Valentin Gautier on the up

Sailing, Sports, Weather, Yachting — By on October 11, 2017 at 11:16 PM

– The Swiss sailor’s easterly option secures him the win
– Sailing blind
– Filled with confidence for the second leg

By securing victory in the first leg of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère, Valentin Gautier (Shaman – Banque du Léman) has swept away the doubts that had bombarded him after a rather chaotic pre-season. Indeed, after winning the Pornichet Select, he was subsequently forced to retire from two other races and hadn’t been able to train as much as he would have liked.

Seemingly, he has quickly found his bearings again. Indeed, upon arriving in La Rochelle, somewhat undermined by a season which hadn’t gone according to plan, Valentin Gautier was able to dig deep and move up towards the front of the fleet from the start of the race. Always in the match right from the Bay of Biscay, he rapidly got amongst it with the small group of favourites who were monopolising the top spots.

For all that, the crossing wasn’t a long, calm river. The victim of an electronic black-out, he then had to sail with a damaged navigation system, which meant he was unable to pick up data related to the true wind direction. Also lamenting a broken VHF, he had no contact with the other race boats and was unable to track their respective positions with the AIS. As a result, Valentin sailed his race using solely his intuition. And clearly his instinct is sound because over the last days of calm conditions, he sought a course further to the east of the rest of the fleet, which enabled him to gain a decisive edge at the crucial moment. However, even for a Swiss sailor, the last twenty-four hours of the race proved to be particularly trying. Evidently it was a great idea to compete in the Cinq Jours du Léman endurance race on Lake Geneva this summer!

Valentin Gautier: “It was long, a bit hard, but great too! In the calm conditions, I told myself that it had been a wise move to compete in the 5 jours du Léman (the longest endurance race on an inland waterway in Europe) by way of preparation! (Laughs). Seriously though, it was tough. Last night, I really thought I was going mad, particularly at one point when I saw lights going backwards. I thought it was Ambrogio (Beccaria) then on listening to the ranking this morning, I understood that it was the guys vying for third place in the Prototype category. Nevertheless, it was still quite unbearable. Things were going every which way…

At Cape Finisterre, there wasn’t as much breeze as all that. The same was true later on too. I was expecting to get a real pummelling but we only got a slight pasting, though it was great all the same. After that particular phase the race got a little more complicated, especially given that I had some electronics issues over the last five days. In the calm conditions, I’ll leave it to your imagination what a jumble it was… I don’t really know what happened. I had an NKE black-out. Fortunately, I still managed to pick up the apparent wind and the autopilot worked in compass mode.
First place is very cool. I’ve had a bit of a complicated season. I won the first event and then I had two retirements in a row; the first due to injury and the second as a result of material damage. Since then, I’d done no singlehanded Mini races at all. I needed to reassure myself a little. Inevitably, pocketing this first leg in the production boat category is really neat. Now I just have to make sure I have fun in the second leg because however things play out, my Transat is a success.”

· Sunday 1 October: Start of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère in La Rochelle, France
· 21st edition
· 4,050 miles to cover between La Rochelle – Las Palmas in Gran Canaria and Le Marin (Martinique)
· 81 skippers at the start
· 10 women
· 11 nationalities
· 20 years: age of the youngest skipper in the race: Erwan Le Draoulec
· 62 years: age of the oldest skipper in the race: Fred Guérin
· 25 prototypes
· 56 production boats
· 66 rookies
· 15 ‘repeat offenders’

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