UK Mini Fastnet 2012
This return to all things French and my mistress (this far eastern front, minis and the world capital of performance sailing) was a wonderful re-introduction to this ex-girlfriend after such a long absence…
It was a very cold and long upwind climb to the summit (Fastnet rock) for me and my Hungarian co-skipper Aron Medor (above). One skipper suffered hypothermia and withdrew and the rest of us that hadn’t retired from the course tacked hundreds of times in the blustery 25-30-knot winds on the 2nd and 3rd day of the race.
What started as a sunny and beautiful day out of Plymouth thus quickly transitioned to the meaning of what defines the northern equivalent of the Sydney Hobart race – racing to windward.
Crossing tacks with other minis day and night saw gains and losses on each board and the constant attention to find which tack gave the best VMG up the track was balanced with prudence to avoid breaking the boat in the short and confused waves in the relatively shallow Irish Sea.
The series TipTop performed well in these conditions and we were often ahead or very close behind the prototypes including my old proto #348.
One thing I can say is the series boats seem simple, grunty and tough. And I also enjoyed the high level of competition in this class where tactics and seamanship pay higher dividends than a revolutionary technical innovation that is often eclipsed by something newer and often times more expensive just the following year.
However, we can’t forget the series gained their nice attributes from the long work of innovation in the proto field just like the MOD 70 one design trimarans did from their ORMA 60 predecessors. So there will always be a place for the amazing advancement and innovation that comes from the experimental proto class.
Especially when something that is a big step beyond evolutionary and stands for revolution such as David Raison’s 2011 Mini Transat winning scow blunt nosed ‘Magnum’ #747!
…What looks highly unusual in photos is a remarkable sight to behold in person and by far the fastest mini that exists. She is often over one-knot faster than any other mini and truly a work of art.
Her skipper and designer David Raison is also humble and an amazingly nice person without any ego and completely lacking a big head as all the top sailors in the world resemble – so I’ve found…I’m truly in awe of his creation!
…Otherwise, after the long long ascent – the wind died to a whisper passing Fastnet and went aft allowing us to pass the rock with the spinnaker and in sunshine. The deck was soon completely covered with all our clothes as everything in the boat was soaking wet and near frozen!
(Below a view of us from astern – a good place for people to take our picture!)
It was then off to the next waypoint down the coast of Ireland to the light-ship at the countries southeast corner which I’ve rounded before as it serves as the 1,000-nm solo qualification mark for the Mini Transat.
We were always within a mile or two of the newer series Naccira minis and measured our gains and losses on the AIS and whether or not we could determine the identity of the mini near us by either their sail graphics or number. The wind at this point was a close reach and we scorched along under code zero at 6-knots in 10-knots of wind toward our turning mark and waypoint 120-nautical miles away.
Rounding the waypoint the next morning we had two mini in sight behind us, one of which was another Tiptop and what was another close reach in increasing wind quickly turned into a duel to see who could hold onto the code zero the longest before crashing, blowing it out or breaking something!
We won this battle with the other Tiptop as they lost control of the sail and bore away down-wind and instantly disappeared from sight as we crashed along at 6-8-knots speed in 15-knots true wind at our limits for the sail and hull stability.
Switching to the jib we spent the rest of the night on this descent from Ireland back toward Land’s End in now on a close reach of 22-24-knots of true wind, dueling with a series Zero off our stern port quarter which took a solid day to dispose of in a later split tack along the English coast.
Rounding Land’s end at first light we had another upwind run to the finish but this time in light 12-knot winds before the wind turned 360-degrees 25-miles before the finish when we promptly launched the kite and began a marathon jibing duel with a vast assortment of other series minis including a few Nacciras.
In the end, we beat one of these new Naccira’s by a mile across the finish line in front of the Royal Western Yacht Club at 1130 at night. We got into the club, enjoyed the award ceremony which had been delayed because the whole fleet was late due to so much upwind work and the mini racers either drank a few pints or crashed out to sleep on the yacht club floor in sleeping bags like one giant hostel 😉 You got to love the motley mini gang 😉
Looking back it was VERY cold and hard but I loved it and can’t wait until I’ve completed my 10th Mini Fastnet. I now understand the formula separate of budget to make it easier and fun to come from afar to do this class and look forward to implementing these many logistical lessons on the ground in the years to come hopefully.
Below: rounding Fastnet in under 5-knots of wind, David Raison’s ‘Magnum’, a series Naccira and oh – a Contessa 32 of all things moored right next to a sister-ship of my S&S34 at the club in Plymouth!