Solo and Unassisted

One of the photos to prove rounding a mark of the qualifier for the Mini Classe.
Thierry Martinez
Lorient, France, July 15, 2011—In the world of European offshore sailing, having a dialed-in shore team and plenty of sponsorship is rapidly becoming the norm, making it much harder for 'regular' sailors to participate. Amongst her fellow skippers participating in the 2011 Mini Transat Race, American Emma Creighton stands out for several important reasons. If successful, she will become the second American female skipper to complete the 4,200-mile ocean race that starts in La Rochelle, France and ends in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. But unlike her fully sponsored rivals, Creighton is also preparing USA 574—her 21-foot carbon-fiber Classe Mini raceboat—alone in France, without a title sponsor and without speaking French. She is also one of just four women competing in the 2011 Mini Transat, and the only female skipper racing in the prestigious Prototype class.

Despite these hurdles, Creighton remains steadfast and confident in her goal. 'Running this campaign has been the most complex challenge of my life,' said Creighton. 'I grew up on a small island in Maine—I was around boats my whole life, but I didn’t start racing until I got to college. This is on a whole new level.' Like all sane singlehanded skippers, Creighton built up to her Mini Transat campaign. After graduating from Tufts University in 2007, Creighton worked delivering boats up and down the east coast, before relocating to San Francisco in early 2009 to take advantage of its big-breeze and high-seas training conditions.

In 2010 Creighton raced in the Pacific Cup, sailing USA 574 from Los Angeles to Hawaii with co-skipper Andy Hamilton. 'Racing to Hawaii was a great time, but I had Andy with me,' said Creighton. 'For the Mini Transat, I’ll be facing every sail change and gear failure myself. That’s a lot of responsibility, but I’m confident that I have the miles and the experience to safely get myself—and USA 574—to Brazil.'

Since shipping USA 574 to France in January 2011, the 26-year-old skipper has been working nonstop to prepare for the September 25, 2011 start. But unlike virtually all of her European competition, Creighton currently lacks a title sponsor. 'My competition is fully sponsored and logoed,' she said. 'It’s hard to do it all on my own, in a country where I don’t speak the language, but it’s all part of the challenge.'

Given the serious nature of sailing a 21-foot boat across a vast ocean, the rules require each skipper to have sailed a 1,000-mile solo run in their boat prior to the start, a box that Creighton checked earlier this week. 'It was really long,' she said. 'I had no wind for the first three days, and then I had to beat the whole
way back into 25-30-knot headwinds. I put up the kite for the last 12 hours, but otherwise I was on the breeze the whole time.' Creighton also raced in the singlehanded Trophée Marie-Agnès Péron 2011 and the Pornichet Select, both with solid results; additionally, she and fellow American Classe Mini skipper Jesse Naimark-Rowse raced the 2011 Mini Fastnet aboard USA 574.

Creighton will be racing in the Prototype class for the 2011 Mini Transat, a class that encourages state-of-the-art innovations such as carbon-fiber hulls and spars, canting keels, water-ballast tanks and articulating bowsprits. While these technologies allow her tiny boat to reel off 275-mile days and tickle top speeds of 20+ knots, they demand hard-won experience to know when to push hard and when to ease off the accelerator to avoid calamity.
The 2011 Mini Transat starts on September 25 off of La Rochelle, France. From there, the 84 registered boats will race 1,100 miles across the Bay of Biscay, then down the coast of Portugal to Madeira, where the fleet rests and makes repairs before re-starting and racing the final 3,100 miles to the finishing line in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. All told, the 2011 Mini Transat represents 4,200 miles of racing, a 1,000-mile qualifier and many, many months of preparation, planning and training.

'This isn’t exactly a casual day of yachting,' said Creighton with a laugh, 'but doing the Mini Transat is about digging deep and seeing how far you can push yourself and your boat, while still practicing good seamanship. I’m excited to get out there and see what I can do against many of the world’s best offshore skippers.'
Please follow Creighton’s campaign via her website (http://emmacreighton.net) or Facebook (search: Emma Creighton) and please stand by for more media updates as the race approaches.

Interview requests and sponsorship inquiries are always welcome. Please contact:
Emma Creighton, Skipper, USA 574 Tel: U.S. Mobile: +1 508 736 7616; French Mobile: +33 (0)6 45 86 51 96 E-mail: emmatcreighton@gmail.com http://emmacreighton.net/