UK Mini triangle race announcedAfter failing to secure the right to run this year's Mini Transat, Chay Blyth and The Challenge Business have announced details of their first event for the Mini class. The Mini Challenge Triangle (the unusual word order is for the benefit of the French) is being run in conjunction with the Classe Mini association in France and will kick off from Portsmouth's Gun Wharf Quay on Sunday 15 July.
The course will take the two-handed boats to St Malo where they will restart on 20 July for Crosshaven. The final leg back to Portsmouth sets off on 25 July. Total distance of the race is 810 miles. Rather than being scored on accumulated elapsed time, the race is being run on a points system with 15 points to the winner, 14 to second place, etc.
The Mini Challenge Triangle will enable Mini sailors to clock up more short handed racing miles prior to the Mini Transat in September, but The Challenge Business say they intend for it to be a fairly low key, club level type of event with a relatively low entry fee to attract as many entries as possible. It will be hosted by the Royal Naval and Royal Albert Yacht Club in Portsmouth, the Societe Nautique de la Baie de St Malo and the Royal Cork Yacht Club.
From a safety point of view this will be the first event for the class where it will be mandatory for boats to carry Inmarsat D+. This will enable race organisers to monitor the position of the fleet regularly and accurately and will even allow crews to send short text messages back to base describing their progress.
The Challenge Business are expecting around 15 entries, but this may turn out to be quite a conservative estimate if there is a repeat of the recent Select 6.5 Mini event at Pornichet. Today there are more than 10 Minis in the UK, about half of them raced by highly competitive individuals such as PlayStation helmsman Brian Thompson and former Royal & Sun Alliance crew Sam Davies. If French 'Mini-ists' take to this event the entry list could possibly swell to 50.
A primary problem facing the Mini class is the terrible over-subscription to September's Mini Transat. Past horrors in the race have led to the class introducing tough qualifications for competitors who have to complete a 1,000 mile qualification passage plus an addition 1,000 miles of racing. UK Classe Mini secretary Ian McKay told madforsailing that if boats did not complete this by the end of the Mini Pavois (from La Rochelle to Portsmouth and back to Saint Quay-Portrieux starting on 20 May) then they were realistically not going to get themselves a place in the Mini Transat. The Mini Transat entry list is open to just 25 one-offs (Protos) and 25 of the one-design Pogos, but even for those who have qualified securing a place is still on a first-come, first-served basis. "You're likely to see a few skippers sprinting up the dock at the end of that one," quipped McKay.
Uncertainty over qualification has presented great problems to potential Mini Transat entrants who are finding it hard to get sponsorship if they cannot tell possible backers whether they are racing or not. McKay feels this is a great leveller. "People without money have as much chance as those who do." Of the top UK sailors Sam Davies and Simon Curwen have already completed their qualifiers and Team 6.50 (Steve Blaker and Paul Peggs who are racing identical Mark Mills designs) and Brian Thompson will have done so too, following the Mini Pavois.
Of the Mini Challenge Triangle McKay commented: "It's everything people in the UK have been crying out for. Hopefully enough French boats will come across so that British sailors will get to see what Minis are really like."