Photo: Bruno Bouvry

Mini Transat 2013 form guide

Lone British competitor Pip Hare tells of her campaign and the latest about this year's race

Thursday October 17th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

In the weakest turn out since before Mark Turner and Ellen MacArthur took part in 1997, only one British boat will be competing in this year’s Mini Transat – if Mother Nature ever allows the fleet of 84 pint-sized ocean racers to leave Douarnanez (four days after the race was supposed to have started, there is still no word of a departure date...)

Sadly the Artemis Offshore Academy’s Nikki Curwen, daughter of Simon (who remains the highest placed Brit finisher in the race’s history), was fully qualified and got to up to second on the waiting list and has been waiting around in Douarnanez hoping that someone will drop out. However she has now thrown in the towel with the hope of being back for 2015.

Thankfully keeping the faith and back for a second crack at the race is Pip Hare, who is once again campaigning her Pogo 2 The Potting Shed in the Series class.

Pip is also disappointed by the poor British turn-out, but says she has been impressed with how positive Nikki Curwen remained as she spent the last few weeks agonisingly waiting to see if a spot became available. Aside from Curwen there were to have been two other entries: Luke Dampier was unable to qualify in time mainly thanks to the prolonged appalling weather in the early summer, while Jake Jefferis’ self designed and built Mad Dog was sadly lost when she dismasted. Her skipper had to abandon her and after being airlifted to safety was unable to recover the boat given her location off a lee shore in a building breeze.

Even Pip’s own Mini campaign this time hasn’t been as all-consuming as it was prior to the 2011 race. Having completed in the Mini Transat before, entering the 2013 race was a far easier process and she has only had to compete in one Classe Mini-sanctioned event each year. This year for example she competed in the two Mini races now held in the UK – the UK Solent 6.50 and the UK Mini Fastnet, starting and finishing in Plymouth.

Part of the reason for this is that Pip has joined the grow-ups and got a proper job, working for the RNLI as part of the ‘Coastal Safety Team’. This, she explains is a growth area within the RNLI – rather than rescue, it focussed on ‘prevention’, making seafarers or anyone who uses the water aware of the risks and take appropriate precautions.

Of course the irony of Pip working for the RNLI while she is about to set off across the Atlantic, singlehanded on a 21ft long yacht is not lost on her. “I had to go all the way to the top in order for me to do this, but it is in line with their current thinking. (And I was going to do it anyway!)” According to Pip the new regime at the RNLI is aware that people do go and do crazy things at sea from time to time but, again, they now wish to highlight the risks and the best precautions.

“To be honest, the Mini Transat is pretty much up there safety-wise,” she continues. “We have got our own safety boats that go across with us, all the boats have got trackers, and you have to jump through so many hoops with scrutineering and the qualification process is pretty tough. So it is in line with what the RNLI is suggesting.”

Back to the Caribbean

Significant for this year’s race is the change of course. From 2001 up until the last race, the course was run from La Rochelle to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. For this year’s race Classe Mini has passed the organisation on to new management and it now starts from Douarnanez and heads across the Atlantic to Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe via a stopover in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands (recent races have stopped in Madeira).

So the new course is shorter and no longer crosses the Equator, something Pip is sorry about: “For me - the longer, the better. I thought that going across the Doldrums gave us an extra challenge, because you come back out into a different weather system, Trades from a different direction. It did make it very hard, but that’s what I liked about it. That is not to say it is going to be easy this year, because the competition is frightening.”

Move to the Series

As we observed two years ago, a seismic change has been taking place between the two subsets of the Mini class. Once upon a time the Proto (the custom-built one-offs) attracted the pro sailors, as well as the experimenters and pioneers such as, famously, a young Michel Desjoyeaux, whose entry in 1991 was the first offshore boat to feature a canting keel (since adopted by IMOCA 60s, VO70s, etc etc). But today the kick-ass class in terms of competition is the Series: production Minis (minimum run of 10) built to a dumbed-down version of the box rule (smaller sail plan, GRP construction etc). As a result the Series class in this Mini Transat is full to the brim, with the maximum number of boats at 54, while just 30 Protos are taking part.

Pip explains: “Classe Mini is a little disappointed with the way it is going because they feel the idea of the Series class is that it isn’t for professionals. The Proto class is supposed to be the professional, fully sponsored campaigns while the Series was supposed to be an opportunity for everyday people to have a race among themselves. But actually now if you want to get in to the top ten in the Series class, you pretty much have to be sailing all the time and have a fully sponsored campaign. So it has swung the other way. If you want to put together a campaign on a minimum budget, you are looking for an older Proto because you can pick them up for less money.”

