Briton leads Mini fleetBritish multihull sailor Brian Thompson is currently leading the 65-strong fleet of 21-footers, which left La Rochelle on Saturday for Portsmouth on the first leg of the Mini-Pavois.
The start at 1200 local time was in 15-20 knot north westerly winds - not the best conditions for the wide, flat-bottomed Minis, who were bound for the turning mark of the course in Ouessant. From here the boats must cross the Channel to the Eddystone Light off Plymouth before heading along the English coast towards Portsmouth. The race's organisers have them due into Portsmouth on Tuesday, but with a high pressure system now dominating the weather, their arrival is more likely to be on Wednesday.
Thompson, who is normally principal helmsman on board Steve Fossett's megacat PlayStation is sailing the Simon Rogers-designed Mini, appropriately called I Must Be Mad.This boat is unique in having a keel that can not only be canted up to weather, but can also be moved fore and aft - quite a feat of engineering! Thompson is being chased by the two French favourites Arnaud Boissieres and Yannick Bestaven, both sailing new state-of-the-art Minis designed by Mini guru Sebastien Magnen and Bernard Nivelt.
The race so far has not been without drama. Eric Defert on board Poch' Trot ran into a trawler off Belle Ile and withdrew. Jacques Jaffrineau has stopped into St Gilles Croix de Vie to make repairs to his rudders, while Denis Laquerriere on board Malaoucache has pulled out of the race with electrical problems.
At the time of writing the only other position of a British competitor was Paul Peggs' Blue 1 lying in 10th place in the prototype fleet (the fleet is divided between one-offs and series boats such as the Pogo). The positions of other British competitiors Sam Davies, Ian Munslow (his Merfyn Owen design is the one shown above) and Mike Inglis is not known.
See page two to find out about Ian Munslow's Mini - designed by Merfyn Owen...