Fedor Druzhinin will join IrinaGracheva in the 6.5m Mini-Transat La Boulangerie solo transatlantic race in October 2019. Druzhinin will compete in the prototype division, while Gracheva will compete in the production Mini division.
Both sailors have fulfilled all the necessary requirements to participate in the final race of the regatta. In particular, to qualify for the race, the athletes must have covered 1500 racing miles. Fedor Druzhinin's experience was much higher than the minimum threshold: during this season he covered over 3400 miles in offshore races and 1100 miles in qualifying races.
« Racing in the Mini class is a constant challenge. Getting ready to race, in training, on the course, I constantly feel like I'm climbing some kind of mountain. It's a constant challenge, whether it's finding sponsors, repairing equipment, or time on the water. Everything is constantly complicated, there is nothing simple - no simple solutions and ready-made answers»," says Druzhinin.
The yachtsman is not being disingenuous when he says it is complicated. A prime example is one of the toughest races of 2018, Le Sables d'Olonne ( France ) - Azores - Le Sables d' Olonne (SAS), in which Druzhinin participated as part of his preparation for Mini Transat. Of the 54 participants, six of them dropped out of the course on the first leg, and two more were unable to make the return trip. Two boats were abandoned by their skippers in the ocean. Druzhinin himself injured a rib during this regatta.
«During the first round of SAS I fell badly and hurt my side - a cracked rib, probably. And the next day my jib broke. Try crawling around a 6m boat in 4-5m waves with a broken rib, trying to get the jib off for repairs. It's really unpleasant»," the yachtsman recalls.
That is why one of Druzhinin's goals for the remaining months is not only to improve his sailing skills, but also to improve his physical fitness.
«I have two main objectives for this winter and spring: to increase my speed by 5-7% on a cross course in strong winds and to improve my physical fitness. Without that there's no result»," explained Druzhinin, who aims to be among the top ten in the Mini class ranking next year.
He will compete in the Mini-Transat on a RUS 759 ASSIST, a Sam Manuard-designed carbon and Nomex boat.
«This is a unique and very challenging boat - everything on it was extraordinary for me, from the swinging keel to the sloping/rotating mast-fender. I've been on the 759 for almost 5000 miles now, but I'm still continuing to learn how to race the "proto". The main goal for 2018 was to improve planing on a cross-country course in high winds. I figured out the boat in low to medium winds, accelerated it in the reeling, but in winds from 20 knots the class veterans and experienced centerboarders leave me astern»," says the Russian.
After breakdowns during the SAS the boat is seriously repaired. Thanks to the help of sponsors it was possible to renew the equipment: electrical system, anemometer sensors, GPS HF system, ultrasonic lag, as well as all deck equipment, running rigging and sails. The athlete hopes to start training on the renewed boat in February.
« Thanks a lot to them (sponsors, itBoat): Back in September, the financial outlook for the project looked very bleak, but now with the help of project partners we have begun to almost meet the required budgets. However, the project is far from being completely financially stable-it is a never-ending "black hole" consuming all resources»," complains Druzhinin.
But there is one important thing that none of the future solo offshore racers can buy with any money. It's psychological stability.
«Everyone relieves emotional stress in different ways. On my boat, for example, I found the entrance hatch holes neatly taped and patched. One of the previous skippers, on the third day of the doldrums, got a bit mentally damaged and started blasting everything in sight with a winch handle. When you find yourself in an emotional hole in the second week of a solo race - it's really hard. And you have to learn how to overcome it. Otherwise you might not make it to the finish line»," said the yachtsman.
It remains to be hoped that the new ASSIST owner will prove resilient and successfully compete in the Mini-Transat, which he has dreamed of competing in for 20 years.