No matter how hard you try or how much you want something to happen, occasionally it simply won’t work out. Romain Mouchel has made this experience twice already. His intentions to complete the Mini Transat have been shattered in 2013 and 2015. Here is his story so far.
Romain has been sailing as long as he can remember. The range of boats he gained sailing experience on is vast, from Lasers to F-18 and 49ers and yachts. At the age of 16 he set himself a challenging target. He wanted to fulfil a childhood dream, race in the Classe Mini and complete the Mini Transat. While in his last year in university, Romain decided to not do things by halves and chartered the Mini 346 for an entire season. And what a boost to his offshore racing as well as single-handed sailing experience it was!
First go at the Mini Transat in 2013
After a couple of successful and promising regattas on this more or less “old” prototype he quickly qualified for the 2013 Mini Transat. Things were looking bright then.
However, dark (financial) clouds on the horizon quickly turned out to be a fatal storm. Romain was not able to cover the required budget for the 2013-season. Hence he had to abandon his sailing plans in the Classe Mini for the time being.
Just after this difficult decision back in October 2012, Romain started as mate on AEGIR, a 25 m carbon racer/cruiser sloop. This yacht is raced extensively on the Mediterranean Maxi circuit and won the Maxi Rolex World championships in Porto Cervo for the second year in a row in September 2013. Romain was promoted to captain of the boat in October 2013. This was a more than outstanding reward for his professional behaviour as well as sailing skills.
New campaign for Mini Transat 2015
Having perfected his sailing skills, the decision to re-start a Mini Transat campaign was pretty obvious. Crossing the Atlantic single-handedly is challenging with any boat. And to race against talented sailors in a nutshell like the Mini 6.50 is the dream of a lifetime. This is something Romain Mouchel has been looking at since he was a kid. Now, at the age of 25 with more than 40.000 nm astern, he was ready to take on once again that massive task.
His confidence, motivation and desire to tackle challenges have helped him to start and work on a renewed campaign. He wanted to get to the starting line of the Mini Transat 2015. One of his dreams was to race on a Mini 6.50, another dream was to compete in THE regatta of the Classe Mini, the Mini Transat. So off he went and kicked the plan into action.
Next boat – prototype Mini 759
Romain bought a prototype boat, Mini 759, to compete in the regatta seasons 2014 and 2015. Very encouraging results (only once did he finish outside the top ten) have nurtured the hope for a very successful Mini Transat. Everything went according to plan, or let’s say: even better than that.
While sailing on AEGIR in July 2015 Romain injured the index finger of his right hand pretty seriously. The start of the Mini Transat had been set for 19. September, so it was a race against time to get this finger back into working mode again. The hand healed only partially, time was too short. However, Romain decided to give it a try anyway – sailing the Mini Transat had been a childhood dream and he was so close!
Tough decision to make, conclusion: It was all over
The drama on board his Mini 759 three days after the start of the Mini Transat Romain has described like this:
“I took the start knowing I had to nurse my right hand. The first two days went really well, we were heading West in order to go and cross a front before heading South and opening the sails. The 3rd day whilst manoeuvring I hit my hand hard and I passed out due to the pain. It took me 45 minutes to recover but I was determined to keep going.
A few hours later during a kite change, I leaned on my damaged finger and it gave way. It rapidly became blue and swollen. I managed to reach the race doctor on the VHF and after a long discussion we concluded that the finger was most likely broken.
Hardest decision ever
It took me more than 1 hour to make the hardest decision I have had to make so far in my life. I decided to turn around and head for land. The pain was immense, but I took that decision as I thought staying at sea could be significantly more dangerous. I pictured myself manoeuvring on the foredeck, hitting my hand hard and passing out again but this time not in the cockpit. The consequences could have been very different.
When I reached land 22 hours later, I headed straight to see a specialist to find out whether there was something we could do so I could get back out there. After a few hours at the clinic, we found out that my finger was not broken but that the 2 ligaments either side were severely stretched with a partial tear in one of them. There was nothing anybody or I could do, the only way to resolve this injury is extended rest. It was all over.”
After two years of preparations, hard work, sailing, regattas, training, the dream ended four days into the race due to an injury. I am sure there is no need to write about the psychological pain Romain has been (and is, I guess) going through, anyone working towards a certain goal and being denied the success just before completion will understand the difficult time he had afterwards. It was, however, the right decision to abandon the race, everything else would have been more than careless.
Romain will use the Christmas and New Year’s days to think about his future in sailing, especially in the Classe Mini. Whether he will start another campaign for the Mini Transat 2017, to do it all again and continue pursuing his dream of sailing across the Atlantic in a Mini 6.50, all that remains to be seen. Maybe, hopefully, this is a story to be continued.