This is it: on September 19, the 20th edition of the Mini Transat, one of the toughest races for solo sailors, gets underway (the use of any telephone or computer equipment to connect ashore is prohibited: the committee communicates only once a day with skippers by providing the daily weather forecast). The start signal will be given in Douarnenez, Brittany (France): the Mini 6.50 fleet will sail to Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain) where the only stopover will take place, and then head to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe (Antilles). There are six Italians ready to tackle these 4,020 miles in the Atlantic (two in the protos, four among the series) and who are completing their final preparations in Douarnenez: and let’s face it, none of them is going to “make up the numbers” since, in recent years, Italian ocean sailing has gained new blood and has been able to express itself at the highest level (think of Giancarlo Pedote’s second place in the 2013 Transat, among the protos, or Andrea Mura’s victory at the Route du Rhum).
OUR HOPES AMONG THE PROTO
Let’s start with the category reserved for prototypes. Alberto Bona, after his resounding fifth place among the Series obtained in 2013, tries to improve on his Onlinesim.it 756. The Turin, Italy, native born in 1986, on the force at the Yacht Club Italiano, turned to the guys at Italy’s SkyronLab to modify 756, Sam Manuard’s proto that belonged to Andrea Caracci: the young designers introduced daggerboards and changed the keel system (built with monolithic carbon beam covered by two shells also made of carbon), switching from canting to canting-sliding and increasing the righting moment at the lift-offs by 20 percent, (for close-hauled sails the moment is the same but without the weight of the ballast that is no longer there the boat is lighter by almost 200 kg).
“I’m aiming for the podium this time.” More than manifest are the intentions of the other Italian competing among the proto, Michele Zambelli (CN Rimini), who despite his young age (25) already has behind him a 10th place finish in the 2013 edition. Illumia 788 is the name of the boat, a prototype rented by Aymeric Chappellier, who built it himself in 2010 with two friends, with the collaboration of the C3 Technologies shipyard in La Rochelle. Zambelli is indeed a navigator “with attributes” well hidden behind his all-riviera sympathy….
SERIES CATEGORY: THE “VETERANS”…
While both Bona and Zambelli preferred a more “international” preparation, with regattas in France and England in addition to Italy, Andrea Pendibene, who is in his third participation (after the 2007 and 2011 editions) in the Transat, has chosen to train exclusively in the Mediterranean, relying on the teachings of a French coach who has followed him during the last period in Cagliari. The Pisan athlete born in 1981, a militant in the ranks of the Navy, can count on a pretty good boat: his Pegaso 883 is a Pogo 3, a production boat, but built as a prototype. A very bulky hull section at the bow, with pronounced double edges. The forward beam, in theory, should facilitate gliding while maintaining balance and longitudinal stability as the mast is moved aft.
Federico Cuciuc, born in Rome in 1978, has also previously tried his hand at the Transat, in 2013 (finished 32nd). He will be aboard 556, a Rolland’s Dingo, just as in last year’s edition, but he comes more prepared, although, he writes on his blog, “some fear will also come at some point. There is no ‘normal’ way to do it, my minist friends know this well. For each in a different way, it is an out-of-the-ordinary endeavor. it is a daring to put the wake of our little boat ever so slightly further whose meaning is sometimes not easy to grasp for those who stay ashore, and often holds surprises even for those who are right there: in the middle of the sea.”
… AND DEBUTANTS
For Andrea Fornaro (CV Talamone) and Roland Ventura, however, this is the first Mini Transat. The former deploys to Douarnenez aboard Sideral, an Argo650 from the pencil of Marc Lombard. Born in Orbetello in 1977, he has a long dinghy history behind him, including Optimist, Vaurien, 420, Snipe, Europa and Star, with many titles won. In 2011 he finished second in the legendary Fastnet with a Class 40, and alternates his oceanic passion with offshore racing and in Melges 20 and 32. Like Alberto Bona, he chose the Transgascogne (a 590-mile-long race in two stages touching France and Spain, starting from Port de Bourgenay) as his last prep race.
Ventura’s case, however, is “atypical”: he was born in Brussels but grew up in Trentino-Alto Adige and took his first sailing steps on Lake Garda. At 18, he felt the irresistible call of the ocean and moved to France (he lives in Tours), where he worked for 10 years as a technical trainer on the Figaro circuit. In Italy, he has taught in several schools of the high seas. Finally, at 45 years of age (among the Azzurri in the race, he is the oldest: we consider him Italian because he registered under the tricolor banner), he was able to fulfill his dream of participating in this solo adventure. He runs aboard Pogo2 523.