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Transat 650

Etienne David and Giacomo Sabbatini open the road to Brazil from Funchal

Thursday 13 October 2011Information Transat 650

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77 boats took off at 1:30 p.m and sailed to a windward mark buoy in front of the Club naval de Funchal before heading to the next compulsory passage mark located between the islands of Santo Antao and Maio in the Cape Verde archipelago. The wind in the area is 6 knots south/southwest.

Sandrine Bertho (ed. participant in 2009 and now board member of the Classe Mini) has friendly warned all the competitors at the last briefing in Funchal last night: "Enjoy everything, enjoy every moment of this transatlantic because once in Brazil and Salvador, you will be filled with joy of course but it will also be the end of a dream patiently and passionately prepared for months and years."

It is with ambitions and without stress that the contestants said goodbye to Funchal. The weather promises a smooth start with a south/southwest flow - 5 to 6 knots - that bathes the islands with sun. Funchal is located in the south of the volcanic island and it is completely sheltered from the wind because of the mountains that, for some, culminate at more than 1800 meters.

It will take them several hours to leave the area.

Off to new adventures…

They were, therefore, 76 sailors to sail to South America and Salvador de Bahia. The Polish, Radoslaw Kowalczyk (790 - Calbud) that has arrived last night at around 9:00 p.m - after a short night, a medical and technical check - chose to be at the start with his friends. Only the Italian Sergio Frattaruollo (769 Bologna in oceano) remained in the port. He discovered this morning that he had a problem with his fuel cell and wanted to solve it. Now all is fine, and he left Funchal’s marina in the middle of the afternoon to join the rest of the fleet.

For many competitors, the departure from La Rochelle on the 25th of September was the result of two to three years of financial and personal sacrifices.... And that was poignancy. The frenzied audience, friends, relatives, the prospect of a transatlantic adventure had generated tension and nervousness. Radical change of atmosphere in Funchal. Being already far away, having the experience of the first 10 days at sea, has fairly disconnected the skippers from their daily lives. But the Mini "spirit" remains... They are closer and more united than ever on the pontoons of Madeira. Slaps on the back, hugs, handshakes and complicity and friendship glances while the boats are towed toward the starting area.

After a short "sprint" of two miles that the skippers have covered in less than 40 minutes. Etienne David - the Swiss - was the first to wind the first mark buoy, followed closely by four other competitors, Thomas Normand (787 - Financière de l’Echiquier) - and the first series - the Italian, Giacomo Sabbatini (554 - Scusami La Spalle). Andrea Caracci (756 - Speedy Maltese) and Bertrand Delesne (754 - Zone Large) were in his wake. The rest of the fleet joined them very quickly and in a very tight pack.

The Atlantic is now wide open ahead of them... Downwind navigation is announced by all the weather forecasts until Canaries Islands, with a gradual strengthening. That is perfect to start smoothly the piece of bravery that the Charente-Maritime/Bahia Transat 6.50 is.

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