A few weeks have passed since Lina Rixgens has fulfilled her year-long dream, to complete the Mini Transat. This article is my final one about this amazing lady and her project.
When looking and reading older articles about Lina’s project, it still feels like yesterday when it all started. She has gone a long way, and she’s done it! The first leg of the Mini Transat brought her some challenges. The second leg was lots more fun, but also not too easy.
While she passed the finishing line, she very briefly threw both arms up into the air, a short “Yeeeeesss!!” left her lips. After years of organisational challenges, planning, research, sailing, training, racing and worrying it suddenly was all over. Done. Completed the Mini Transat. Goal reached. Dream fulfilled.
Lina has fulfilled her dream – and I have learned many things
Don’t get me wrong here: I was not Lina’s project manager. She’s done it all herself, solved problems, motivated people, raised funds, sailed to the finishing line. Even if I managed to help her with one of the larger problems, i.e. get a boat, it was her doing all the hard work. It was her project, and she has done a fabulous job.
What have my learnings been? With my background of project management in the financial and IT industry, this was quite a different kind of project. And Lina proved to me that
- you don’t need to have a detailed plan to still have a plan, as long as you know where you want to end up
- if you really want to do it, and if you can dream it, you can do it
- simply do it.
Lina’s project has come to an end. An amazing young woman has delivered fantastic results. She has written sailing history (in the German sailing books) by becoming the first German woman to complete the Mini Transat.
Thanks, Lina, for letting me be a part of the story!
Lina’s second leg of the Mini Transat 2017
Lina has written a long report on her Mini Transat sailing experience. Below, please find a couple of excerpts from the second leg. All of it you can read on her homepage, English version. Enjoy!!
The following text is by Lina Rixgens:
Fast ride to the Cape Verdes
Once you are living your big dream and the fruits of many years of work get picked, then this is hard to understand and realise. That’s what I experienced at the start in Las Palmas, and it was just the same at the finish on Martinique.
Tomorrow it is really about to start? I am going to cross the Atlantic? Alone?
And right now – I am in Le Marin on Martinique, and I’ve done it!
I’ve done it, I’ve sailed across the Atlantic in my tiny boat, and as the first German woman ever I have crossed the finishing line and completed the Mini Transat. While still working (and sailing) towards that goal, I sometimes thought that this is a pretty crazy project…
The start in Las Palmas on 01.Nov. was full of emotions. And rather chaotic. Whether we were allowed to start with a gennaker or not, this we only learned eight minutes before the start. I managed to start quite nicely, right next to proto-star Ian Lipinski, and in the first half of the fleet I sailed South, just along the Canaries. The wind picked up speed as well, moving from 8 to 18 knots.
The first 2-3 days I had some troubles getting properly into race mode. I thought about my family a lot, too often my thoughts drifted off to folks left behind on land. After a while, however, having fun returned, and it felt a bit like a merger of the boat and me. In French you would say “Je me suis amarinée”.
Quite a few Ofcet and Pogo 3 are close by. With the wind increasing to 20 kn, I need to change to the medium sized gennaker, while those new series boats can keep their large gennaker for a little longer. Valentin (Ofcet 917) and Andrea (Pogo 3 883) slowly sail away from me. Those new series boats are simply a lot more stable than my Pogo 2. However, with 17-19 kn wind, I can sail as fast as them, and that’s absolutely cool.
I still have a lot of VHf-contact in the first couple of days. Oliver (Pogo 3 893) as well as Andreas (Nacira 819) are still around, and for two days I can sail closely with Marta (Pogo 2 591) and Sander (Pogo 3 886).
During the day, it gets warmer and warmer. Plus, nights are not really cold any longer either. Along the African coast I see lots and lots of birds, flying fish and dolphins. Amazing!
During the last night before reaching the Cape Verdes Islands, the wind increases again. First squalls with up to 25 kn keep me from sleeping, so eventually I decide to use my Code 5. What I cannot see in the dark: The halyard is beneath the unused baby stay. When I try to pull the Code 5 up, the baby stay unlocks itself near the second spreader. So, not wanting but having to, near the island of Santo Antao I plan to climb up the mast.
Zorro’s visit and flotilla sailing
With sails in “butterfly mode”, i.e. main sail on one side, genoa on the other, I pass Mindelo, the capital. Ten boats use this last chance for a repair stop before the Atlantic crossing, they need to repair rudder, spinnaker pole or electrical issues. While the other Minis continue on a SW course to avoid the calming effects of the 2000m altitude of Santo Antao, I stay close to the coast. I want to sail to a spot with no wind and no waves – to climb the mast.
This little activity was by far the most difficult part of my Transat. At the beginning, it was all still ok, a bit exhausting but making progress. Once I reach the first spreader, we drift slowly out of the calm. With all sails being down, waves coming back, I get thrown around quite a fair bit. It is absolutely terrible and frightening. And I am not making any progress anymore on my way up.
All of a sudden I am behind the shrouds and my hand is stuck between the two outer shrouds. Nightmare! Up till today a nice little Z scar can be seen on the back of my hand…
Somehow I manage to get up to the second spreader and right the baby stay. What a job.
When going down, you usually need both hands and hence none is available for clinging to or steadying yourself at the mast. When the mast is swinging, this is rather difficult.
A cruising yacht is getting closer and offering help. They want to know whether everything is ok – very nice of them. Now, with being back down again, I am absolutely exhausted. My hand feels terrible, I’m covered with bruises, but I can sail on – kind of good news. I need to re-assure them five times that I’m fine, and before they move on to the next harbour they leave me some French Paté.
