South-West wind. Almost all riders, including both of our athletes pulled a long tack into the ocean in order to capture the tail of the departing to the North and a cyclone to fresh North-West wind. Few athletes decided one day to turn South, the shortest route in the direction of Spain. Very briefly, they managed to take the lead, but night turning winds to the NW put everything in its place.

Irina Gracheva very well in the top ten, gone from the start, but then began to lag. After the day of the race, when the yachts passed the first hundred miles, it fell in the fifth decade and lagged behind the leader noticeable at 20 miles. Still weak the wind was strong party of the Ira, and the lag caused the anxiety – if anything had happened? After finish, she was told that the first two days were very hard physically due to the sharp pitching of shock and boats on a wave at the speed of 6 knots on a collision excitement, and perhaps this was reflected in the speed. However, this did not affect the fighting mood – after turning to starboard tack it was beginning to catch up with rivals, despite the fact that around it was a new and faster yacht.

The initial part of the race in the Proto division leadership was captured by Axel Trean (945), closely followed was françois Gamba (865). Feodor Druzhinin was at the beginning of the second ten, losing to the leader of about 30 miles.

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Participating in the race the yachts divided into two divisions – Proto and Series. Yacht division Proto are today one of the testing ground for new design ideas, they allowed the use of high-strength materials, the swinging of the keel, turning bospital, hydrofoils and other design solutions aimed at obtaining high speed. Serial yacht division is much more conservative. As a result, the yacht division Proto on average 7-8% faster than the production boats. Russian athletes in this time are in both divisions – Proto (Fyodor Druzhinin) and Serie a (Irina Gracheva).

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In the series fleet leader was well known by all the “Ministers” Ambrogio Beccaria on “Geomage” (943), but the fleet was very close – 15 yachts lagged behind Beccaria less than 10 miles, and the whole fleet stretched less than 50 miles. Irina Gracheva was resilient in the middle of the fleet, trailing the leader by about 25 miles by the evening of 7 October.

At night or in the morning of 8 October to the Bay of Biscay, must have been a small front stretched from SW to NE by a trough of low pressure, after which the wind was supposed to turn sharply South-East to North-West and become associated. Along the coast of Spain had formed a strong flow of passing of the North wind. The yacht, which first would have caught this enhancement was bound to break, and to catch them would be almost impossible. So the night of Monday to Tuesday and Tuesday morning had become crucial for the first stage of the race and the athletes knew it.

As expected, the front covered the leaderboard at the end of the night and the outsiders – on the morning of 8 October. The wind turned to NW and yachts, pushed furthest to the North-West, immediately got the advantage. The entire fleet made the turn to starboard tack and headed South with the ever increasing tail wind and the three-meter wave. Before the riders had to make a choice: how to bypass a zone separating traffic (DST) is from the West or between the DST and the coast? In the coastal area the road is shorter, and the weather forecast gave the wind is stronger it near the shore, but the rough winds and heavy traffic of vessels in the coastal zone demanded constant attention.

Fyodor Druzhinin passed Cape Finisterre 13th, Irina Gracheva – the 27th. Both lagged behind the leaders of their groups at 60 miles.

Appeared first losses. On Monday afternoon around 14:00 the organizers announced that Joe Lacy (868) temporarily out of the race and sent to the port of Gijon in Northern Spain to repair the energy system. The rules of the Mini-Transat allow a temporary exit from the race, but the duration of stay should be not less than 12 and not more than 72 hours.

The evening of October 8 had problems at the Jonathan Chodkiewicz (958), which also came out of the race because of problems with energy and a twist of the Genoa and went to a coruña. As it became clear later, Chodkiewicz failed to cope with problems, and he finally came out of the race.

October 9 morning went out of the race Jean-Baptiste Ternon (880) and David Kramer (260), who came off the transom, which he was forced to repair to Bayonne. Kremer later was possible thanks to the help of friends to lift the boat on shore, to repair the transom and back out to sea. But Ternon was forced to abandon the race completely. A small problem arose from the many yachts, but in most cases the riders themselves took care of them.

October 9-10, all yachts went with great speed under spinnakers, gradually fading back into the ocean. Only a few boats went along the Spanish coast; among them – the Czech Pavel Ruban (908), which must have worried the organisers; in the night from 9 to 10 October it at great speed ran into something, as a result, the transom of the yacht was torn. To cope with the flow of water failed, Paul was forced to give a distress signal. Two hours later, he was taken off the yacht by helicopter, the yacht had to quit.