Cost of building a new Protos has also become prohibitive and in these strained economic times, in this race there is just one brand new Proto: Stan Maslard’s Lombard-designed Groupe Sefico, which Maslard built himself in Arnaud Boissieres’ shed in Les Sables d’Olonne.

Pip reckons that most of the favourites in the Series class are those who form part of Tanguy Leglatin’s training group out of Lorient.

Intriguingly one of them is Swiss sailor Justine Mettraux, who goes into the race (as Isabelle Autissier and Isabelle Joschke did in previous years) with the potential to become the Mini Transat’s first female winner. Part of the second generation TeamWork crew, whose colours David Raison sailed to victory under in 2011 on his famous Mini scow, Mettraux previously did three Tour de France a la Voiles on board Ville de Genève-Carrefour Prevention followed by a stint with Dona Bertarelli’s Ladycat team. She only joined the Mini class last year when she immediately made an impression winning the first leg of the Les Sables-Azores-Les Sables race and the Mini Fastnet (with Etienne David). This year she won the Pornichet Select.

Aside from her, Pip also rates Renaud Mary and Clément Bouyssou. Mary was lying fifth in the last Mini Transat until he inadvertently ran his boat up on to a beach. This year he finished third in the Mini Fastnet and second in the Demi Cle. Bouyssou was fourth in the last Mini Transat and this year finished fourth in the Pornichet Select and third in the Transgascogne. Then there is yet another Swiss sailor Simon Koster who was fourth in Les Sables-Azores-Les Sables race last year, but who comes into this Mini Transat having won the last event of the season, the Transgascogne, while Aymeric Belloir, won the Les Sables-Azores-Les Sables race.

While the Finot-designed Pogo 2 has long been the boat of choice in the Series class, with nine examples in the top ten of the last Mini Transat and remains the most prolific one design in the Series class, this time some of the newer designs will come into their own, Pip reckons. Several of the top players, for example are racing Naciras, including Mettraux, Belloir and Coster, while Spanish sailor Joel Miro Garcia is racing a new Lombard one design, the Argo 6.50, and the newest example to scrape into the Series class is the Argentinian designed and built RG650, being sailed by Australian Richard Hewson, winning skipper in the 2011-12 Clipper Round the World Race. More on the RG650 in due course.

Looking at the demographics, the Mini Transat remains as impressive as ever with 14 nations represented, including Australia, the USA and Canada, but also Hungary and Estonia. Of the 84 entries, nine are women, including Pip, potential winner Justine Mettraux and also transoceanic rower, Raphaela le Gouvello.

So how does Pip feel she’ll get on? “I would love to get in the top 10, then I would be really really proud of myself. But I have no idea. Last year I would have said that I was capable of it. This year I don’t know, because I haven't sailed with the fleet. My biggest issue is that I haven't had as much time in the boat as I have had previously. I think it could take me five days or so of the first leg to get back into sailing the boat again which could be game over for me in terms of making the top 10. But I am going to stick to the same old strategy: if you want to have a decent result you need to make it to the finish, so I just want to make sure my boat stays together and I stay on top of it. And then if the past is anything to go by, a few people fall by the wayside, because they’ll break their boats and can’t carry on.”

At present Minis seem particularly prone to rudder breakage (hence Pip is taking a spare on her Pogo 2). She reckons that in the last race maybe up to half of the retirements were rudder-related, albeit differing issues from the attachments breaking to, alarming, the boards cracking down the centre.

“I think it is because the rudders are small and maybe they are not necessarily aligned well and in the Mini Transat you spend a long time on one tack or one gybe, so with all that twisting moment on one rudder and I think they just break,” explains Pip.

As a result in the past there has been a tendency for some Series class competitors to beef up their rudders, however Classe Mini has since cracked down on this to prevent the supposed one-designs from going out of class.


If the field is open at the top of the Series class, in the Protos there is one stand-out sailor, Gwenolé Gahinet, the VPLP yacht designer, who won the Series class in 2011 and has since moved over to the Protos. For this race he has acquired a 2011 Marc Lombard design, formerly Antoine Rioux's Festival des pains (a development of Henri Paul Schipman’s Maison de l’Avenir Urbatys and Yves le Blevec’s 2007 winner, Actual) and renamed it Watever - Logways. In this he has so far won most of the significant races this season including the Demi-Cle, the Mini Fastnet and the Transgascogne.

