PORTO CALERO, Lanzarotte, Canary Islands-The 54 starters on the second leg of the Mini-Transat set off in a 10-knot westerly breeze on Thursday. There was a one-minute silence before the start, a mark of respect for Italian Roberto Varinelli who was lost at sea during the first leg from La Rochelle. The fleet left Porto Calero for the 2,900-mile leg to Salvador, Bahia in Brazil, and it will follow the track of the Volvo Ocean Race for most of the way.
Almost immediately, the fleet split into two, nearly equal, factions. Some went out to sea to the west, the others hugged the coastline to go south. The immediate problem was to choose which side of the 45-mile long island of Fuerteventura they should pass. In hindsight, it didnt appear to make much difference and they all ended in a windless “hole” shortly after it was passed.
Subsequently, during the weekend, the northeasterly trade winds have begun to blow and the skippers of these 21-footer have had their hands full as they head for the Cape Verde Islands where there is a mandatory waypoint between two islands in that archipelago.
The leaders are enjoying a close battle after the first 400 miles and again the same faces are at or near the front. Yannick Bestaven in Aquarelle.com leads fellow Frenchman Ronan Guerins LArtisanat by a half mile with Yves le Blevec in Actual Interim another half a mile away. Bestaven was the first leg winner and Le Blevec fifth while Guerin suffered a broken mast and finished the leg under jury rig.
In fourth place is Brian Thompson of England, until recently a watch leader on Steve Fossetts PlayStation, with Lighthouse Life Foundation, 10 miles clear of the first woman, Jean Gregoire in Aquarelle.com with Arnaud Boissieres in another boat of the same name and design a further 11 miles back. Gregoire and Boissieres were respectively sixth and second on the first leg while Thompson was seventh. The second woman is Samantha Davies in Aberdeen Asset Management, at eighth, while Karen Leibovici with Radical Boats is twelfth. The first of the Pogo one-designs, Olivier Desport aboard My Workplace, is thirteenth on the water.