This winter Palma’s STP has seen plenty of prodigious tents hiding boats as big as the 74m M/Y Ilona, and while these oversized super yachts had their hulls painted or their teak replaced, an equally impressive amount of work took place inside STP’s smallest tent, where SY AEGIR Captain Roman Mouchel and his sailing sidekick Eric Santene spent 3 months grinding, laminating, melting, welding and weighing.
Two weeks ago we saw the result: Romain’s 6.5 meter mini proto went back in the water, albeit now with a bigger rig and overall being a better boat than she was before.. and towards the end of October Romain is going to cross the Atlantic in her!
Romain got a taste for the wind and the water as a young whippersnapper but never thought that sailing would be for him what it is today. Not only is Romain captain of S/Y AEGIR (twice winner of the Maxi Rolex World) he’s also scheduled to take part in this years Mini Transat: A transatlantic race starting in Brittany’s Douarnenez and 4020 nautical miles later finishing in sunny Guadeloupe, which means Romain will be spending 30 days alone at sea on a boat the size of a cramped crew cabin. No wifi, no chart plotter, no bunk and no snack cupboard 😉 as it’s back to basics with a simple GPS, VHF, paper charts, packets of freeze dried food and a jetboil kettle. There will be no one else on board with him to stand watch and nothing else around him but 106,400,000 square k’s of Atlantic Ocean, so we’re sure you can understand why we had to meet Romain in STP’s DockBar to hit him with a few questions about this fascinating project..
When did you start offshore racing? I’ve wanted to sail on the mini circuit since I was 16 years old and sailed my first big offshore singlehanded race, Les Sables-Les Açores, in 2012. Les Sables runs on alternate years to the Mini and consists of two legs, France to the Azores and back again, covering a total distance of 2540 nm. Apart from Les Sables I’ve taken part in numerous mini races but this will be my first Mini Transat, the big one..
What can you tell us about the Mini Transat? And why do you want to compete?It’s the longest of the Transats on the most extreme of boats and breeding ground for the worlds’ top short handed sailors, including Michel Desjoyeaux and Dame Ellen McArthur. (Ellen MacArthur said in 1997: “It is the Mini-transat which gave me the taste for Ocean racing. I will never forget”) The Mini is the most accessible offshore class for single-handed racing as compared to the other races it’s reasonably ‘affordable’ to run a campaign. Also, I’ll be able to get together with 84 (other) crazy Frenchmen equally as passionate about Mini’s and single-handed offshore racing. I know all these guys by now, we’re like a big family and although it’s war on the water, ashore we have a lot of fun!
And your boat? It’s a prepreg carbon, super light boat, a French design and well built by the boats’ previous owner. It’s a good boat, one of the ten best..
How are you going to prepare for the race?At the start of April we’ll bring the boat back to France where I’ll be competing in 5 races prior to the Transat. I’ll be spending lots of time on the water and in the gym, getting fit and also gearing up for 20 min naps instead of my usual 8 hours!
What are your expectations?The boat’s capable of being at the front of the fleet. But ‘just’ crossing the Atlantic solo is no mean feat and I reckon 30 sunsets and 57 degrees of longitude later that first sip of rum in Pointe-à-Pitre is going to taste pretty sweet!
How are you funding the project? I’ve paid for a fair amount myself but have also had a lot of support from STP, Rolling Stock, RSB Rigging, TechnoCraft, Trabajos en Cabos, Wavelength electronics and Armare who donated ropes, paint and plenty of other racing essentials..
How can people get involved? Everybody that wants to get involved can get involved! Amounts as little as 20€ really make a massive difference as with 100 20€ donations I would be able to get a new sail! But at least as valuable as the financial backing is the inherent moral support. I will be seeing the names of those assisting me written down in the cockpit which will continue to give me strength during those solitary days at sea!
An offshore sailor’s ‘secrets to success’? Being a good sailor helps! 😉 but you also need to be able to push yourself beyond the limit as you can’t rest or enjoy any of the ‘comforts’ you’re used to. People think we must be nuts to spend long stretches on our own at sea, I even wonder myself sometimes 😉 You also need to be determined and have 100% faith in yourself and your boat!
And after the Mini? I’m not yet sure. The Transat is something I’ve wanted to do for ages so let’s first see how it goes. I would love to say that after the Mini I want to do a Route du Rhum and then a Vendee Globe but the truth is I don’t know. In Pointe-à-Pitre I might say never again! Who knows..
Romain asked me to join him for a training session in the Bay of Palma and so we set out one Saturday morning when conditions were perfect, -well, that’s if you want to get a feel for the boat when sailing is not so smooth! “18-22 knots and 1.5m swell” said Romain when I met him at his Mini – I rocked up kitted out with more gear than a Bering Sea fisherman, so said bravely: “bring it on!” We got pulled out of STP by a marinero (no engine!), put two reefs in the main and the jib up and lo and behold were ‘sailing-sailing’! Being an ex big-boat-super-yacht-stew, for me sailing means (at the most) pushing the captive winch button when told to do so and serving the owner his Pinot in a plastic cup. But this was proper stuff! What a ride! We did 7 knots upwind, and with the spinnaker up -a sleek and speedy 15 knots downwind. It was fun, fast, windy and yes, very wet! Beforehand I’d imagined the boat to be small and also ‘not so solid’ but the boat is strong, sturdy and super powerful. She feels as though she’ll thrive in taking on the Atlantic and all the unpredictability’s the Ocean will certainly throw at her. Romain was capable, confident and clearly loving every second at sea. Although I personally prefer to cross the pond on boats big enough for double beds and bubble baths I definitely experienced an adrenaline fuelled taste of Romain’s Mini-madness. A few hours later though we were back on STP’s solid ground where we tucked into a fresh, tasty lunch after which I returned to my warm and comfy home to have a hot shower and a cheeky siesta. Off course I fully enjoyed my time out on the water but reckon anything more than ‘a morning’ would probably be way too much.. So I take my (southwestern) hat off to you Romain Mouchel and wish you the very best of luck!
At the age of 25 Romain has clocked up an impressive 50.000 miles and without a doubt will be one of the youngest competitors on the start line in September. We’ll definitely be keeping you posted on his progress!
To follow on Facebook find: Romain Mouchel-Navigateur
By: Danielle Berclouw