• pepcosta


Updated: Jun 28, 2020

[LEG 2 Mini Transat Las Palmas-Martinique]

I have not digested this incredible adventure yet, so the words do not come easily.


Nerves, uncertainty, and the thought that I had never sailed 2700 in a row alone and without assistance was an immeasurable challenge. Adding the Atlantic Ocean in the middle made the start very hard. The departure of the second leg from Las Palmas was very busy, with strong winds between 20/25 knots and the typical Canarian waves that gave us a first state of what awaited us in the Atlantic. The first night is supposed to be emotionally the hardest, but it was also one of the hardest in the meteorological side. Starting a race like this is never easy. As I was counting, the departure was complicated, since it was an eroded exit with more than 80 boats, strong wind, and all the spinnakers hoisted. My only option was to be prudent. I chose a rather conservative setting with a reef in the largest and another in the medium spinnaker. As the wind began to intensify, I decided to change the medium spinnaker for the Code 5, which is another type of spinnaker much flatter and smaller. The idea is to reduce intensity and power to the boat when you notice that it starts to get out of control. However, Code 5 was short-lived, as it broke in the lift. It was a very frustrating moment because I was aware that I would need that sail in the future days with the conditions that were planned. I imagine it was because of the nerves about the weather and the stress with which I started the leg that I got sick very quickly. Migraines, stomach aches, and vomiting that managed to dehydrate me quickly until my only option was to get back in shape and recover as fast as possible to avoid losing the regatta. Meanwhile, after a very hard first night, I saw that my jib tack was broken. I had to pull it completely, take it back and sew it properly so it could hold the entire race. That's how it went. Then, as the days progressed without major inconvenience, my body reacted positively and returned to the competition.


Because of the lack of communication with our ground team, the strategy is defined based on the information you had before departure and the weather updates that you are told by the BLU once a day, from 15 to 16 hours UTC. It was not long in deciding that the best option for me was to go a little further north than the rest of the boats, going in such a way towards the West and looking for a role (change of wind direction) of the Azores Anticyclone that would help me to go down with speed and with a very positive direction concerning the other patterns. There were a couple of days when I was lying in an area of ​​very variable storms and winds. It seemed that I could cross this area quite quickly but it was not at all like that. On the contrary, I was anchored to it without the possibility of leaving, and as the days went by, my spirits went down. I have no words to explain the feeling of loneliness and failure I felt. It was three days in which I did not stop considering a single second if I had made the right decision and if I should do something to change it. I decided to stand firm to my convictions and trust that the expected result would come sooner or later. The work was constant to try to earn any mile in that catastrophe without wind but with a lot of rain and clouds that imposed a lot of respect. As the bow of my boat pointed towards the direction where the arrival line was on the island of Martinique, I knew that it was the opportunity I had expected and that the time had come to leave my skin in the racecourse.


I was expecting some rock’n’roll during the descent I’m talking about, but what happened is beyond any expectations I might have. At first, I felt brave to climb the big spinnaker, but it took me a short time to reduce the size of the sail until I saw 25 knots again and some giant waves that entered the stern and made me go down like a bullet for 2 days with the Solent reefed and two reefs in the mainsail. At the moment the boat was surfing big waves and taking very high speeds. My average speed planning the waves was about 13 knots, but I broke my record aboard Tip Top Too with a speed of 18 knots considering that I had a very small sail area. For those who do not imagine, it is like a car that goes at 40 km/h, but we are going to put this same car without a motor and in the middle of a series of waves 6 meters high. It is a crazy adventure. The main feeling at the moment that boat will explode. There comes a time when you wonder if you should slow down a bit, but my answer was clear: NO. I fully trusted my boat, the material, and my ability to take it to the other side of the Atlantic, so we weren't going to be scared by a roller coaster in the middle of nowhere, or what would be the same, in the middle of the Atlantic. Despite this, I felt the need to repair Code 5 so as not to be left with the feeling that I could have given more from myself in the race. That same night I spent four hours sewing the Code 5 so that I would be ready to sail again, but it didn't last long. I keep the experience and the fact that I knew it would have been easier not to try and I did it anyway.


The time has come to re-prepare the boat for low wind conditions. That means releasing the reefs that had accompanied me over the past few days to gain more sail surface and therefore more power. This power was slow to be reduced since the waves remained quite large, so I chose to sail with the gennaker. This is a furling sail, so it facilitates navigation in case of heavy squalls since it can be rolled while the squall passes and then release it again. When they said the ranking in the BLU, I kept hearing that I gained more and more positions, which gave me a lot of power and made me realize that the tactical option I had so much considered began to pay off. It was time to take the boat to the fullest.


