Singleminded and singlehanded

Kiwi solo sailor Chris Sayer recounts the dramatic loss of his last Mini and puts us in the picture its replacement
New Zealand as a sailing nation may be top of the pile in the America's Cup and the Volvo, but when it comes to singlehanded offshore racing their experience is limited. However, as ever, there is one exception. We first encountered Chris Sayer at the start of the 1999 Mini Transat. With his lanky frame and spectacles he ressembled a white collar worker on his day off while having an impressive amount of aloofness and stubborn singlemindedness, more akin to European solo sailors of 20 or 30 years ago. Even four years ago singlehanded ocean racing in New Zealand was considered swimming against the stream and Sayer bore all the trademarks of an outcast. Alongside the sexy looking Finots and Lombards, his boat Navman appeared to be a pig. She was designed by John Welsford better known for his kit-built boats, yet Sayer had sailed her and sailed her in the harsh conditions around New Zealand and was completely familiar with her. Sayer proceeded to confound race pundits by finishing the singlehanded transatlantic race third against some tough competition. He sold Navman at the end of the race and returned to France in 2000 to race the Figaro class' two handed Transat AG2R with fellow Mini-ist Yannick le Monnier. "It was interesting, but I am not a one design sort of person," admits Sayer of his Figaro racing experience. "It was good to have sailed against all my heroes - Isabelle Autissier, both Poupon brothers, Alain Gautier. It was quite daunting in fact, but great." They finished the race 13th out of 30 starters, significantly ahead of Autissier and Erwan and Patrick Tabarly (brother of Eric). With his success in Europe under his belt Sayer returned to New Zealand intent on getting an Open 50 campaign together for Around Alone and ultimately