The leaders at the midway mark, Ferré excels
François Jambou (865 – Team BFR Marée Haute Jaune) and Ambrogio Beccaria (943 – Geomag), the respective leaders in the Prototype and Production boat category in this 2nd leg of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère 2019, are at the midway mark in the course between Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Le Marin in Martinique after just five days of racing. At the 16:00 UTC position report, they are respectively 1,314.8 and 1,348.1 nautical miles from Le Marin in Martinique.
Though for now, the French and Italian skippers have negotiated the wind shifts in the trades to perfection, this time the head of the fleet will have to deal with a more complicated transition as the zone of rain and storms currently to the North moves westwards and sweeps in on them. In the process, the front runners will likely slow: “They’ll have to be super vigilant so as they don’t get snatched up by this zone and can continue making good their escape via the South. Conditions are likely to be a little more complicated than they have been of late then. Indeed, in a somewhat counterintuitive move, the skippers will have to separate themselves from the the route and the wind angle”, explains Tanguy Leglatin, coach to a number of the Mini skippers at the Lorient Grand Large training cluster. This should really reshuffle the cards for this second leg! Verdict in the coming hours…
Benjamin Ferré excels
It is certainly surprising to see the top 2 production boats making headway just astern of the leader in the prototype category, but there’s another surprise in this story: Benjamin Ferré (902 – Imago Incubateur D’aventures), currently 2nd in the production boat fleet, who has been enjoying a fantastic 2nd leg since the start. “In every Mini-Transat, there are some surprises in store in the second leg, with certain sailors really excelling offshore and feeling more at ease than they thought they would”, explains the coach at Lorient Grand Large, whose been training Benjamin up. “He’s really managing to put what he’s learnt in his preparation into practice in terms of the weather analysis, his performance and also looking after himself”. Though he’s sailing a boat which managed to cream along during the previous edition, this Breton primarily signed up for the adventure… an adventure that might well end on a much sweeter note than he’d imagined.
Though certain sailors are reaping the rewards of their options, others are champing at the bit, as is doubtless the case for Matthieu Vincent who’s been attempting a N’ly option. The sailor ranked third in the first leg in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and great things were expected of him in this second leg of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère. Fortunately, Matthieu (947 – L’Occitane En Provence) and the chasing pack to the North are now done with being entangled in the treacly conditions caused by a zone of rain and storms looming over the great circle route. Though this group to the North has got some breeze back and with it some more suitable points of sail, it laments quite a deficit for now.
The current stand-out performers…
Cédric Ohanessian (901 – Entreprendre Pour La Planète) has made a dazzling comeback over recent days, moving up from 52nd to 19th place in the production fleet, all on a single 630-mile tack… Sébastien Liagre (589 – Walaby) hasn’t been dawdling either and today’s he’s lying in 18th place after a stellar S’ly option and just one gybe since the start aboard an old Pogo 2…! Finally, Kévin Bloch (697 – Ensta Bretagne) is also sailing an excellent second leg in 17th place on the first of the older generation production Minis.
Messages from the sea
The support boat Yamanja had some news to report earlier about Frédéric Bach (533 – Kirikou): “Fred has lost his titanium spoon causing him major grief with regards eating! He’s had to come up with a replacement tool using a cut-off toothbrush handle and the lens from a spare pair of sunnies. He’s in the process of registering a patent so I’m not sure you’ll be allowed to publish this information!”
Yamanja also gives us the low-down on Jean-René Guilloux (915 – Crédit Agricole 35): “Jean-René has had a recurring problem since the start. He’s having to regularly tighten the screws on his rudder bearing. He’s already had to have another crack at it over the past 48 hours, but he’s envisaging another ‘return to the tunnel’ for another go. As such, we’ve launched onto a parallel course until he manages to successfully complete his repairs”.
Meantime, Gloanec has been in VHF contact with Adrien Bernard (896 – Mini Yak) who’s having a few technical issues: “All’s well aboard. He got into a pickle on the first night and has since had no navigation lights. The emergency lights are also out of action and his baby stay has broken.”
Finally, Aloha gives us a picture postcard of the sea state and the skies on zone: “We hit our first small squalls last night, nothing too nasty yet but the skies have clouded over. The sea is still a bit rough with a few white horses under the squalls. The average wind is between 15 and 19 knots.”
Accessing the Mini-Transat from… Belgium
The Mini-Transat La Boulangère 2019 is very happy to boast not one, not two, but three Belgian entries this year, two men, Thibault Raymakers (891- Bel Phenomenal) currently in 33rd position, Albert Lagneaux (882 – Plumeke) in 39th place and Marie-Amélie Lenaerts (833 – Team BFR Maree Haute Bleue) in the 42nd spot, all of them quite tightly bunched on a N’ly option along the great circle route in the production boat category. We chat to Albert before the race start.
