To pitstop or not pitstop?
One after the other, competitors in the Mini Transat are approaching Lanzarote and Puerto Calero, the aborted stopover point of this race. Despite the lack of an official stopover, our Calero family and the staff of the marina remain on standby waiting for any pitstops, the first of which came this morning with Nicolas Boidevezi (Nature Addicts). Accepting the loss of 12 hours in order to be able to gain later is just one of the dilemmas that face the competitors before their Atlantic crossing.
While passing through the mandatory Puerto Calero gate represents only a quarter of the total distance of this Mini Transat, it none the less has huge symbolic significance. This is the last opportunity to make a pit stop before setting off for nearly two weeks at sea with no landfall en route.
This is also the first time the competitors are faced with a significant choice of route. Is it better to head south and go in search of the more established, stronger trade winds? Alternatively, will it be more profitable to sail the most direct route? The only information the competitors have access to is the weather reports provided by the organisation that allow them roughly to position the major weather systems, and from which they must determine their strategy for the coming days.
For the Ministes this course is an initiation test, as for the last ten years the route has led them down, rather than across, the Atlantic to Brazil. Even for repeat offenders, this is a new challenge to be faced. Only the racing experience of the annual Atlantic crossings with events such as the Figaro circuit can give them some clues. If they rely on simple statistics, going south seems to be the more sensible choice. However, those crossings take place in the spring and not this late in the season.
Taking a loss to make a gain?
The second element of choice is whether to stop at Puerto Calero or continue directly on the journey. The Regulations require that any call should last a minimum of 12 hours and a maximum of 72. Given the length of an Atlantic crossing, a 12 hour stop can be recovered. So which one is better? Stop and then come out with a boat at full potential, but lose half a day, or decide that minor damage can be managed at sea and a stop isn't necessary?
Added to this, the psychological factor may be decisive. After four days of racing where the singlehanded sailors have taken a good thrashing, the temptation to stop can be dangerous. The risk of losing your racing rythme is real and the desire to restart can quickly wane. The determination to cross must be deeply ingrained and they must be sure they have the ability to bounce back before deciding on a pitstop.
Nicolas Boidevezi is already in port and others have announced their intention to stop for repairs including David Genest (Bingo), Rafaëla Le Gouvello (respectocean.com), Yoann Tricault (Schlüter Systems), Erwan Pellen (Mordilou) and Julien Pulvé (MEXT–ICA). In contrast, others have made the choice not to break their rhythum and to stay with the competition. These include Simon Koster (Go 4 it), who has work to undertake as his masthead, and Rémi Fermin (Boreal). Clinging on to a great fifth place in the Protos, Remi is also the architect and builder of his boat and has decided, despite the failure of his fuel cell, to continue, relying solely now on his solar panels for power. It took uncommon tenacity for him to make it to the start, and he will not be stopped in his quest by this type of equipment issue.
Protos at 1500 UTC
1. Giancarlo Pedote (747 – Prysmian) with 2673.6 nm to the finish
2. Bertrand Delesne (754 – TeamWork Proto) + 17.9 nm
3. Benoit Marie (667 – benoitmarie.com) + 25.3 nm
4. Nicolas Boidevezi (719 – Nature Addicts) + 65.2 nm
5. Rémi Fermin (741 – Boréal) + 71.5 nm
Series at 1500 UTC
1. Aymeric Belloir (810 – Tout le Monde chante contre le Cancer) with 2726.2 nm to the finish
2. Simon Koster (819 – Go 4 it) + 7.5 nm
3. Justine Mettraux (824 - TeamWork) + 23.5 nm
4. Renaud Mary (535 – www.runo.fr) + 47.4 nm
5. Jean-Baptiste Lemaire (607 – Œuvre du Marin Breton) + 61.2 nm