Dreaming of butterflies

oct-3015-ts

• End of the safety checks
• Considering the routings
• The Minis prepare to leave Lanzarote

Gradually, the solo racers of the Mini Transat îles de Guadeloupe are leaving Lanzarote behind in their minds, thinking ahead to Guadeloupe, the butterfly island. But before they reach their goal, there is still an ocean to cross. And this is a good thing, because this is also the reason they are here, to face this solo adventure, for days that pass far from the bustle of life on land, for the rediscovery of the basic pleasures of life on board a 6,50m racing across the Atlantic.

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The atmosphere is not quite buzzing with excitement yet on the pontoons, but we feel that the Mini racers are no longer quite in Lanzarote. Crossing the Atlantic is no small matter and everyone is deliberating on the different options and the best course to follow: should a direct course as the crow flies be favoured, or a plunge South to the trade wind highway? As usual, the best option may lie somewhere in between. Meanwhile, the solo racers are compulsively checking the wind files and analysing the evolution of the high-pressure systems of the Azores and Bermuda, the two main generators of the trade winds. All these fine hypotheses, however, still come up against a major obstacle: no forecast today is reliable enough when considering the scale of an Atlantic crossing in just over two weeks. To establish a strategy for the last days of the race, and in the absence of a crystal ball, the competitors can only rely on the statistics of previous editions and a little intuition.

Routine as an outlet
Aboard their boats, the solo racers are finalizing the details that will allow them to live this second leg calmly. Check the rigging, verify that each part is secured, secure the positioning beacon, calibrate the electronic control boards, store equipment ensuring a fair distribution of weight, dive to clean the hulls… it is the little daily tasks that keep the skippers from excessive day-dreaming before plunging into the ocean. In just under three weeks for the first ones to arrive, it will be the tropical flavours, the fragrance of Guadeloupe’s spices, the pleasure of seeing relatives on the pontoons of the Marina Bas-du-Fort and the unspeakable satisfaction of being able to say that they fulfilled a dream. In Guadeloupe, work is in progress to offer a fitting welcome for the competitors, equal to that given by the start town and the Canary Islands stopover.

During yesterday’s briefing, the start procedures were reviewed and the safety instructions were recalled before discussing the specific navigation conditions in the Canary Islands. The sometimes impressive reliefs, combined with a stable trade wind can indeed cause corridor effects where the wind can pick up several knots, the wind shadow of the islands can be significant on the leeside of a mountain such as Mount Teide in Tenerife which rises to over 3700 meters… Following this brief but useful overview, Roland Ventura (Fondation Planiol) rightly pointed out that it was the anniversary of Brigitte Fabre, measurer of the race, which ensued in all the racers singing a jolly “happy birthday”.

Picture-perfect: goodbye Lanzarote
In two days, the solo racers will have left Lanzarote marina and the comforts of the easternmost of the Canary Islands. All fell in love with the island and its people; all were seduced by the constant care they received. Those who chose to stay on the island during the three weeks were able to appreciate its authenticity, protected thanks to the influence of Cesar Manrique, and to enjoy the many nature sports opportunities. Some will take away with them wonderful memories such as the parade of Minis where the kids from Arrecife’s Real Club Nautico were able to share for a few moments the daily routines of the solo sailors, or the warm welcome of Lanzarote marina’s staff. Initiated by the Calero family, welcoming offshore races or sports teams such as the crews in training for the Volvo Ocean Race has become emblematic of Lanzarote… and the best way to maintain a stable and lasting relationship. See you in 2017.

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