Small boats, great attitudes

This 32nd Mini-Fastnet has ended with a beautiful final scene. Once again, we find that at the heart of the race lies something much deeper than the spirit of competition, even at this high-flying level of sport and seamanship. The race was over last night when the last of the competing Minis crossed the finishing line near 3 am. However, one of the Mini-Fastnet’s fleet was still at sea: Lendur (470), which had to moor up in Ireland for a few hours for repair and was forced to withdraw.

The skippers decided to sail back to a safe berth in Douarnenez, where the Race Committee, in spite of the boat’s withdrawal, decided to stay in touch and assist Lendur until she had safely returned. At the entrance to Tréboul’s busy marina, Lendur was therefore greeted, as any other competitor, by a support dinghy, which guided her back to her pontoon this afternoon. This gesture of solidarity and respect is characteristic of this sport and this sailing Class.

Around 3pm came the announcement of Lendur’s impending arrival, and the race’s winner in the Production category, Erwan le Draoulec, volunteered to greet Lendur and tow her back into the harbour.
They are at the opposite ends of the ranking, but they have travelled the same road, followed the same tracks in the world of sailing that most people would shrink away from. They are half a century apart in age, as Erwan has just celebrated his twentieth birthday, while the Australian skipper Patrick Conway is seventy years old. Yet the young sailor’s throw of the tow line to the old skipper is a perfect symbol of the solidarity linking these sailors together. This mixture of humility and bravura, simplicity and greatness, that’s first Class. Their Class may be Mini by name, but it achieves greatness in many regards. I am not sure about you, but as for myself, I am already happily projecting myself into next year: same time, same place.


Photo: Simon Jourdan