Drama filled start for the Mini Pavois
The forecast for the start was right - a NNEerly blowing at 20 knots with 25/27 knots gusts - one or two reefs in the mainsail and a reef in the solent was the form for the Minis setting sail on the singlehanded Mini Pavois from La Rochelle to Gijon and back.
The start at 11:14 southwest off La Rochelle saw the boats set sail for a windward mark 2 nm north of the line, just off Port des Minimes. German Jorg Riechers (753 - Mare.de) took the lead in the Protos, followed a few minutes later by Sébastien Rogues (716 - Eole Generation - GDF Suez) and Nicolas Boidevezi (Défi G.D.E). In their wake was also Thomas Normand (787 - Finance de l'Echiquier) on his brand new design Manuard 2010, Henri Patou (551 - Ecartip) and the Czech Milan Kolacek (759 - Follow Me).
Among the Series boats, it was Jean-Marc Allaire (464 - Baker Tilly - AG2R La Mondiale) calling the tune followed by Xavier Macaire (472 - Starter). Macaire likes these conditions and it was hard not to remember the 'demonstration' he made on the first leg of the 2009 Charente-Maritime/Bahia Transat 6.50 when he took the lead with Francisco Lobato, ahead of most of the Protos downwind.
However the conditions proved too much for some and resulted in a fair share of technical misfortunes. The most painful was definitely for Aurélien Ducroz (417 - Nissan), who's boat suffered a dismasting before she reached the mark. The freeride World champion was very disappointed to see this adventure end so quickly.
It was also a hard blow for Spain's Jorge Maden Ruiz (636 - Casio G-Shock), who's boat was also dismasted as she was on her way to La Rochelle with a technical problem...
Designer and long term Mini-ist David Raison was also disappointed to have to throw the towel with his radical new Magnum design. This boat has undoubtedly shattered the conventional wisdom in MIni design... A broken rudder chock resulted him being to return to port and en route back the hull was damaged and he has since retired from the race.
Milan Kolacek also returned to port with a problem with the filler pipe for his water ballast causing water to flood his boat destroying all the electrics. He too has withdraw from the race.
Less dramatic - Pascal Chombard de Lauwe (721 - Xanlite) had an autopilot problem forcing him to return to the port but will leave again soonwhile Fabienne Robin (708 - Plume d'Ange) who also returned to port with pilot damage but has left La Rochelle already. American Ryan Finn (252 - Myrna Minkoff) is on his way back to the port to repair his pilot, along with a mainsail batten and a running backstay.