Albert Lagneaux is arguably the most international skipper to compete in the Mini-Transat La Boulangère 2019. Indeed, he is a veritable melting pot of nationalities and though he is racing under the Belgian flag for this race, he actually has a dual French-Belgian nationality but was born and grew up in Spain to an Italo-French mother and a Belgian father, married a German and is completely fluent in French and Spanish! However, he has been living in Brussels for the past 30 years so let’s call him Belgian!
Albert found himself on the start line of his first Mini 6.50 race by pure accident. “I’d done a fair bit of sailing by the time I pulled into the port of Douarnenez in June 2014 where a double-handed race was being run: the Mini Fastnet. A Spanish sailor found himself without his co-skipper at the last minute so I offered my services to the Mini Class who then put us in contact. I knew absolutely nothing about the skipper and had never set foot on a Mini 6.50!” laughs the sailor. “It was crazy and quite the adventure. By the time we crossed the finish line I had made up my mind: I was going to sell my yacht and buy a Mini.”
So how easy is it to train for the Mini in Belgium? “It’s very difficult! In practical terms I’ve done very little training due to lack of time. I’m really here in a very amateurish fashion and where other sailors have taken 1 or 2 years to make the start line, I’ve taken 5 years! I took possession of my boat in May 2015 and I’ve been slowly progressing step by step since then. I initially signed up for the training cluster in La Rochelle but never found the time to come along and practise. The boat’s been in Lorient for several years and though there’s a very good training hub there, it was essentially for the excellent infrastructure that I opted for that venue, though I went to the odd training session when I could. The main bulk of my training has been delivery trips and the race qualifiers and I’ve also done all the races on the Mini circuit, including the Mini Fastnet several times and 2 Transgascognes. As such I have modest goals. I want to sail a clean race and get to the other side. That said, I am competitive. I run half marathons and if I’ve got someone next to me I try to do better. At the same time I have a job that absorbs a great deal of my time, along with other activities. Indeed, in my working life I’m a specialist so elsewhere I’m a ‘generalist’. Realistically the top 10 places are not for me then – barring accidents for the others!” he jokes.
So far so good. In the first leg, Albert finished in 52nd position in the production fleet after 11 days, 02 hours, 09 minutes and 49 seconds. “I’m very happy to make the finish! he said on his arrival in the Canaries. I was doubtless much too cautious during the descent of the Portuguese coast and lost 20 places in one night because I didn’t want to break anything. The goal is to make Martinique after all! Together with Marie-Amélie, there were 2 of us Belgians in the middle of the ocean and it was very nice spending 2-3 days alongside one another. I had a ball, the sea was beautiful and I broke virtually nothing.”
The sense of belonging and kinship synonymous with the Mini class is obviously important to the Belgian sailor. “I first experienced the magic of this class in the Mini Fastnet. I love how accessible the class is financially compared to the other larger classes. Equally, it feels like you’re part of a big family in this class. It has an extraordinary spirit. If anyone has an issue, the class rallies together, quite spontaneously, even if you’re Ambrogio (Beccaria) or Tanguy (Bouroullec) hunting down the top spot on the podium, both of whom have offered me advice. It’s really nice. There’s a real sense of solidarity. At sea we’re all competitors, unless someone has a problem in which case you get on the VHF radio and those around you try to help you find a solution. It’s the only class I know where that exists. It’s fabulous!”
The intensity of racing within the Mini class is something Albert is also familiar with in his working life within the emergency services and he believes it is a real bonus to have a background in crisis management for this race. Doubtless anyone who’s ever completed a Mini Transat would agree! This intensity inevitably leaves a certain void and a sense of nostalgia at the end of a race and the Mini Transat in particular, but evidently the race finish is not the end of the road in this regard, it’s a spirit that remains with you for a lifetime and colours your thinking and the way you interact with others. “I’ve done a lot of sailing with a fellow Belgian and very good friend, Jonas Gerckens, and I think he’s racked up the most miles in the history of the Mini. I believe he’s only finished one Mini Transat but he’s participated in several and has done lots of the races on the circuit including Les Sables – Les Acores 3 or 4 times. Though he’s now racing Class 40s, he’s going to be coaching me on the weather before the start of the Mini because he has a better understanding of it and the right tools. He still has a real passion for the Mini and I get the sense that former Mini sailors like him retain a little something special in their relationships with former and modern-day Mini sailors that never leaves them. It’s a bond for life to be Born in Mini!”
Ranking on Friday 8 November at 16:00 UTC
1- François Jambou (865 – Team BFR Marée Haute Jaune) 1,314.8 miles from the finish
2- Axel Tréhin (945 – Project Rescue Ocean) 95.6 miles behind the leader
3- Tanguy Bouroullec (969 – Cerfrance) 154.3 miles behind the leader
1- Ambrogio Beccaria (943 – Geomag) 1,348.1 miles from the finish
2- Benjamin Ferré (902 – Imago Incubateur D’aventures 58.0 miles behind the leader
3- Nicolas D’Estais (905 – Cheminant – Ursuit) 83.1 miles behind the leader