Our dreamgoal: The Mini Transat 2017. Still a long way to go.. But, in order to participate in the Mini Transat, we must complete our qualifying cycle. Amongst other things, it consists of a 1000 NM solo qualifier (sailing solo for at least 1000 NM non stop) and at least 1000 NM sailed in regattas from the Mini circuit. In life, they say the beginnings are the most difficult part. This one was our begging in the qualifying cycle, the Gran Premio d'Italia, a regatta organized by the Italian Mini Class and the Yacht Club Italiano from Genova.
First, we had to get there somehow.. In France it is easier to drive Minis around on trailers, they are allowed to stay in the upright position, with their 3 meters wide hulls. But in Croatia and Italy, it is a different story: the maximum allowed width of the boat on a trailer is 2.55 meters. So one can either sail to Genova or use a canting trailer for the boat.
We used the canting trailer, but while packing and dismantling the boat, it seemed as sailing to Genova would be the easier way to go.
We left Losinj island on the 6th of April, just after Easter, and found out that people really do like to travel on Easter holidays. The traffic was intense, but we were calm, we knew where we were going, and there was nothing stopping us. My co-skipper for this doublehanded race was my friend Dado, also aspiring to sail in the Mini Transat 2017., so we didn't lack the enthusiasm..
Once arrived in Genova, in order to unpack the boat, we had to redo everything we did in Mali Losinj, just the other way around. There were some difficulties, of course, but it all makes part of the "get to know your boat" process. The ambiance in the port of the Yacht Club Italiano (YCI) was as we expected - beautiful. Miniists are a great crowd, always willing to share their experiences with the less experienced, to help and to give.. Immediately, we felt like part of the group. As we were obligated to arrive in Genova 4 days prior to the start of the regatta (Mini Class rules), we had time to organize everything: safety equipment, sails, weather routing, food, clothes..
The 500 NM long course of the regatta was supposed to take us from Genova, around the island of Corsica, through the islands of the Tuscany archipelago and back to Genova.
For the first few days, the forecast showed light winds, so all the unnecessary equipment / weight had to be taken off the boat.
At the day of the start, we were excited and confused. But ready to give our best. 3, 2, 1... START!
Hike, trim, saaaaiilll!!! Woohoooo, off we go!
Eloa is fast, we are not loosing positions.. We are happy. Still a little confused, we are trying our best to get into the rhythm of the race, of the boat, of ourselves. After the first day, we feel quite confident. Despite the light winds and our Tip Top being on the heavy side of the Series class, we are managing to stay in the top 5.
The morale of the crew is high, we sleep, eat and drink enough. And the landscape - marvelous! The peaks of Corsica island are still covered in snow, and we are wearing only our T-shirts. Our group chose to go further away from the western Corsica coast, while some boats were left struggling near the shore.
At day three, after a few days of light winds, the breeze picks up and we are finally sailing in the right Mini sailing conditions. 20 knots of wind, full main, big spinnaker and speeds around 10 knots. We are approaching the Bocce di Bonifacio straight, and we see two boats (607 & 744) flying near the Corsica coast. All that was gained in the light wind wars is now lost. Doesn't matter, that's only one more reason to go faster. But, as the wind picked up even more, and our confidence level was (too) high, I make a big mistake of gybing too fast. Two seconds later, the spinnaker is wrapped around the forestay and itself, Dado is pulling it down. Precious minutes lost, it's getting dark, the lights of our group buddies are getting smaller and darker. We put the spi back up, but we are a bit nervous, it was an unnecessary mistake. The breeze is now around 25 knots, full spi, one reef in the main, and all is soon forgotten - we are flying among the waves and thinking ahead.. In the morning we are once again sailing with our group buddies, "Tortuga" - ITA 768.
Light winds, sunny day, what more is there to life.. The race course is shortened due to forecasted light winds. At the next passage, the island of Giannutri, we are 16th overall, not quite happy. So we decide to go all in, we are staying focused, we need to calm down and do our best. During the final night it pays off - some of the other boats are stuck in no wind areas, we are sailing at 120% and sailing fast. In the end, we finish 5th out of 10 in the Series Class, 13th out of 28 overall. Not bad for our first race. What matters most - Eloa is fast, she can handle all that is given to her. She is confident, seaworthy and great to hang around with. As for us, there's a long way of improvement ahead..