Message from La Rochelle

Sam Davies with the gossip and news of her preparations for Saturday's Mini Transat
This Saturday, a total of 60 six and a half metre ocean racing 'skiffs' will be battling out their first 24 hours of the Transat 650 (originally known as the Mini Transat.) This prestigious race, well known for its harshness and minimalist rules is the race that most famous French, and now some English (Ellen MacArthur, Alex Bennett) sailors use to start their professional sailing careers. The 60 'Mini-ists' are now lined up along one pontoon in the Port des Minimes in La Rochelle with sponsors flags flying and skippers, shore crew, supporters and families all busying away in the final pre-race preparations. The tented village is set up around the top of the dock, and there is a daily influx of 'visitors' to view and support the competitors. By the end of the week, the public crowds will actually have to be controlled in order to allow the skippers to reach their boats. I arrived last Wednesday (by ferry and road) in convoy with two others British competitors - Paul Peggs and Simon Curwen. Last Wednesday was the deadline to arrive in La Rochelle as we have several days of strict safety inspections, briefings, medicals, weather briefings etc. that must be attended by everyone who is competing in the race. By the beginning of this week Aberdeen Asset Management and I were pretty much ready to race, while some people appear to be still building their boats as you walk along the dock. Others are so ready to go that their boats are deserted. It is always a melee of activity on the pontoon though. There are the organisers checking and stamping sails, then the safety inspections; and some people have to have their boats re-measured (mainly those that have had to have new rigs due to damage earlier in the