It’s been 14 years since Benoit Marie first dreamed of racing the Mini Transat. Back in 1999, all he could do was imagine secondhand the course he’d have sailed. That all changed this on December 1, when he crossed the finish line at Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadaloupe ahead of all 60 remaining competitors. In fact, Marie didn’t know his position relative to the fleet until nearly the very end of the race.
"I learned in the bay of Pointe-à-Pitre from the first spectator boat that came my way," he said. "It was amazing! I did not yet realize I’d won. This race is magical, the result is truly amazing." Marie’s overall time was 18d, 13h, 01m, 05s.
This was arguably the most challenging Mini since the race’s inception in 1977. Remarkably bad weather initially delayed the October 13 start from Douarnanez, France by 16 days. Once underway, racers were diverted to ports on Spain’s north coast because of dangerous conditions. Regrouping in Sada, the start was again delayed, leaving many to fight off mental fatigue on land rather than on the ocean. "This year has been really tough," said Marie." The wait could have been very demotivating and the more we waited, the harder it was to get into race mode. I really took care never to let it unsettle me."
Beyond the mental and physical challenges, this was the longest distance Mini Transat ever, and although very windy, perhaps the most enjoyable for racers. "Of the 3,700 miles of this leg I think I was close-hauled for just three, out of the Bay of Sada," said Marie. "Everything else I sailed downwind … and that was truly magical."