Sailing: the Transaquadra, a race like no other



Everything is atypical in the Transquadra, this transatlantic race taking place every three years, and set off on Saturday January 29 from Funchal (Madeira) towards Le Marin (Martinique). Starting with this triennial rhythm, very rare in a world of sport more accustomed to even numbers. “Three years is perfect for amateurs who often have demanding jobs. It takes a year to decide to do the Transquadra, a year to prepare and race it, and another year to recover from it,” smiles the founder of the race, Michel Bolo known as “Mico”.

The course is another curiosity. The race is indeed organized in two serials separated by more than six months. The first leg took place last August with a departure from two different ports, Marseille and Lorient, the two fleets meeting in Madeira with a ranking taking into account the distance difference. The second left on Saturday January 29 from the Portuguese island.

“The two departure points allow sailors with a professional activity to leave close to home”, explains Catherine Écarlat, a communicator hired to tell the thousand and one adventures of life on board from a distance. “The division into two sections makes it possible to divide their absence and their entourage to take vacations to join them during the summer or winter holidays. »

A minimum of 40 years to keep the pros away

Finally, you must be at least 40 years old. “When the race was created in 1993, we didn’t want to be invaded by the pros and we considered at the time that a sailor over 40 without a professional track record was too old to have one. », continues Mico Bolo, dynamic septuagenarian reigning over the battalion of red shirts, uniform of the many volunteers.

These volunteers are mostly from the sailing club of Hoëdic, a small island off the coast of Quiberon, which already organized the famous race of Old Safrans, ancestor of the Transquadra. “Many of the sailors who competed in the Vieux Safrans or the Transquadra remain attached to the organization, we have a little sectarian side, jokes Mico Bolo. Many sail together all year round. “All, competitors and volunteers, are happy to be there, continues Catherine Écarlat. It’s a human adventure and a sharing with friends or family who helped prepare the boat, but also between competitors, who lend a hand. »

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If some of the competitors are retired, others have put a busy professional life on hold to “cross over”, as Alain Férec, boss of a construction company with 35 people in Seine-Maritime, says. “All year round, I run to meet deadlines and estimates, there I offer myself my share of freedom and solitude, it’s my birthday present”, says this fine helmsman accustomed to places of honor in races of lesser distance. “At 30, I had paid for a participation in the Solitaire du Figaro, at 50, I’m taking the Atlantic! »

An adventure, but also a race

Still only its 13and place obtained at the end of the first stage is not enough for him. “We’re all amateurs, but it’s a real race, we’re not here to pleasure. We watch the others, we study the weather options and we learn: I let myself go for a few hours reading a good book, leaving the boat on autopilot, while the others steered by hand and slipped away from under my nose,” sighs the Norman, who is aiming for the top 10 on arrival.

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Joyful, the race thus remains a serious matter, with real competition between the Mediterraneans and the Atlantics. “It does not mix too much between those who left Marseille and the others”, confirms Catherine Scarlat.

Among the registrants, a good thirty participate less for the spirit of adventure than for the win, not shrinking from any logistical or financial sacrifice. A group of sailors based in La Rochelle, for example, hired a coach. Others have spent large sums to afford the latest navigational equipment. “For some, there’s a ‘I’ve done well in life, I want to win this too’ side. concedes Mico Bolo. At the beginning, there were some who left to fish for tuna with their friends… That’s all over. »

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Series boats cut out for the race

The 132 sailors (40 solo and 72 in duo) of the Transquadra sail aboard production boats measuring between 10 and 12 meters. For safety reasons linked to the length of the course, they are equipped with a double rudder and all the modern on-board electronics. It’s an open race with boats of different generations, the oldest dating from 1987. All come from the best shipyards that are surfing on the notoriety of the race, little known to the general public but very prestigious in the sailing world. Cut for racing, they also offer cruising comfort.

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