Also in the frame is the highly experienced Bertrand Delesne, now part of the Teamwork stable (with Justine Mettraux), racing his 2009 Sam Manuard design. This is Delesne’s fourth Mini, having finished second and fourth in the last two races. Still on form, he finished second in this year’s Transgascoigne. Also to watch and a likely podium finisher is Louis Segre in the 2007 generation Manuard design, the unfortunately named Roll My Chicken, which sounds like it might be vernacular for something rude. This year Segre was third in the Demi Cle, second in the Mini Fastnet and fifth in the Transgascogne.

Then there is Italian Giancarlo Pedote, who has bought David Raison’s 2011 winner, the blunt-fronted scow and entertainingly has the name of his sponsor, Prysmian, written across his bathtub’s bow, pointing forwards. His boat has legs - this year Pedote has finished second in the Demi Cle and the Pornichet Select.

Strangely the skipper with the only new boat in this race, Stanislas Maslard’s Groupe Sefico, a latest generation Lombard design, hasn’t had the best season. Aside from a second in the Pornichet Select, Maslard finished 10th in the Mini Fastnet and 11th in the Transgascogne.

Back to Pip and while she hasn’t put in the sailing hours on her boat like she did prior to the race two years ago, she has the advantage of having done the race before. Also having got many long singlehanded miles under her belt over and above this, she is not too concerned about the solo sailing aspects of the race.

This is fortunate because one of the USPs of the Mini Transat remains that there is no voice or text communication with the outside world other than by VHF: So while there are trackers and EPIRBs and a mass of other safety kit, there are no satcoms, no Iridium, no Standard C, no computer, no phone calls, no email – a scary prospect for many.

“And they are even saying that we’re not allowed iPod Touches,” says Pip. “With all of these iPods etc, you could take so much stuff with you - anything with a screen you could take weather routing with you. There is a lot of stuff you could take, but I don’t know how you can police it. There are always rumours about people taking satphones and then throwing them over the side before the finish. I don’t know if they will be able to fight it forever, because if people really want to cheat, they could quite easily.”

Roll on 2015

The good news is that while British entries are small in number this year, there are two strong competitors lining up for 2015. One is former Dolphin & Youth Whitbread sailor and GBR Challenge trimmer (and more recently transatlantic rower) Toby Iles, who has already acquired a new RG650 Series boat, while 18ft skiff sailor Matt Kiddle has bought another Series boat, a Marc Lombard-designed Zero.

Both are aiming to do the race in 2015, while the Artemis Offshore Academy is likely to field a competitor too – although one hopes they will finally realise that if they are to undertake a Mini campaign it needs to run over two years.

Wishing Pip god speed.


No Boat Nat   Name Type
5 Team Paris Texas FRA Ludovic MECHIN 1991 Finot
7 Soutenez le Bel Espoir FRA Hugues CHOLLET 1992 Rolland
151 Déphéméridesd'eux FRA Vincent BUSNEL 1995 Finot
159 Scidiam FRA François GUIFFANT 1993 Finot
196 Reality FRA Nolwenn DE CARLAN 1998 Finot-Conq
198 Kickers FRA Sébastien PICAULT 1996 Magnen
229 Ty Startigenn FRA Axel TREHIN 1998 Villenave
240 Sampaquita ESP Bruno GARCIA 1999 Lombard
284 Navman FRA Alan ROURA 1995 Welsford
291 Déphémérides-AM2i FRA Eric JEZEGOU 1991 Finot
342 Fontanot ITA Michele ZAMBELLI 2001 Pellizza
348 Bongo FRA Maxime SALLE 2001 Magnen
427 Technip - Planète Urgence FRA Thomas GUILBAUD 2004 Rolland
431 FRA Carlos LIZANCOS 2003 Manuard
491 Marcel For Ever FRA Robin MARAIS 2004 Manuard
562 Evolution Marine FRA Gilles AVRIL 2010 Bernard Sourisse
625 MERLIN-SOFT Sailing GER Henrik MASEKOWITZ 2006 Canivenc
629 Solidaires FRA Louis MAUFFRET 2006 Rolland
667 FRA Benoît MARIE 2007 Finot-Conq
679 Cyclo-surf Globe-Skipper FRA Louis SEGRE 2007 Manuard
709 Delcroix - Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque FRA Arthur LEOPOLD-LEGER 2012 Lombard
719 Nature Addicts FRA Nicolas BOIDEVEZI 2008 Etienne Bertrand
741 Boreal FRA Rémi FERMIN 2009 Remi Fermin
747 Prysmian ITA Giancarlo PEDOTE 2010 Raison
754 Teamwork Proto FRA Bertrand DELESNE 2009 Manuard
759 USA Jeffrey MAC FARLANE Manuard
787 Ropeye EST Jaanus TAMME 2010 Manuard
791 FRA Annabelle BOUDINOT 2010 Julien Marin
800 Watever - Logways FRA Gwenolé GAHINET 2011 Lombard
802 MExT-ICA FRA Julien PULVE 2011 Bertrand
850 Groupe Sefico FRA Stanislas MASLARD 2013 Lombard


