How keeping it real helped the Mini Transat Race attract a bumper entry for 2017 edition
As the three main pillars of our sport the America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and the Olympic regatta often steal the limelight away from sailing’s less high profile events. Not so for the Mini Transat Race, however; the forty-year-old biennial classic is never short of attention, it seems.
The 2017 edition which will start from La Rochelle, France on October 1 is already oversubscribed. A fleet of 84 of the 6.5 metre (21.3-foot) race boats is confidently expected and this time the fleet will stop over in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands before the main leg across the Atlantic to the Caribbean island of Martinique.
Of the 84 solo sailors representing 15 nations who will take part this year, 10 will be women.
Many of the race’s top competitors will no doubt hope to use a good result as a stepping stone into the heady world of professional ocean racing. Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, Loïck Peyron, Thomas Coville, Isabelle Autissier and Sam Davies are some of yachting’s top names who did exactly that.
However, the race’s unique attraction – both for the competitors and for those of us living vicariously through their exploits – is the sheer adventure of racing such tiny racing yachts across the wild expanse of one of the world’s toughest oceans.
At a time when sailing’s three mainstay events face a constant struggle to balance their sporting focus with their commercial realities, the Mini Transat remains fiercely true to its yacht racing roots.
More so than any other ocean racers the Mini Transat competitors are uniquely isolated from the rest of the world. In an era of advanced technology and all-pervading global connectivity, the Mini Transat allows no contact with land and the sailors’ only link to the outside world is single VHF radio with a maximum range of 15-miles (24-kilometres).
Despite their diminutive size and their undeniably sparse and cramped living quarters, Mini Transat yachts are remarkably resilient and seaworthy. Whether custom built prototype designs or production builds, these pocket rockets lend themselves to being pushed to the very limit and can deliver remarkable downwind performances limited only by the solo skippers’ talent and ability to stay awake.
Taking on the Mini Transat is not a challenge that can be taken lightly. It requires skill, courage, passion and tenacity in equal measure - and a little does of healthy insanity would not go amiss. They say nobody comes back from the race without being changed by it some way and I, for one, believe them.
More information on the 2017-18 Mini Transat Race HERE.
[Main Image by Christophe Beschi]