French female sailor Isabelle Joschke beats 88-strong fleet to win first leg of Transat 6,50 Charente Maritime Bahia 24/9/07

French female sailor Isabelle Joschke has won the first leg of the Transat 6,50 Charente Maritime Bahia (Mini Tranast) which started last Tuesday.

Sailing her brand-new Finot-designed prototypeDegrémont Synergie, Joschke sailed a tactically perfect race from La Rochelle to Funchal, Madeira managing to hold off her closest rival Sam Manuard onSitting Bull- another brand-new boat this year – and crossed the line at 0211 this morning. And sailed 1,100 miles in 5 days, 15 hours, 33 minutes in 30 seconds.

Joschke has been racing Open 6,50s for four seasons and competed in the 2005 event aboard the boat formerly sailed by British sailor Sam Davies. In this race she finished a creditable 15th overall.

Now, two years on she’s leading the event’s biggest ever fleet and could become the first women to ever win the event.

Joschke led the race from day two overtaking Manuard and built up a comfortable lead down the Portuguese coast. On Saturday night the gap between the two had increased to 28 miles and although Manuard closed the gap to 18 miles in the closing stages, he was unable to make anymore significant gains.

Commenting as she stepped ashore Joschke said: “This last day was an a nerving one. But I’m trully happy because it wasn’t an easy leg for me. It is for times like this that I sail in Classe Mini. My VHF stoped working the first day and after passing Finisterre without seeing anyone I felt a bit alone in the world. I started getting the positions and weather bulletins two days ago and when I found out that I was in the lead I was extremely happy. I tried to stay at the helm as much as possible because I believe the difference is made there. Anyway this is just stage one. We still have the Atlantic to cross and the Transat will really start in Madeira.”

Yves le Blevec crossed the line this morning finishing in third place. The top British sailor is Andrew Wood ondomosofa.comwho is currently lying 35th with 135 miles to go to the first leg finish. David Rawlinson sailingoceanchallenges.comis not far behind in 40th.