Stop press! Yacht designer goes offshore

Merfyn Owen, part of the Kingfisher design team, reports on preparations for racing in the Mini-Fastnet

Saturday June 9th 2001, Author: Merfyn Owen, Location: United Kingdom
Here in St Quay-Portrieux there are 69 21ft water ballasted/swing keel transoceanic flying machines preparing for the start of the two-handed Mini-Fastnet on Sunday.
The course will take us from this north Brittany port across the Channel to Wolf Rock, where we will be forced by another mark to squeeze through the relatively narrow passage between the Seven Sisters and Land's End. The next mark will be the Fastnet Rock followed by a straight run south to the fishing port of Douarnenez, near Brest. The elapsed time looks like being anything between four and six days.

The weather is set to be much as for the recent Mini-Pavois race: light, variable and frustrating with no likelihood of records being broken except perhaps for days at sea. So, more like six days than four, I think.

On the dock, it's a typical Mini scene. Kit is separated into piles; that which will be taken, safety kit for inspection, food and finally the kitbags and tool boxes that will go in the helper's cars in order to get the weight off the boats. There is some last minute grinding, splicing and rigging of bowsprits going on some of the boats, but most are 'ready' and have only race stickers to be fixed to the hull.

Ian Munslow and I have finished our chores on Ishtar, Ian 's Owen Clarke Design Group-designed Mini (pictured above), and I'm off to buy what food we need while Ian takes a last swim underneath the boat to wipe her off ready for tomorrow's 'prologue race'. Even so, we're not quite ready yet. I'm off to La Trinite-sur-Mer tonight to pick up a new mainsail, light airs gennaker and our big masthead kite - all essential sails that weren't available for the Mini-Pavois. For this race that have been completed against a tight schedule by the team at North Sails France. A borrowed fractional spinnaker donated by fellow British Mini sailor Paul Peggs - which I hope we'll get the chance to use - completes the new sail wardrobe for the race.

It's been great fun on the dock and I'm really looking forward to the racing. Not a few of my friends and acquaintances laughed or were somewhat amazed when I said I was going to do this after only sailing Open 60s and BT boats for the last seven years. I'm a bit bigger than I used to be! Laugh, because I don't think they thought I could fit inside Ian's boat ! Well guys, I had a great night's kip last night in the starboard sail pit - not that I expect that much once we're sailing. Although sailing a Mini might be considered to be 'suffering for my art' it beats being in the office !

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