Rumour has it that Pip is gone racing (again!) so no blogs direct from Pip blog until she arrives in Madeira at the finish of Leg 1 of the 2011 Mini Transat.
The conditions last Sunday for the start can only be described as perfect for the spectators but very frustrating for the competitors; a beautiful sunny day, with a very light breeze and Cape Finisterre directly up wind.
Not content with giving the competitors the challenge of sailing to Brazil the committee decided to make it a bit more ‘interesting’ by laying a start line with a big starboard end bias, adding a windward mark and then to rub salt into the wounds a tasty little light wind fetch/beat to a second mark.
There were hundreds of spectator boats ranging from ribs up to large coastal tripper boats plus the Gendarmerie Maritime boats and media helicopters. The Mini Transat certainly is a big event in France.
The committee did a very good job of updating competitors via VHF channel 72 including a VHF countdown to each gun and effectively marshalling the big spectaor fleet Also broadcast on VHF was news of a rule 69 port/starboard infringement well before the start with the starboard boat requesting redress due to boat damage. We heard later that it was a big crash.
The race start sequence had an additional one minute voluntary period after the start gun for everyone to remember Jean-Marc Allaire tragically lost en route to La Rochelle. A VHF call went out to the the fleet one minute after the start gun and away they went.
Pip had what must be diplomatically described as an average start (sorry Pip!). Very understandable in conditions which would be fun for a dinghy race but tacking and positioning a Mini 6.50 in light airs when everyone wanted the starboard end of the line was not easy.
Pip rounded the first mark, got into the groove and overtook 10+ boats on the fetch to the second mark by using a flat cut spinnaker whereas a the majority of the fleet stuck with main/foresail combination only.
After the second mark the fleet faced the decision of a starboad tack towards the coast or a port tack to the opposite coast which might promise better pressure but was phsychologically tough as it kept La Rochelle very firmly in view to starboard. The weather forecast promises more of the same so a 300 mile beat to Finisterre looks almost certain.
So….. Pip overtook 10+ boats in a mile due to ignoring the rest and making her own tactical decisions. Brazil is over 4000 miles away. Therefore ……….!!