Fortunes have waxed and waned as the 80 little boats in the Mini Transat Boulangere close towards the finish of the 2,000 mile transoceanic leg from Las Palmas in the Canaries - via a mandatory gate in the Cape Verde Islands - to St Marin in Martinique in the Caribbean writes W M Nixon.
Bowling along in the fluctuating east to northeast tradewinds, as expected the Prototype Division’s Ian Lipinski with the scow-bowed Griffon.fr has led the fleet overall to the line. He finished yesterday, and Proto runner-up Jorg Riechers is only slowly approaching the line in locally very light airs for his finish this morning.
It’s a result which gives Lipinski a remarkable double, as he won the Production Class in the previous staging of this biennial classic two years ago – it’s the first time in the 40 year history of the event that the double has been achieved.
In this year’s Production Class, Ireland’s Tom Dolan has found himself entering the concluding two hundred miles in a four-way battle for the final position in the quartet which will fill the second, third, fourth and fifth places. However, “four way battle” is only a relative term imposed by the considerable distance being raced. This morning, twenty miles separate Clarisse Cremer in second from Dolan in fifth, as they have respectively 89.7 and 109.7 miles to the leader Erwan le Draoulec, who is in turn 145 miles from the finish.
Dolan has a good chance of improving to fourth as he is only 4 miles astern of Benoit Sineau currently in fourth, and the Irish sailor has marginally improved his position during the past four hours. But options for making major tactical gains are closing off as the finish is neared and the fleet’s tracks get closer together.
At the front of the Production fleet where the leaders are racing the Pogo 3, wunderkind Erwan Le Draoulec – he’s aged just 20 – is in a world of his own with those 145 miles still to sail. With nearly 90 miles clear of second-placed Cremer, his current speed of 7.7 knots is currently maintaining his lead. That said, as Jorg Riechers has been learning the hard way in recent hours, actually getting to the finish line off a Caribbean Island can sometimes be difficult for the final few miles. But nevertheless Le Draoulec has every reason for confidence.