On Monday (the start has been postponed), 90 solo sailors should set off from Les Sables d’Olonne heading towards Santa Cruz de La Palma in the Canaries, and the end of the first stage of La Boulangère Mini Transat. The second stage will take them to Saint-François in Guadeloupe. And, here, as before each major race, Tip & Shaft analyses the field with a panel of experts, made up of coaches Tanguy Leglatin (Lorient) and François Jambou (Concarneau), Pierre Le Roy, the proto class title holder, Julie Simon, former president of the La Turballe group, and Denis Hugues who is the race director.
The popularity craze for La Boulangère Mini Transat continues completely unabated. For the second consecutive edition, the organizers have decided to limit this transatlantic race in the Mini 6.50 to 90 participants – instead of the 84 initially planned. As eclectic as ever, the field for this 24th edition reflects a real diversity of sailors with varied backgrounds and profiles, including no less than 27 international skippers and also including 14 women – this is the first time that so many female racers have lined up at the start of the test.
With 31 competitors in the proto (ie one off Prototypes, c/w 25 two years ago), “the event will be particularly interesting to follow”, notes François Jambou, winner in 2019 in this class. Jambou, who trains around fifteen minists in Concarneau adds: “Quite often there are two outstanding boats and behind them it is a bit more open. But this year many of them are going fast on well-prepared boats. On paper I see ten who can make a podium.”
Jambou’s successor on the Mini Transat prize list, Pierre Le Roy who right now is co-skipper for Benjamin Ferré on the Imoca Monnoyeur-Duo for a Job, agrees: “The field is bigger and closer this year. There are quite a few Raison designs which are fairly even which will result in a much tighter match than in 2021.”
Waksman and Manera are probably the stand outs
Our experts, however, are quite unanimous in their opinion that the Uruguayan Federico Waksman (Repremar Shipping Uruguay) and the Spaniard sailor Carlos Manera Pascual (Xucla) will be at the front. Both have a Mini Transat under their belts racing production boats in 2021. Waksman finished 21st, Pascual 32nd – they have a “huge advantage over the others,” notes Denis Hugues. “As the Mini is a real marathon where there are always a lot of small technical problems to fix, it’s a real big plus to have already done it.”
Waksman, 33, also had a convincing first part of the season by winning the Puru Transgascogne and the Plastimo Lorient Mini on his Raison design. “He is a serious contender for victory with a well-tested and reliable boat,” adds the race director. This is confirmed by Pierre Le Roy, who knows this Mini 6.50 very well as he won the last Mini Transat on it. “This Raison design is reliable and certainly simpler to operate than Carlos’ foiler. And in the long term, that can be significant. Federico is also very good at setting up the boat and he is very determined.”
At the helm of a Manuard foiling design that he built himself, Carlos Manera, 25, has already won the Mini in May as well as the Mini Fastnet, double-handed with Federico Norman. “His boat is quite versatile for a prototype and he manages to sail it solo while really taking the most of its inherent performance advantages,” observes Pierre Le Roy. “Carlos can go very fast,” adds Denis Hugues. “And on the Mini Fastnet, he showed us that he knew how to take good options.”
Is Nicomatic too green?
The second foiler in the event, Nicomatic, a Manuard design skippered by Caroline Boule, has Tanguy Leglatin saying: “It’s impressive! It’s obvious that it has a big potential, but that is not always fully exploitable. It doesn’t really have the required versatility yet, there is still work to be done.” Jambou agrees: “It is a boat which can take three days out of the second boat on the first stage and even as many again on the second stage, but for the moment, there are too many uncertainties, too many risks of breakages. Even if Caroline is sailing very well, it is still too new. In any case, it’s a promising project that will take this sport to the next level.”
Also quoted for the podium by some of our experts: Laure Galley (DMG Mori Sailing Academy 2), “ultra determined, talented and with a big team behind her”, notes the Concarneau coach; and Julien Letissier, on the Raison design Frérots Branchet, 2nd in the Mini in May and winner of the Marie-Agnès Péron Trophy. “He is very good at preparing his boat and has very good technical expertise,” underlines Pierre Le Roy.
Several other sailors are outsiders, like Marie Gendron (Léa Nature), already one transatlantic race under her belt, or Jacques Delcroix (Actual), still in the top 5 in pre-season. “He is not starting with a technological advantage because his boat is older than the others [Bertrand plan from 2009, Editor’s note], but he still makes good trajectories,” underlines Julie Simon, 33rd in the last Mini in series. “He is the most talented of the group of Minists,” also praises François Jambou. “What he has done with his boat is exceptional. But in the long term, it may be too complicated. If there is a hard reaching over the course of some days he won’t be able to be in that fight.”
Series Division: advantage to Maxi
Of the 59 production boats, between the Pogo 3 (17 competitors) and the Maxi 650 (21 competitors), the advantage goes to the Raison designed Maxi according to Pierre Le Roy, who is also a meteo forecaster at Météo France: “If there is a lot of reaching on the first leg and powerful trade winds on the second, it will be complicated for the Pogo 3. And the probability that the Maxi will have the favourable conditions is still greater.” Tanguy Leglatin adds: “The Maxis are starting to be well optimised. Their shortcomings have been strengthened. In light winds upwind, for example, they have made a lot of progress.”
The big favorite according to our experts is Léo Bothorel (Les Optiministes-Secours Populaire 17 – Maxi), the winner this year of the Puru Transgascogne and of the Sables-Les Açores-Les Sables (SAS) in 2022. “He benefits from the experience of Romain Le Gall [today on the Figaro circuit, he has just finished 2nd rookie in the Solitaire, Editor’s note], who he bought and prepared the boat with”, explains Denis Hugues. “He has the experience, the character – he is calm, lucid – as well as the other qualities needed to go offshore and win,” adds Julie Simon, who has also just finished the Solitaire du Figaro (3rd rookie).
Another serious contender for victory, Adrien Simon (Faun – Maxi), 4th in the Puru and 6th in the SAS. “He is used to being at sea [he is a merchant marine officer, editor’s note],” points out Pierre Le Roy. “And for a first big race, that should help him compared to those who are going to discover the open sea.” And the prevailing prediction for third is Hugues De Prémare (Technip Energies-International Coatings – Maxi), winner of the Mini in May and 2nd in the Puru. “He is well organized, concentrated, he has a good feeling for the boat and makes very, very good routes with good speed,” comments Tanguy Leglatin, who trains him in Lorient within a group of 25 sailors.
Many other sailors are cited by our experts, like Ulysse David (Le Mini Equans – Maxi), 4th in the SAS 2022, Bruno Lemunier (Kalisto & Aerofab – Pogo 3), winner of the Pornichet Select, or even Thomas André (Diwan.bzh – Pogo 3) who has “the culture of high level because he was in the French 470 team”, notes François Jambou. Also to watch closely: Djemila Tassin (Antistene – Maxi), who has “Mini Transat experience on a Pogo 2, she is very comfortable offshore and has always been in the top six this year”, according to Julie Simon. “But there are always surprises on the Mini, there are plenty of them pushing behind, who will progress further and discover the open sea,” concludes Denis Hugues.
Our experts’ podiums:
Proto: 1. Federico Waksman, 2. Carlos Manera Pascual, 3. Laure Galley and Julien Letissier
Series: 1. Léo Bothorel, 2. Adrien Simon, 3. Hugues De Prémare
Photo: Simon Jourdan / Winches Club