On the pace

Brian Thompson talks Andy Rice through his epic Mini Transat race
Right up to the last few miles of the second and final leg of the Mini Transat, Britain's Brian Thompson was headed for a famous victory across the finish line outside the Brazilian port of Salvador. But at the last gasp, Yannick Bestaven sneaked up the coast inside Thompson to take the leg victory and the overall prize. Thompson was disappointed, but he reckoned he had received his fair share of good luck back at the Doldrums when he stormed into the lead of the Mini fleet. "My aim was to punch through the Doldrums as quickly as I could, and so I aimed 20 degrees off the rhumb line to head south. I thought I'd be the furthest east in the fleet, but I later found out I was the furthest west. I couldn't believe it." Unlike other races like the Volvo Ocean Race, where competitors track their rivals' every move on the six-hourly position reports, the only information that the Mini sailors have of their rivals' progress is their distance to the finish. They know nothing of their longitude or latitude, and Brian incorrectly assumed that he had taken the lead by heading furthest east of the fleet. He was furthest west of anybody, little did he realise. "I went through the Doldrums about 30 miles to the east of the route the Volvo boats took recently, and yet most of the fleet were even further east than me." With no weather routing instruments and only the most basic of forecasts from the race organisers as their sole source of outside information, Thompson has come to the conclusion that the secret to Mini racing is to play it close to the rhumb line. "Anything off to either side of the rhumb line is a gamble because you don't know