Mad jump lasted about two days; on Thursday the wind started to subside on Friday 11 October fell to “normal” 10-15 knots. On the morning of 12 October, the leaders of the race came to the “threshold” of the Canary Islands. However, the ridge of high pressure situated just over the archipelago, and formed a large zone of weak unstable winds, stretching along the African coast almost from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands, has made overcoming this threshold easy.

By the evening of 12 October, almost the entire fleet lined up in tight formation towards the South along the General course. Given that Sunday night was supposed to be a small front, with a fresh North wind, at the finish of the athletes were expecting “Spasovka”, and results in the bulk of the fleet could change significantly. If the “proto” Francois Gambo (865) had a decent “strip” is 30 miles to the second coming of Tangi Buruya, the “series” Ambrosio Beccaria and Felix de Navacelles was almost close. Our athletes on the way to the Canary Islands have slightly improved their positions: Fyodor Druzhinin was 10th behind the leader a little less than 200 miles; Irina Gracheva – on 27-m a place in the main group, but kept a little to the West of the fleet, relying, apparently, on the wind from the West (according to the forecast the wind had come from there).

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Race Mini-Transat Smoking e-card and card plotters the system for receiving weather data, cell and satellite phones, or any other means of communication with the shore. Allowed only autopilot and 15-watt VHF radio for emergency cases. Such a limitation excludes yachtsmen “external” weather information and makes them about weather forecasting rely on weather prelaunch summaries, and personal experience.

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Unfortunately, the continued losses. October 12, the organizers announced that dropped out of the race Jan Blondel, who yesterday went to Lashes (Portugal), to resolve numerous technical malfunctions (broken tiller, a malfunction of the autopilot, and energy). It turned out that to solve all the problems in the allotted time fails, and Blondel has decided to drop out of the race. He became the fourth athlete that retires from a race after Paul Ruban, Jonathan Chodkiewicz and Jean-Baptiste Ternon.

300 miles to the finish line is having problems and Irina Gracheva. At high speed under load, reinforcement of the transom below the upper end of the left handlebar broke loose, and the wheel pushed through the transom. Ira has managed, without stopping, to make the struts of the material at hand, but she had a few hours to lie in the stern under the cockpit to hold these spacers in place while the boat was 10-knots under Code Zero.

Last night, as expected, became a war of nerves. The tailwind was replaced by a weak wind, constantly changing direction from passing to the counter and back. Gambo spent the last 16 miles in almost 8 hours and completely lost their advantage. Luck turned to face Axel Treeno, which came to the finish line, behind Jumbo almost 30 miles. In his first interview after the finish, Axl said not hoped to win, considering that Rambo and Buruy finished before the wind died. However, approaching the finish line, he caught the radio traffic, of which he realized that his opponents still stand next to each other near the finish line. Axel at this point was to the right, to the West of the General course, and, fortunately for him, just came a gust of wind, which Axel surpassed rivals and finished first in 4:36 Paris time first with a lead of just six and a half minutes from Jambo. After another 20 minutes, finished Tangi Buruya.

Shortly thereafter, came a steady North wind, and then the unexpected happened. The first series Navy finished Ambrosio Beccaria at 6:30, two hours after the winner in “proto”. Felix de Navacelles came after 1 hour and 40 minutes after Beccaria, and another hour – Mathieu Vincent. Fyodor Druzhinin finished 10th in the “proto” at 21:00 on October 14, Irina Gracheva – the 25th in the “series” in 8:18 15 October, with the race 9 days 21 hours 39 minutes 54 seconds.

Interestingly, of the top ten serial yacht nine is Pogo-3. The only “of skou” in this company – Florian Keno (946) – came only 10-m Of the racers, the speakers on the old boats, the first came Kevin Bloch (Pogo-2, 17-th place at the finish), the second – Irina Gracheva (TipTop, 25-e a place).

Meanwhile, the athletes who came to the Canary Islands, expect a big cultural programme including meetings with local athletes and students. On October 26, assigned to the race-prologue, in which “Ministers” will go in tandem with the local yachtsmen.

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