The first leg of the Mini Transat solo regatta came to a close with 56 competitors safely reaching the shore of Las Palmas on the Canary islands.
Two Croats who headed across the Atlantic Ocean on their Mini 6.50 sailboats successfully completed the first part of this challenging race: Vedran Kabalin placed 17th, while Slobodan Dado Velikić experienced technical difficulties and was a bit late to the finish line, finishing second to last at the 54th place.
However, when it comes to the Mini Transat, placing high on the list isn’t even close to the first priority. As the regatta doesn’t entail any awards apart from a strong sense of personal achievement, the sailors have only two goals in mind: keeping their wits and reaching their destination after spending long stretches of time alone on a boat, with no land in sight.
Kabalin sailed 1350 nautical miles and reached Las Palmas after 10 days, 12 hours and 32 minutes since he sailed out of La Rochelle in France – only 9 hours after Valentin Gautier who was the first to arrive. According to Navigamus, things weren’t looking up at the beginning: “I was the fifteenth in line when it suddenly started – sea sickness! I was throwing up like never before, the regatta came second to getting into a new daily rhythm anyway. Back at the start, I was in ‘safety mode’ – the most important thing was to keep myself from getting dehydrated!”, Kabalin reported. He claims he hasn’t started sailing properly until the third day of the regatta.
Around that time, Dado was ahead of Vedran, holding on to the 17th place while Vedran fell behind at the 26th. And then, a sudden turn of events: the bowsprit on Dado’s boat broke, making him change his course to Porto in Portugal for safety reasons. He also experienced damage to the hull of his boat and had technical issues with the autopilot, a crucial system when it comes to solo sailing. He managed to reach Las Palmas after all, arriving after 13 days, 2 hours and 46 minutes.
According to Kabalin, the last part of the first leg was marked by an anticyclone and exceptionally calm sea, which made him kick it up a notch and speed towards the finish line. “I don’t know what others do when there’s no wind, maybe it’s an advantage of us Mediterraneans. When the weather was calmest, I was the craziest, completely turned on, trying to make use of even the faintest breeze… The others that surrounded me at the time took these weather conditions as a signal to rest and sleep. It was when I slept the least”, he said.
The sailors are now resting in Las Palmas, preparing for the second leg that kicks off on November 1. They are now facing another 2700 nautical miles to Le Marin in Martinique. You can see their current standing and keep track of their progress on this interactive map.