Mini Transat 2009 preview

Charente-Maritime/Bahia Transat 6.50 to set sail this Sunday
The Charente-Maritime/Bahia Transat 6.50, more popularly known as the Mini Transat, sets sail this Sunday with a fleet as powerful as ever previously seen in the 32 years since Bob Salmon ran the first race for the ocean-going tiddlers from Penzance to Antigua in 1977. This year, as has been the case since 2001, the race starts from La Rochelle and ultimately heads for Salvador de Bahia, Brazil with a stopover in Madeira (which replaced Lanzarote as the stopover port in 2007). The first leg is 1,100 miles, involving a short sprint across the Bay of Biscay and round Cape Finistere, down past Portugal and Spain and into the beginning of the trades, before arriving in Funchal. The restart from Madeira is on 3 October for the longer, more hardcore transatlantic leg out into the trades (hopefully) past the Canary Islands and the Cape Verdes before the skippers have to tackle the Doldrums and Equator and then out into the southeasterly trades that should slowly back as the fleet approach Salvador, 3,100 miles from Funchal. The challenge of the Mini Transat of course remains as unique as it has always been. Yes, the race is singlehanded and transatlantic nothing espceially new there. Skippers have the usual singlehanding issues such as sleep deprivation, when to eat, when to navigate, how much to steer and trim, managing and minimising problems, etc just as the Vendee Globe skippers experience, albeit at a one third scale. However the experience is very different sailing a boat that is just 21ft long in the ocean, especially one fitted with a monster 3+m long bowsprit. But the most significant difference to singlehanding an Open 60 is the Mini’s lack of satcoms - the only radio equipment permitted is VHF and an HF radio to receive forecasts. While