Ellen Mc Arthur fired the starting gun on Saturday. The boats have completed 240 miles in the first 24 hours. There has probably never been such a fast start to the Mini Transat, as they surfed their way through the first night across the Bay of Biscay.
Two casualities on day one, tragically Britain's Paul Peggs, on his second attempt, was dismasted during Saturday night. He's heading for port with the aim to restart with a spare mast being rushed from the UK.
A second boat was dismasted, that of Bernard Sourisses, and two others reported broken rudders. Another Brit how made a good start was Brian Thompson, only to be slowed by shredding his spinnaker in the surf...but he's hanging on to 8th place.
First boats expected to pass Cape Finistere today despite battling with calms which will be an early test of nerves - nearly a 100 miles already separates the first and last boat...however competition at the front is stiff with just a few miles in it. For now Yves LeBlevec on the Finot/AMCO boat "ACTUAL INTERIM" is holding the lead...this boat although from 1995 being considered one of the fastest boats.
Britain's Simon Curwen (QDS) has so far maintained an excellent 3rd position in his Lombard designed boat, the best placed 'foreigner' at this stage.
Report from the start of ther race on Saturday 22 September:
There were almost as many sailors out on the start line of the Mini Transat at 1533 today off of La Rochelle as there will be for the Volvo tomorrow (23rd) in the Solent. However their preparation, budgets, boats and challenges are somewhat different. 60 solo sailors from 11 nations set out on what will be for most of them the biggest event of their lives, 4300 miles to Brazil, alone, on a 6.5 metre skiff like sailboat. Sunshine, moderate breeze and an accommodating forecast for the Bay of Biscay was welcomed by the fleet as Ellen MacArthur fired the start gun on the 13th edition of this classic event.
It was race favourite Ronan Guerin (L'ARTISANAT) who led the fleet to the top mark placed just off the beach, but he was closely followed by Yannick Bestaven (AQUARELLE.COM) and then Brit Simon Curwen (QDS) with an excellent 3rd place as the fleet sailed away in to the sun in a perfect 20 to 25 knots. The freshening breeze promises a fast first night, as the skippers settle in to what should be 8 or 9 days to Lanzarote on leg one - but some big tactical calls to be made early on due to an occluded weak front sitting just south of the rumb line, almost like a barrier in to passing the famous Cape Finistere - exit of the Bay of Biscay. That same Bay last time half destroyed the fleet, with 7 people lifted off their boats.
One of the pre-race favourites, and winner of the Prologue race early this week, was Brian Thompson (LIGHTHOUSE LIFE FOUNDATION) - fresh from KINGFISHER's EDS Atlantic Challenge win, and previously 5 years on Steve Fossett's megacat PLAYSTATION and LAKOTA. As one of a dozen professional sailors in the race, Brian's preparation has been distinctly different to the classic, slightly chaotic campaign often seen in this event. As he rounded the top mark very much in contact with the leaders in 5th place, he took his time to pick the gybe to leave the bay and hoist a spinnaker - the mark of confidence and experience that might help him pull off a result in this testing race.