“Cheer for me”: Alberto Bona recounts his Mini Transat.


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A few days before the start of the second leg of the Mini Transat
(2,800 miles from Lanzarote – departure Oct. 31 – to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe) Alberto Bona takes the floor and tells us with great intellectual honesty about his first leg, which began as an absolute protagonist among the Protos (aboard his Onlinesim.it) and closed in 14th place: the difficulties, the adrenaline, the tactical error, the determination. To be read in one go! And let’s cheer for him, as he asks us at the end of the story, because anything can still happen!

“This time the Minitransat is played over two stages; it will be fun compared to the last one in 2013, I think. I want to tell you about a rich first leg, full of almost everything: becalmed, wild crossings, strong wind at the windward mark in Portugal, the last five hundred miles with bearing but medium winds that force you to stay focused and use the last of your energy not to make mistakes in gybes and the approach to the island. A beautiful first leg of this ocean race being run in mini 6.50s, the most fun boats for this kind of competition ever conceived.

GREAT AMBITIONS. I leave with high ambitions for this mini 2015. I have had a lot of experience and know what needs to be done. The boat is the result of a project-bomb, compressed into only one year where the French cousins were not asked; changes have to be made to this 2008 proto self-built in Italy to make it still competitive. Knock on Sam Manuard, one of the most talented French designers of the moment who designed my boat? It was all going to be downhill. Instead, my great ambition is to lay the foundation stone in the knowledge of these traps – Ultra technological carbon machines. So the project with the university was born, with guys my age (and also much younger) who had never sailed on a mini; they were tasked with studying and designing a new keel and mast. In the difficult and despondent moments, I always lifted myself up by wondering what we were doing: a unique thing.

SO MANY SACRIFICES. So many sacrifices, so many mistakes. I think about the nights in the yard preparing the boat; I watch others sail on my PC screen. The boat touches the water staged and truly ready for the last race before the Mini, the Transgascogne in late July. I am happy because we are doing well and taking into account everything I overlooked there is a lot of room for improvement. I’m not trained, I don’t know the boat well, but I like the road that brought me here and I don’t deny it. Let’s leave for the regatta, I want to see how it turns out too….

onlinesimI GET PISSED OFF, I QUIT. I see the Spanish coast far away, but not far enough. I am almost becalmed, sailing at 4 knots, I tacked so as not to lose the wind altogether. I have not been far enough from the ground, the wind is erratic, threatening to die completely. The n/w flow dropped earlier and the windless cone is larger than expected. I know that all the partisans in the west still have wind and are passing me gaining miles upon miles. The recurring thought is that I have already thrown away a Minitransat after 350 miles from departure. It’s tough this Mini, there’s nothing to do; 4200 miles played for a missed pass. I would smash everything, get pissed off, quit; I don’t believe it. After all the effort, here you are. I think of everyone who helped me. I feel like crying when I think of them. I think about the road I took to get here, about those who have been close to me. For them I did not leave because, I admit, the thought of going home crossed my mind.

THE ERROR. Despite the difficult exit from the Bay of Biscay, with a cool mind and looking back over the race I think I had a good first phase. The leading group runs westward very fast. The French apply their rule precisely: “when in doubt go west.” Then there are the pursuers who accept this decision by playing tactics. I’m not in and I make my own track. The strategic mistake was not closing westward once the gain was cashed in. The front then seems to be definitely slowing down, those who are more to w cash in their investment with interest. I tried, he didn’t pay but the sanction of Chief Finisterre is too harsh.

THE HEAD IS GOING AWAY…With broken morale and an unbridled desire to catch up, it’s easy to go off the rails, and in fact I’m asking maybe a little too much of my boat. I am aiming for the Portuguese coast to reach the area with more wind; the wind keeps picking up, better to make an offshore tack, I think, while already preparing the gybe. All good. After ten minutes I realize that I am pulling the boat a little too much, I need to change sail set up. I break a rudder coupling rod and lose the screws overboard. This is where the quagmire of repairs, of overstuffing, begins. I end up with the mast in the water and without the rudders to right the boat. I lower the spi, make a makeshift repair, and set off again under white sails. I am in shock, looking incredulously at the tree that has withstood this treatment. A day goes by before we can re-enter the regatta after laminating the tiller coupling. I still got delayed and it is a matter at this point of arriving in Lanzarote with the boat in place to participate in the second leg. I replaced the lost screws with ones but of smaller diameter that I disassembled from the deck equipment.

THE HARDEST REGATTA OF MY LIFE. When I see the island I breathe a sigh of relief, I keep well away from the coast with the problem with the rudders I don’t want to risk. I share the finish line with a ferry that is entering port; I wait for the ship to pass and cut the toughest finish line of my ocean sailing career with a liberating shout. We are less than twenty days away from the start of the second leg. I’m sure I can have a good race, we’re not even 1/3 of the way through the Mini and it’s all left to play for. Cheer for this Italian boat!”

Alberto Bona



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