Crossing the Ocean with a Mini Alone !!!!.
The most dinghy like yacht or yacht like dinghy that races across the Atlantic.
It brings the largest fleet of offshore racing yachts on the starting line, up to 70 the same kind of boats.
The level is from pure amateur up to professionals. Do not expect a high and mighty media circus, rockstar sailors and unreachable sailors.
Be aware that this race is serious, and not shall taken
lightheartedly, it takes a lot of money, time and effort. And then you are sailing a wild beast of a boat, with huge risks involved. It can cost you your live, just like any big ocean race. Do not under estimate it.
Spectacular, adventurous, extreme,
dangerous and WHY???
With six bold steps you have walked from stem to stern.
The mast is almost twice as long. The beam is three paces.
This is about the Mini Class, the boats used in the Mini Transat. A sailing race across the Atlantic ocean with boats that are maximum 6 and a half meter long. The ▒4000 miles long sail race from
France to the stopover in the Canaries and then to the Carib or now to Brazil is the little sister of the bigger ocean races, with the same or even more adventure and dangers!!! Lonely in a little boat with ample space and time to sleep.
The Mini Transat is like what carting is for Formula 1 racing, a few of the names
on the entry list are seen later on the entry lists of bigger races like the Around Alone, The Vendee Globe and the Volvo Around the World trophy.
The race was first organized by the Englishman Bob Salmon as a reaction on the races like the Ostar where bigger and more expensive boats made it hard to compete with less money, read more about the first race and Bob's idea.
The goal of the race is simple; sail as fast as you can across the Atlantic in a boat who is smaller then 6.50 meter.
The open character of the race made it the test ground for the designers. Very innovative boats have sailed the race. The swing keel and the use off water ballast is brought to perfection on these boats.
The English 'spirit' has changed over the years into the French 'Úlan'. They overtook
the organization of the race and the class organization. They are always keen to sail the unpossible...
How does it feel to cross the ocean in a tiny, fast sailing, over canvassed boat in a month ? Totally alone, nobody to talk to, to blame or to help you...
On a six-and-a-half-metre boat, only the essential are fitted in, this allows survival of the yachtsman for more than four weeks at sea. With about 100 liters fresh water in tanks, 35 kilos food, an auto-inflatable, all the safety material and the sails, there is very little living space. Skippers of a Mini 6.50 must displace a good part of this in order to balance the boat position, this is called stacking.
Sleeping is a problem, spending more than ten hours a day at the helm, in dampness and hazardous comfort, the solo-voyager must manage at best the waking/sleeping rhythms. Rest intervals must be extremely short but sleeping is still a tall order:
the boat impacts waves constantly breaking on the deck, wetting everything, while under deck the noise is earsplitting. The choice of food and the organization of rest times are key-factors. Each skipper devotes at least two hours a day to eating, tactics and shipping forecast.
Oh, the food is freeze-dried gump, nothing taste, just awful.
You never really stretch out in rest, so your body is always in tension. Very tiring. A good sleep is very rare.
The speed is awful and the waves are smashing into your face. Some one described it as living in a washing machine. The change that the boat is
whipped out (knocked down) is always in the back of your mind !!! Squalls with so much power that your (lightweight) mast will break is another danger. And then the nosediving...
An example from Podesta MT 2003;
"In fact after that there were five days that were all absolutely identical to each other: 'groundhog days', close reaching with automatic pilot or strings to keep the tiller. All weights windward, the deck continually swept by waves... I
stayed inside practically nonstop, more or less in the same position, (on the windward-side step where I sleep) with a deafening racket and the continual banging of the waves. It was hard to keep calm and concentrated."
One of the rules is that you are only allowed to communicate with a VHF, that has a small range (30 miles at best). Weather forecasts are rare, and without much detail. It is unlike the big races where weather routing and shore teams
are the standard. You are on your own, without much information. Listening to your small SSB radio, no message sending allowed....
So it is real solo sailing, you will meet your mental barriers soon ;)
Be aware that this race is serious, and not shall taken lightheartedly, it takes a lot of money, time and effort. And then you are sailing a wild beast of a boat, with huge risks involved.
It can cost you your live,
Do not under estimate it.
That was the short introduction to the Mini Class boats and experience.