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Mini Transat Race Off to a Late Start

Mini Mania began today in Europe. The Mini Transat EuroChef started off Les Sables-d’Olonne in France. Organizers delayed the start two days until this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. local time to allow a windy cold front to pass through.

Small crowd on shore
“Allez Gauthier. On est avec toi,” reads the sign. “We are with you.”
© 2021 Vincent Olivaud / Mini Transat EuroChef 2021

The fleet is now seeing 15-20 knots of breeze from the northwest. They’re bound for Santa Cruz de La Palma, 1,350 miles away in the Canary Islands for the first leg. After a stopover, the second leg will start from Santa Cruz and head across the Atlantic to the final finish in Saint-François, Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean, a mere 2,700 miles away. All this singlehanded in a 21-ft boat. Ninety racers signed up and made it through the competitive selection process. With more Mini sailors than spots in the race, the fleet has been doing many offshore and training races in the past two years.

Mini Transat start
The start off Les Sables-d’Olonne.
© 2021 Alexis Courcoux / Mini Transat EuroChef 2021

Most of the sailors are French (bien sûr), and there are two divisions of boats. One is the Proto, or almost-anything-goes box rule, with boats sporting foils and canting keels, carbon fiber and other new stuff. The other class is the Series, in which only production boats are allowed. They have fixed keels, and no foiling or carbon. Sixty-six Series and 24 Protos are racing.

Speedy Gonzales
The sole American boat, Speedy González.
© 2021 Vincent Olivaud / Mini Transat EuroChef 2021

Twelve women are going, and a smattering of Italians, Spaniards, Germans and other Euros. And one American: Jay Thompson, 36, is from California. He built his own foiling Proto Mini 6.50, designed by the French firm Guillaume Verdier. It looks fast. Maybe they have what it takes to do well in a highly competitive race. The last time an American won the race was a long time ago, in 1977, when Bay Area sailor Norton Smith competed in a Tom Wylie Proto design.

2 Comments

  1. Ross angel 2 months ago

    Ahhh just an FYI … From the Azores to Guadalupe is 6,700 miles not 2,700 miles. Those minis are jamming across the Atlantic in this downwind hysteresis that follows a blasting trade recognized since Cortez thought he was in India. Ha ha. That mini 6.5 has got to be the most exhilarating sailing machine on the planet in anything above 15 knots(!) — driving one in 22 knots planing at 25 knots! I got to sail one out of La Rochelle a few years ago while visiting a friend. So . . . why is it the French literally dominate singlehanded ocean racing, rendering the entire international sailing world to the back waters of also rans? One of my dreams is to race a 6.5 in the mini transat with a respectable finish before Europe cuts us off. Happy sailing, Latitude.
    Ross angel

  2. Christine Weaver 2 months ago

    Dear Ross and readers — We had an error in the original text. The Minis stop over in the Canaries, not the Azores. Here’s the event’s description of the course: “The 84 Ministes will set off on a 4,050 nautical miles (7,500 kilometre) route from Les Sables d’Olonne to Saint-François in Guadeloupe, with a stopover in Santa Cruz de La Palma, the westernmost island of the Canary archipelago. . . The initial part of the race, 1,350 nautical miles long and lasting around seven days, will throw the sailors in at the deep end. And for good reason, the segment between the start and Portugal can prove to be quite invigorating due to the headwinds and the possibility of gales. Crossing the Bay of Biscay is a true accomplishment, and the passage of Cape Finisterre is often true to its reputation. The second leg, with its 2,700 nautical miles taking about two weeks to finish, will mostly be played out in the trade winds until the finish line.” Learn more and see a chartlet at https://www.minitransat.fr/en/presentation/#presentation.

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