little boat, big win

A champion has been crowned in the first leg of an action-packed Mini Transat, as Tanguy Bouroullec and his Pogo Foiler 969 have surfed into Santa Cruz de la Palma in the Canary Islands. Staging a brilliant come from behind victory while sailing in a 4-boat pack of prototypes that were able to thread the needle and escape before having the door slam shut right behind them.

Bouroullec and his trio of pursuers have opened up a massive lead that should prove insurmountable in deciding the overall rankings after the second and final leg. Frenchmen Fabio Muzzolini and Pierre Le Roy finished just five minutes apart after a week of racing to round out the podium in 2nd and 3rd.

Behind the four boats that managed to escape south and rumble past Cape Finisterre, the majority of the rest of this massive fleet in the 23rd running of the Mini Transat have opted to seek shelter at the recommendation of the organizing authority, with just a small handful of boats opting to weather the heavy conditions in the region of Cape Finisterre.

Perhaps not winning any karma points for acting in solidarity with the rest of the fleet, 19-year-old German sailor Melwin Fink on his Pogo 3 920/Signforcom nonetheless made the move of the race, and as a result, he has moved from 17th in the Series division into a dominant first place position. Currently less than 500 miles from La Palma, it’s seemingly his race to lose.

The conversation at the top of the Series podium in La Palma could be exclusively in German as Austrian sailor Christian Kargl also made massive moves during the storm front by staying out longer than most of his competitors and taking a weather stopover further south than his rivals, before once again re-entering the race in second place in the Series division. Brilliant work by the Austrian meteorologist who has racked up experience offshore in everything from record-breaking offshore dinghy voyages, to Mini’s to Volvo 70s with Team Russia.

For that vast majority of the fleet that did stop to avoid a cold front that brought gusts into the 40-50 knot range over a heavy sea, they have had to deal with losses incurred from entering and leaving ports all over Spain and Portugal, to multiple reported orca attacks, and in the case of Frenchman Georges Kick on 529/ Black Mamba, putting the boat on the bricks outside the Spanish port of Ribabeo.

American Jay Thompson had his starboard rudder t-foil broken off by a reported orca strike just 20 nm from making port, but has now re-entered the race after waiting out weather and sanding down the broken stump of a rudder into a full-length non-foiling rudder. Thompson is currently sailing in 8th place in the Proto fleet, some 700+ miles from making port in La Palma.  – Ronnie Simpson.