>Transat 650 start 2009!

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Well the 2009 Transat 650 is underway from La Rochelle, France to Madeira and then Brazil. Unfortunately I’m not there this time but for 2011 touch wood! One of the two sister-ships of my Samuel Manuard designed #433 ~ Xavier Haize on #432 is in 3rd place currently with 77 some odd minis in the derriere! Here’s a good interview that was on Sailing Anarchy.com from my friend Slovenian friend Andrea that did a Transat on a sister-ship of my boat…in the process clocking up a 300 nautical mile day record!

Mini Observations

From our pal Andraz Mihelin, a two-time Mini-Transat competitor and holder of the 24-hour Mini distance record. Also a principal in the cool little Seascape 18 project.

A Few things that caught my eye on this year’s Mini transat:

Way more Series boats than Protos, which is a shame since the Mini Transat was essentially a race for Prototypes for so long. It was just as much as a sailboat race as it was race of building the boat, getting sponsors, making up and installing that last “wunderwaffe” like canting mast, extending keel or reefing spinnaker. With Series boats it is basically one-design racing, with a bit of sail development and training. When we talk about the elusive and controversial Mini spirit; it definitely changed massively in 7 years we (with my colleague Kristian) were in class. Some would say much of the spirit is gone.

Level of preparation in series is definitely higher than in Protos. After 06 and 07 season when there was an scandal if Series boat penetrated top 10 in general ranking, 08 and 09 seasons saw them claiming not only top 10 but even podiums on big races.

First leg this year is like the one in 07: downwind sleigh ride that requires some specific skills compared to shorter races sailed throughout the season. Mostly the problem is how to keep high average by still try to get some sleep and food into your system. Knowing how to set your autopilot and trim your sails so that pilot can sail them is essential. You have to know that modern pilots are able to steer the mini in 30 knots of wind with code5 (flat fractional spinnaker) and two reefs. Boat in this conditions regularly exceeds 15kt of boat speed. That said running down the Portuguese coast overtaking some of the slower cargo ships, pissing your pants when the boat taken by the gust starts accelerating UP the wave and then keeps doing so when you start screaming down the forward slope of the same wave is still best sailing memory I have.

What can we see this year is that Protos lack experience and training which is best shown by their 24 hour runs. Only Delesne on his proto Manuard managed to break 270 miles, the rest staying round 250 or lower. With such averages it is no surprise that best series boats dictate the pace. They proved that in Acores race 06 when Herve Pivetau made absolute mini record of that time with 260 and something miles with his Pogo2. Protos off course heated up the pace on 07 Transat where many crossed 270 miles averages with fastest almost touching 300 miles in 24 hours.

Man of the day is no doubt Francisco Lobato, who was and is impressing everybody with his boat speed on races from his debut in 2006. Many times he was lacking luck or experience as he usually broke stuff on the boat which prevented him becoming the the king of the Series class. When he didn’t break he tended to embarrass Protos like he did on Azores race of 2008 or first days of this Transat.

The rest of top Serie guys have no previous Transat experience so it is anybody guess who will do well. For now Dalin and Apolloni together with Macaire are doing well in the fleet staying in top 10 in general ranking (well done for them and quite embarrassing for protos I must say).
– In Protos usual suspects are in the front with a notable exception. Anna Corbella, spanish girl on her proto Texido, boat that never showed any real racing potential, keeps her 7th place and is showing good pace.

In the final stage wind will drop which will bring compression in the fleet. Lobato (that is showing unusual readings in his boatspeed and is loosing miles at the moment) and other Serie guys will have problems fighting off few hundred kilos lighter protos that carry about 20% more sails downind so we can expect second Serie on about 7th place overall. f he hadn’t broke something major Lobato should stay in fight for top 5 overall. I would expect Ruyant to do well since his Finot desgined proto is a weapon in light downwind conditions.

Mini Observations, Part II

Comments on last week’s Mini Observations…

I would Like to make a few comments regarding the piece “Mini Observations>From our pal Andraz Mihelin” and I apologize for my English spelling in advance. I feel as someone who has raced the race twice ( without to much success I am sorry to say) in 1995 and 2003 that the fact that the Serie boats have become so numerous and fast compared to the protos is because they enable one to choose the “sensible” option.

The Protos have become to expensive to build and run in a competitive format. If any thing this is the changed spirit of the Mini class. When the Mini started and even when I raced in 1995 there were a some racers that were going for a podium positions (and many of them did become the who and who of french sailing in years to come) but many others were there to follow a dream.

Even then boats were not cheap but they did not cost like a 35 foot cruiser and many of the boats were built by the top guys by themselves. The Series in those days were mostly Cocos and filed the part for the Corinthian spirit in many ways. I think that the late 90’s and early days of this decade were the real change when this race was regarded by many people as the stepping stone in too bigger things. The Protos got more and more demanding and a great deal of the sailors time was spent splicing,tuning, tweaking and fixing instead of sailing.

Protos have become a full time job! and with the extra demands for qualifying it has become even more so. One only needs to remember Nick Bubb living out of the back of his van with sails and tools and kit for more than a year. or myself having to leave home for a full 8 months ( my wife was not to happy about that)to make sure I succeed in qualifying while fixing the boat for days or changing the configuration after each race.

A aha, but then arrived the new generation of Series, especially the Pogo 2 and offered a much cheaper option to race Minis at top form and almost at the same pace and fun as the top Protos and with a much easier boat to try and qualify while going on with a “normal” life until the “big” event.

The series are also much more robust as shown for example in the 2003 edition when 11 Protos broke masts and not one single Serie suffered the same fate. There is also a lure for the one design concept that allows one to really test his or hers wreath against others.It is very evident by just looking at all the top Mini design offices that have created a serie designs.
I agree that the Protos have always played a very important part in racing yacht design and innovation and I hope that this will not fade away in the future but as the prices of these little rockets rocket and the boats become harder to race and harder to finish a race with it will not surprise me if we will see more and more Serie boats compared to protos.

And lastly but not least, for Me the real Spirit of Mini racing is the complete camaraderie on shore and at sea while at the same time real hard knuckle, hard core racing is taking place. I think that most Mini sailors would agree that this obligation to each other is unique to this class and what makes up the true spirit of the class . this is mainly because Mini sailors have few or no shore crew and they rely on each other to get things done which is not the case with the bigger ocean class boats.What amazes me is that this spirit involves all the levels of competitors.

I will never forget Jonathan McKee’s complete generosity sharing all the Meteo info he bought for good money with all the other sailors or Chris Sayers help fixing boats for other competitors even though he raced as a “Pirate” in 2003, or the help I received from all the fleet in Funchal in 1995 to make sure I will be able to finish the race on my very shitty boat come hell or high water.

Cheers
Daniel Schaffer- Israel
Minis 133 & 416

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