No Boat Nat   Name Type
435 Foksamouille FRA Charles BOULENGER Pogo 2
455 Bel FRA Jérôme D'ABOVILLE Pogo 2
468 I feel good FRA Jérôme LECUNA Pogo 2
472 Techneau FRA Arnaud DAVAL Pogo 2
473 FRA Raphaela LE GOUVELLO Pogo 2
483 Prépa Nautic Echo Mer 1% pour la planète FRA Yann LE PAUTREMAT Pogo 2
488 FRA Arnaud GENTIEN Pogo 2
507 ITA Alberto BONA Pogo 2
511 Bingo FRA David GENEST D1
512 Carrefour Bretagne FRA Thomas GUICHARD Pogo 2
514 No War FRA Clément BOUYSSOU Pogo 2
519 Peter Punk ESP Pilar PASANAU Zero
529 LMS FRA Arnaud CHAIGNE Pogo 2
535 FRA Renaud MARY Pogo 2
539 Pas de Futur sans Numérique FRA Ian LIPINSKI Pogo 2 
548 Qeramix FRA Elise BAKHOUM Pogo 2
556 Your Sail ITA Federico CUCIUC D1
566 Guadeloupe - Espace Océan FRA François LAMY Pogo 2
568 Raw News - Jolie Rouge ITA Federico FORNARO Pogo 2
571 FRA Marc DUBOS Tip Top
585 HUN Aron MEDER Tip Top
586 Mordilou FRA Erwan PELLEN Pogo 2
587 Naked Retreats RSA Craig HORSFIELD Pogo 2
590 Netwerk 2 BEL Jonas GERCKENS Pogo 2
591 MC Technologies FRA Florian BLANCHARD Pogo 2
599 Rêve d'Enfance/ Terreal FRA Tanguy LE TURQUAIS Pogo 2
600 Mastep ITA Davide LUSSO Zero
602 Postillion Hotels NED Robert ROSEN JACOBSON Pogo 2
603 FRA Jean-Loup CHENARD Pogo 2
607 Œuvre du Marin Breton FRA Jean-Baptiste LEMAIRE Pogo 2
633 Foksaglisse FRA Florian MAUSY Pogo 2
635 Soreal Ilou FRA Raphaël MARCHANT Pogo 2
648 Ville de Marseillan BEL Sofie DE CLERCQ Ginto
655 One Girl's Ocean Challenge CAN Diane REID Zero
682 Umpa Lumpa ITA Andrea IACOPINI Pogo 2
686 Schlüter Systems FRA Yoann TRICAULT Pogo 2
692 Diaoulic 692 FRA Yannick LE CLECH Pogo 2
737 Région Nord Pas de Calais FRA Julien MARCELET D2
743 The Potting Shed GBR Pip HARE Pogo 2
744 El Nono FRA Bruno SIMONNET D2
745 Gerinter - Audrain FRA Damien AUDRAIN Pogo 2
755 FRA Pierre-François DARGNIES Nacira
774 Acebi FRA Jean-Marie OGER Pogo 2
785 Chantier Naval Le Borgne AUS Katrina HAM Nacira
810 Tout Le Monde Chante Contre le Cancer FRA Aymeric BELLOIR Nacira
816 AUS Richard HEWSON RG650
819 Go4It SUI Simon KOSTER Nacira
821 Netwerk BEL Bert BOSSYNS Nacira
824 Teamwork SUI Justine METTRAUX Nacira
832 ABERS & Co FRA Eric COCHET Nacira
833 Lomig FRA Damien CLOAREC Nacira
835 Dame Argo ESP Joel MIRO GARCIA Argo 6.50

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