Held biennially, the Transgascogne is split into two legs, starting and finishing in Port Bourgenay with a stop-over in Gijon, Spain, returning this weekend. The first leg is the longer of the two, competitors required to round Belle Ile before heading south across the Bay of Biscay.
I got a reasonable start to the race and rounded the windward buoy off Bourgenay in about fourth place. I then for some reason just could not get the boat going well, and depressingly got overtaken left, right and centre over the next few miles. I finally took a look over the side of the boat and found I had a massive clump of weed around the centreboard! I fortunately managed to get rid of most of it, and as soon as I removed it I quickly regained the places and moved back towards the front of the fleet.
As we approached our first mark rounding off Isle d’Yeu, I had edged slowly past Servomap and had the top three in my sites again. After rounded the mark about 10 minutes behind the leader, I then heard a lot of gabbling in French on the VHF. This is quite normal except for the fact that my sailnumber was involved and a couple of miles later I interpreted that I had not rounded the mark properly because I had not gone inside the gate, for which one has to pass in the small gap between the committee boat and the mark. So there was only one thing for it - go all the way back and lose lots of positions! It was most frustrating but it made me all the more determined to get up near the front again.
A couple of hours I had overtaken Servomap for a second time and was back up to about 5th as we close-reached in about 20 knots of wind up to Belle Ile. We rounded the bottom of Belle Ile at dawn and then it got windier and lumpier the further up the coast we went. Rounding the top of Belle Ile was not at all pleasant, blowing about 30 knots and with really short steep waves. One wave crashed over the boat and threw me across the cockpit, so I made sure I clipped-on after that!
Despite the carnage I was quite happy to pass Tanguy de LaMotte, one of the earlier leaders who was having some daggerboard problems and unfortanately ended up retiring. After rounding Belle Ile I decided to stay high near the rhumb line whereas Servomap bore off and went for speed. I realised I had maybe made the wrong tactic when I couple of hours later he had almost disappeared over the horizon to leeward along with the leaders!
For the next day I was pretty much on my own but raced my guts out to try and catch the leaders who were now at least a couple of hours ahead. This was quite difficult since meanwhile I was having some big electronics issues. My GPS, log and VHF decided to pack up respectively, so I resorted to my handheld GPS which seemed to chew through a set of batteries every five minutes. I therefore had it switched off most of the time and so had no speed reference, a big problem when you are racing and are constantly making changes to optimise the boats performance. Instead I had to guesstimate the speed by looking at the wake at the back of the boat!
By the end of day two I saw a Mini on the horizon which I found out later to be Isabelle Joschke on Parole, the boat previously sailed by Sam Davies in 2001. She has been very quick recently in the other races and was doing a great job in this race. By midnight I had caught up nearly parallel to her but then started hallucinating badly - I started seeing my friends on board - so had to put the autopilot on and go to sleep for half and hour. When I woke up and turned my GPS on I was really surprised to find I only had 10 miles to go to the finish, expecting it to be about 50! I was running out of time to pass Isabelle, who had extended the gap slightly during my snooze, and despite a lot of hard work I couldn’t close the gap in time.
As I approached the massive array of city lights of a sleeping Gijon, the last batteries in my GPS ran out but fortunately I had picked up the lights for the finish just before! I crossed the finishing line 10 minutes behind Isabelle in fourth place out of 75 starters, completing the 350 mile course in just 2.5 days, very quick for a 21ft boat going upwind nearly the whole way. I was expecting myself to be fifth and was surprised and very pleased to find I had overtaken Didier Vourch on Servomap, one of the big favourites for the Mini Transat, who had been absolutely miles ahead of me at one point.
Corentin Douget on E.Leclerc-Bouygues Telecom won the leg, finishing 2.5 hours ahead of me, quite impressive considering he didn’t have Sam Manuard on board on this occasion! However everyone is beatable and I know where I lost a lot of this time to him and learnt an incredible about in the race, namely making sure you have an electronics package that actually works. I look forward to the return leg on Saturday, a 230 mile sprint directly back to Bourgenay after stocking up in sleep during the next couple of days, while also trying to soak up a bit of nocturnal Spanish life!
Results - leg one
|Pos||Sail no||Boat||Arrival time|
|1||433||E. Leclerc - Bouygues Telecom||Corentin||Douguet||03:15:26|
|3||276||Synergie travail temporaire||Isabelle||Joschke||05:29:49|
|7||260||Région Nord Pas de Calais||Cyril||Ducrot||09:44:16|
|8||284||Ville de Nice||Yann||Delplace||10:49:08|
|11||432||IUT de Nîmes||Nicolas||Marchand||12:32:50|
|19||424||SET Environnement||Tanguy||de Lamotte||Abandon|
|20||453||Gin Tonic||François||Van Damme||DNC|
|3||393||The Tom Crean||Cian||Mc Carthy||10:14:53|
|5||339||ADOC - Solutions||Pierick||Laine||13:45:39|
|9||498||Le Treport - Tirard et Burgaud||David||Le Carrou||23:06:49|
|11||75||Bellot Mullenbach & associés||Patrice||Fisseux||Abandon|
|12||517||Dingo Chantier Marée Haute||Véronique||Châteignier||Abandon|
|17||483||Cultisol - Marins sans frontières||Sébastien||Mesure||11:39:05|
|19||487||LPO - Ligue …||Mathieu||Sannié||12:37:33|
|20||516||Une place pour chacun||Sylvain||Pontu||12:53:21|
|1||466||Lady Paulette||David||de Saqui de Sannes||15:29:13|
|5||507||Knauf - Vendée||David||Lefebvre||22:51:48|
|7||481||DCF||Marine||Chombart de Lauwe||23:52:54|
|8||287||Felibre, graine d'épeautre||Manuel||Bergman||23:53:43|
|3||505||Noix de Pogo||Eric||Vautrin||12:53:05|
|11||245||Finist'mer - Ecole navale||Patrick||Bot||22:38:35|
|16||207||Ananda||Claire||Tournier||Abandon 1ère étape|
|18||373||Yellow Submarine||Gildas||du Cleuziou||Abandon|
|19||539||Construction Modicom||Stéphane||Le Diraison||Abandon|