There will be some serious pressure for redemption at the next start in Madiera.
You really couldn’t ask for better weather today for all concerned, the sailors, the spectators onshore, and the big spectator fleet on the water. Northerly wind between 16-20 knots and bright sunshine were perfect for the parade out of the old harbor for the start of the Mini Transat.
Once on the water, spectator boats were problematic, oblivious to the “exclusion zone” and heedless to the control boats. The “Hey, its a sunny Sunday and we’re here to have fun” mentality in full force.
Dodging spectators was one risk but keeping an eye out for the other 80 some odd competitors proved to be just as important. We were witness to a unhappy collision when a French boat, with the guy on the bow, mashed into the bow side of another French boat. I saw somebody go flying it seemed like into the other guys boat. The boat that was hit sailed the first part of the upwind leg and went in for repairs to his boat and himself.. A huge welt on his forehead told part of the story but despite that I overheard him say he would be leaving again tonight after some medical attention and boat repair.
Clearly not the way to start a major solo ocean race with a lump on the head, banged up boat hours behind the leaders.
The real mess up of the start of this event was the idea to put out four inflatable buoys, big orange course markers, to restrict spectators from the start zone. None of the French spectators would respect this exclusion zone anyway, the organizers were helpless or powerless to enforce it, and in the end it dealt a heavy blow to those who fell into age old problem in yacht racing, the wrong mark.
Yep, as we were finished looking getting shots of the start, we all agreed to hotfoot it up the windward mark before the boats all headed out of the La Rochelle bay, around the point on Ille de Oleron and South to Madiera.
In the inflatable, we went whizzing by one of those big orange marks which I thought was the windward mark. I was getting anxious, yet all the other spectators were still upwind where we where headed. Lots of question marks started scrolling by and as I was asking others on the boats I noticed many of the boats bunched up and even a few kites. Over on the left, were 15 some odd boats still hard on the wind in layline for the mark next to us. Are there two windward marks? One for the Prototypes and one for the series boats? Confusion reigns. We go to ask the committee boat and they confirm that the mark in front of us is the “official windward turning mark”
We can now see at least ten spinnakers headed to Madiera.
Right. There you are in the lead with your spinnaker up and you see people turning around and on the VHF you learn you’ve gone to the wrong mark. Unfortunately you can’t yell at the navigator or any other crew on the boat… its like pounding sand. It also proves again you can’t be like sheep, and follow the leader. So, it was a long painful slog back for many of the real contenders to the “official” windward mark. It definitely shakes up the game and will put added pressure on to do well for the remainder of this leg, and the start of the next.
The three boat American team (one actually sailing as South African) can take consolation in getting to the right mark. Chris Tutmark with his newly baptized Mini-Anarchy showed a steady methodical style and Jesse Rowse even with his older boat rounded the “right” windward mark in the top tier.
Craig Horsefield, rounded the mark a bit further back but even so, there were plenty of favorites, how many exactly is not clear, who had to do a U-turn give the less favored a margin. At the top at the first mark were the Frenchmen Nicolas Boidevezi, Fabien Despres and from Spain Anna Corbella.
To follow the racing: