The solo skippers have detoured to avoid deteriorating weather

Racing has been abandoned in the first leg

of the Mini Transat race after gruelling weather conditions in the Bay of

Biscay look set to worsen.

Although the Mini Transat fleet had covered

nearly two-thirds of the Bay of Biscay, the grib files are showing a further

deterioration in conditions compared to those expected at the time of the

start.

The bienniel Mini Transat, which was created in 1977,

saw 84 solo skippers in 6.5m (21.3ft) yachts set off from Brittany, France on 29

October.

The

start had been postponed since October 13 due to inclement weather.

The race will take the sailors via the Canaries to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

Three yachts were forced to return to port early on: the 850 (Stan Maslard) required repair work for a

technical problem, while a collision

between 587 (Craig Horsfield) and 791 (Annabelle Boudinot) put both boats out of the race.

Now inclement weather has once again stopped play.

At 19.00 last night the Race Director took

the decision to cancel the first leg from Douarnenez to Sada to allow

competitors to reach port safely.

Why the cancellation?

Several parameters were involved in the

final decision. First was the concern to maintain the safety of the slower

competitors (who are often also the least experienced), during the course of

the morning the Race Director advised those boats who were still a long way

from the finish line to proceed south towards the Cantabrian coast and Gijon

where conditions should be much more manageable.

In doing so, nearly 40 competitors

immediately decided to proceed to the Asturian port. Under these conditions the

sporting fairness of the leg might be undermined.

Moreover, although the

leading prototypes were almost assured of reaching Sada before the arrival of

bad weather, the situation was much more critical for the group leading the production boats, which were located about 90 miles from the entrance to the Sada

estuary at 16.00.

What happens next?

The fleet will now stop at the port of Sada, near La Coruna, to wait for

the strong winds from the south-west that will sweep Cape Finisterre,

on 1 and 2 November to moderate and go northwest.

Once all boats are safe in the Cantabrian

ports, the organisation will take the most appropriate measures to provide a

new start to Lanzarote at the first available opportunity.

The Race Director said: ‘Ultimately five

boats have reached the port of Sada. Leader of the pack, Giancarlo Pedote

(Prysmian) is understandably disappointed that his performance on the Bay of

Biscay will bring him nothing.

‘Following him in order were Gwénolé

Gahinet (Watever – Logways), Bertrand Delesne (TeamWork), Julien

Pulvé (MEXT – ICA) and Nicolas Boidevezi (Nature Addicts). The rest of the

fleet elected to sail on to Gijon.’ 

The Race Director is now studying the

potential weather windows to restart as quickly as possible and Sada will be

the port of departure of the second part of the leg.

Picture credits: Francois Van Malleghem