What follows are chronicles of a sailing adventure tandem in France —two young men, a fairly old boat, and long distance sailing races.
They are Blood Red team riders Edouard Blondel and Pierre Ebert, both students of the University of Exeter, and avid, competitive dinghy and yacht sailors. Taking their individual backgrounds in match racing, and sailing on catamarans, Lasers, and 420s, they signed up for more serious and extensive ocean sailing courses with the “Les Glenans” sailing school in preparation for this year’s sailing competitions on a 2-man racing boat fondly called the Mini.
After weeks of training in Jersey specifically for this season’s races, Ed and Pierre have had a challenging time at the Lorient Bretagne Sud Mini—an 80 nautical mile race that took them from Lorient to Pornichet in Western France.
Read their first-hand account of Lorient Bretagne Sud Mini race here.
The Bretagne Sud Mini: off to a difficult start
After a long week of preparation at the Submarine Base high performance sailing centre in Lorient, we started our first race of the season. 65 mini 6.50s took part in this double–handed, 80 nautical miles long race to Pornichet.
Argos Managers had a good start but tacked (changed direction) much too late to reach the first mark of the race, east of the island of Groix. We were thus in last place, only twenty minutes after the start of the race.
After a long lap around Groix, we hoisted the large spinnaker and began our long descent towards Pornichet, pushed by a strong breeze.
A long night of racing
We could not see any of our competitors on the horizon.
We were not discouraged. We tried to make Argos Managers sail as fast as possible. We were in fact sailing quite quickly, with the wind behind us and our large spinnaker pulling us forward. We regularly reached 10 knots (19km/h), with a pleasant top speed of 11 knots off the coast of the island of Houat.
At last, a sail appeared in the distance. We did not know whether it was a competitor but we were catching up slowly. We overtook the mini number 502 just before nightfall.
We were no longer in last place!
After sunset, the wind completely disappeared, leaving us stranded at 20 miles of the finishing line. We drifted, carried by the tidal current. Number 502, slightly better positioned, overtook us once more. We desperately tried to make our boat move despite the absence of wind.
We felt completely left behind with only a long, dreary and dark night to look forward to.
A dramatic finish in Pornichet
As we slowly crept up the Loire estuary, we noticed some static green lights near the coast. We later realized that these lights were in fact the navigation lights of some of our competitors.
On the radio, we learned that a strong current had drawn them to the coast and that they had to drop anchor to avoid the rocks. Argos Managers, positioned in the middle of the estuary, avoided this treacherous current and silently glided towards Pornichet. Both of us were exhausted by this long night at sea.
At about 6 o’clock in the morning, we finally crossed the finish line, in front of many other yachts, some of which we overtook in the last minutes of the race. We are very proud of our first race, despite being well aware that without this coastal current we would not have caught up with so many of competitors. We came in 16th place out of 21 in our prototype category and 42th overall, after 19 hours of racing.
This result is a small exploit for the oldest yacht of the fleet and the youngest crew.
Presentation of the Mini Fastnet
We will be reunited with Argos Managers on the 6th of June to prepare for the Mini Fastnet. We will begin our first major race of the season on the 14th of June. This race, without assistance or stops, will take us to the mythical Fastnet Lighthouse, off the south coast of Ireland.
This 600-mile long race will start in Douarnenez in Brittany. After facing the strong currents of the Chenal du Four, we will cross the Channel in the direction of Wolf Rock, a solitary lighthouse only a few miles off Land’s End in south west England. We will then cross the Irish Sea and reach the Fastnet lighthouse, a legendary lighthouse in the world of ocean racing. A long and difficult race awaits us.
We will need to be completely autonomous, very careful and resilient to overcome this challenge.
We would like to thank our sponsors for their support. Without them, we would not be able to take part in this adventure.
About the Mini Class
Born in 1977, the Mini Class is considered a mythical sailing class, and is an incubator for young, talented sailors who then move on to larger yachts traversing larger bodies of water.
As with the first Transat 6.50 ever built, Minis are still 6.50 meters long and limited to minimal equipment on board, encouraging innovation as well as participation from sailors of all backgrounds and capabilities. The radical contrast between its small stature and the vast oceans they traverse keeps the Mini attractive to performance sailors, engineers, and naval architects.
There are two class categories, Production Yachts and Prototypes, which race together using two separate rankings.