When I was just over 700 miles to cross the finish line, I realized that the pulpit was broken just above the axis of rotation of the bowsprit and the stay. I entered conservative mode. At that moment, I didn't know if the pulpit would break completely and detach itself from the bow. The first thing that came to my mind was to make a couple of lashings that pressed the pulpit down, which was the most important thing. Once again, I thought that my chances of doing great in the race were over since I was limited to sailing with the gennaker even though the conditions where good enough to hoist the spinnaker, because I didn't trust the pulpits' durability. However, the next day, when they again told us the positions in the BLU, I realized that not only have I not lost any position, but I have continued to climb and that I was in the TOP 10. I was so happy that my body asked to sail the boat to the fullest, even though my head forced me to move carefully. I was telling myself that if I could not break more things that slowed me down even more, I was going to get it.


There could not be a heart attack's beginning without an end of agony. The low wind conditions that I got so used to sailing in the Mediterranean during the Calif accompanied me to close the stage of the Mini Transat. During the last two days, I had no more than 4 knots of wind, I felt as if I had thrown the anchor into the water. I dipped the video camera hooked to a stick to make sure I didn't have seaweed that was holding me back. I thought it was impossible to go so slow within a few miles of arrival. How desperate! The situation was to drive me crazy, but Didac's words made comfortable. He always says that in low wind conditions the difference is made by the one who manages to concentrate. I took it very seriously. The last two days I slept nothing and seized every opportunity I had. To all the stress was added the suffocating heat. During the day I reached 35ºC, the boat seemed an oven. I tried to take a constant shower and hydrate as much as possible to endure the last hours with all the energy possible. This attitude brought me good fortune and I continued advancing in the classification to place myself in 8th position a few miles from the arrival. The final classification of the Mini Transat is done by calculating an average of the time between the two legs. Before leaving the second stage I wrote down in a notebook the times of difference between all the boats in my category during the first stage. I made calculations taking into account the information that we were told in the BLU of the arrivals of some skippers and the distance to the arrival line of others. If my calculations did not fail I finished in 8th position not only the second leg but also the Mini Transat 2019. Was it possible?


The last night was the icing on the cake. It took approximately 12 hours to travel 30 miles and as if that weren't enough, it was 12 hours at night and dark. With the sunrise, I began to distinguish the arrival line and I contacted the race committee to announce that it was about to end. After a few minutes, some boats in which my family was going, members of the regatta organisation, and Franck Colin who had arrived a few hours before I went out to meet me. It was the moment when I realized that I was no longer alone and everything I had done. A few minutes later I crossed the finish line and finished the leg knowing that I had given everything in every mile of the road and had achieved a result I had never dreamed of. I had always been told that your first Mini Transat accompanies you for a lifetime, which at scale, is one of the toughest challenges any sailor can face. At the moment I have no other experience with which to compare it, but I am sure that they will not take long to arrive. I would like to make a special mention for all those who have stayed on the road, especially those who have had to abandon their boats for their own safety. It has been an honor to share this experience with you and I wish you all the luck in the world for your next Transat. As for the winners of the edition, my most sincere congratulations. I think I would not have been able to choose a better generation to beat myself with, or rather to learn from.


If I have to define the project with one word, it is PRIDE. Throughout these months I have learned to value the work that everyone has invested in my project. We have managed to make an individual dream a collective project, a boat in which at least a hundred people have contributed in one way or another. I had always thought that the budget was the biggest limitation of a project, and although I cannot deny that it is vital for it to move forward, the most important thing is the energy of those who integrate it. Our team, with a low budget and a 2003 boat, has managed to meet a great challenge and live up to the circumstances. I have made history by becoming the youngest sailor of the Mini Transat in the prototype category. Thank you, infinite thanks to all for being part of this. Thanks to all who have believed in me from the beginning, I have you and I will keep you in mind all my life. Thanks to my sponsors, it is amazing what you have helped me and without you, nothing would have been the same. Thanks to my family for the support, and to the friends who have been at every stage of the road. It is impossible not to mention a second family of this project, which has been the students of INB and Edgar, working with all their passion and enthusiasm, making the boat a spectacle in performance and that part is more beautiful than ever. You do not know the confidence that your work has given me while crossing the Atlantic. Last but not least, thanks to Didac Costa. I have had the pleasure of being able to count on your unconditional support throughout the project and also in my personal life. You have been the main tool that has taught me fast and made me find the confidence to finish this challenge. You have behaved like the professor you are and now it's time to work on your project.


Now that this project is over, I just want to open new doors. It is still too early to say anything, but be aware that with the desire and energy that I have to go back out into the water, we are already working to make it happen again soon!


THANKS TO ALL who support me and follow me day by day. You are the ones who make me strong and want me to surpass myself day by day and not believe in the limits. This has just begun, I hope you enjoyed this chapter very much. CHAPTER 1. TO BE CONTINUED...

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