Just one day after my mastclimb, the Classe Mini flag slips up along the mast. A halyard and the flag got entangled, and when I pulled out the gennaker it got pulled along. A slight panic arose – no wonder, I guess. What if the flag would stop me from getting the gennaker back in? I definitely did not want to climb the mast again. For now, the flag looks to be fixed just beneath the halyards. And luckily, it remains there for another 2000 nm.
On 10.11., just after midnight, Vianney contacts me on VHF: he is in touch with Elodie (Pogo 2 504), she again has troubles with her rudders. She is about 25 nm SW of me right now. I am the only Pogo 2 having answered the calls, and I also have a spare rudder plus spare parts on board. So, the only thing to do: I need to (and want to) help her. In the middle of a dark night, with approximately 20 kn of wind, I take down the gennaker, gybe and sail towards the last known position of Elodie.
Together with the other Minis nearby we discuss how to hand over the rudder fitting, not an easy task without daylight, too much swell and wind.
After one and a half hours, I finally manage to reach Elodie via VHF. My little “catapult” is ready, including swimming line and lights. Shortly afterwards Elodie is happy to tell me that Marta (also on a Pogo 2) is even closer to her than me and that she will help her.
After re-confirming that a couple of times, I’ gybe back to my old course and put up the gennaker again.
On one side I am quite happy for not having to perform that tricky manoeuvre at sea. On the other hand it is a bit sad to finally not be able to help her, despite having changed course. However, Marta will tell me later on that it took a mere six hours to complete the handover, and it was a very tricky and partly dangerous situation.
My VHF contact with Vianney is now pretty bad, and a couple of hours later I am absolutely and completely alone on the Ocean.
But maybe that is not so bad after all. I can now find and work and live according to my own rhythm. It is, however, much better to sail in a group when thinking of speed, performance, strategy and weather discussions.
7 days loneliness
Now I need to get used to being alone. Very alone. The AIS screen is returning a blank, and after a while I have no idea where the rest of the Mini sailors are.
My little boat is still doing fine, being very brave and reliable: apart from the shaft inset of the tackline at the spinnaker boom (can be repaired easily with Dyneema) and the stacking system below deck, everything is in order and working fine.
I wake up and the gennaker is still up – when all of a sudden I get thrown to the side, a big squall just having hit us. For some seeming endless minutes I hold onto whatever I can grab in the cockpit, and the boat is having difficulties righting itself up again. The mast is in the water, rain pouring down. Finally, I manage to bring the gennaker back into the boat again. I guess it must have been 30 kn of wind, at least.
Damages? Position lights at the top of the mast have been ripped out, are dangling somewhere where they shouldn’t be dangling, and they don’t work anymore. Apart from that all looks ok. I promise myself to be more careful in future, and sleep in the cockpit at night.
The weather changes a couple of hundred miles before the Antilles. The nights are much darker now, but I can see a marvellous and breath-taking starry sky each night. Squalls turn up with less frequency now, but the alga situation is getting worse. The wind has calmed down to 10-12 knots. Making progress and miles is a bit exhausting, the last couple of day feel like they might never end.
And then: the heat! It is unbelievably hot from sunrise until two hours after sunset. 35° in the cockpit, below deck it feels like in an oven. There is no chance to escape the heat. All you can do is “lounge around” (lethargically), wait for the evening to arrive and pour some water over your head.
2 day finish
Two days before finishing, all of a sudden a boat turns up on the AIS screen. It is a Mini. It is Marta. We are both going crazy and are super happy! We would like to sail the last miles together, so it is clear that one of us has to gybe. That’s what I do, and for the entire night and the coming days we talk and talk and talk via VHF. As Marta can sail a better angle towards the wind, she is able to overtake me slowly.
During our last evening at sea, we gybe simultaneously and aim for Martinique, direct course. The wind remains perfect and with 8-10 kn we are racing towards our goal, our finishing line. Even the squalls keep quiet tonight, a fantastic starry night and lots of shooting stars make this an awesome night. This is like a dream!
I am exhilarated and excited. I can hardly believe that I am so close to finishing. That a two-year long project will now come to its end. Via multi-band radio I can receive a Caribbean radio station, and I am near tears and perfectly happy as in just that moment they are playing my Transat-song “This girl is on fire”.
Around lunchtime on 19.11. I can see St. Lucia, shortly afterwards Martinique. All of a sudden, everything looks green, lush, colourful, same as the smells.
The finishing line is not easy to find, and I need to change foresails twice, but then two motorboats come towards me. Familiar faces: my parents, a couple of Mini sailors and Eike, who has documented mini doc and me so well with fantastic pictures and videos.
At 13:10h I pass the finishing line, it took me 18d 04h 07m to sail across the Atlantic. Being towed to the harbour, a fabulous reception, fresh fruits, a very first Planters’ Punch, a bath in the Ocean with Oliver, Andreas and Stan, the first interview – this is not real. Surreal. But brilliant!!
After a week’s distance I slowly realise that I’ve really done it. On the second leg I finished on position 37, which is good and absolutely fine. As I had left my original course to help Elodie, I got granted a 2 hours benefit, and with that I climbed up in the ranking by one position.
An amazing and exciting, but also stressful and very intensive project is now over. I am just so immensely happy to have completed this project successfully. And with that, a very big THANK YOU to ALL of you who have helped me here!
Now I have to and will look forward, sad and happy at the same time. It is sad to see mini doc go, take down the mast and send it to Europe, where Hubert Hell will continue sailing it. I won’t have an offshore boat for offshore regattas. I’ve met lots of interesting people, which I won’t see too often anymore. But the last two years had been also stressful and demanding, thinking of the project 365 days a year, everything in life turned around the Mini Transat. So now I look forward to a kind of normal student life, do something different for a change. And my Europe-dinghy is still waiting for me.
The next adventure, the next project, the next regatta will definitely turn up and happen. And if there is one thing I have learned in the last two years:
If you can dream it, you can do it.