Mini Pavois sets off todayAt 1200 local time today 67 singlehanded 21ft racers are expected to leave La Rochelle on the first leg of the Mini Pavois. Among the boats will be five Brits in the form of Paul Peggs, Brian Thompson, Sam Davies, Ian Munslow and Mike Inglis.
As we have mentioned before this will be the first race in which the Mini class has visited the UK in living memory and it is good that they should come here in the middle of one of their most over-subscribed events of the season. The Mini Pavois is the class' first long distance race of this year in northern France/the Channel and is a qualifying event for the equally over-subscribed Mini Transat. This also starts from La Rochelle, but not until 22 September.
It looks likely that the boats will be hard on the wind up towards Ouessant. They then have to cross to the Eddystone Light off Plymouth before continuing up the English coast to Gunwharf Quay in Portsmouth. Sam Davies told madforsailing that she expected to be in on Wednesday (23 May).
Thompson and Davies are both showing form in the class. Last year Brian Thompson bought a Mini that was designed by Simon Rogers with a keel that not only cants, but can be hauled fore and aft! Thompson recently won the Roma X2, two handed long distance event and came second in another event out of Port Carmargue. Mini sailing must be rather different for him having come from being helmsman on Steve Fossett's PlayStation. Davies is another former big cat person having been part of Tracy Edwards' Royal & Sun Alliance crew (and part of Tracy's forthcoming Jules Verne attempt is Tracy gets the money). She has taken over both the boat and Aberdeen Asset Management sponsor from America's Cup/Whitbread navigator Andrew Cape. Sam told madforsailing that her boat is pretty well sorted now, except for some small electronics problems. "It's such good fun. I'm really enjoying it. It's my second singlehanded race. In the first race I thought I would have to rest more, but I found you can go for ages. There's some adrenalin thing going on inside your body." She will need a lot of adrenalin as this first leg to Portsmouth will last three days and she will have to stay up for most of it.
Paul Peggs started the Mini in 1999, but was forced to abandon his boat during a Bay of Biscay storm. He is back with his Mark Mills design and told madforsailing that he has just replaced his rudders with retractible ones (as on Aberdeen Asset Management). This reduces drag (the weather board can always be lifted) and is a good security measure (a spare blade can be carried on board). Mike Inglis has an old Berret design he bought second hand in France. For Plymouth-based Ian Munslow it is his first Mini race aboard the boat he has spent the last three years building. The boat is designed by Merfyn Owen, who was at the heart of Kingfisher's design team and he has applied his know-how to this boat. Owen told madfosailing: "The boat has a swing keel with a central daggerboard and is optimised for light to moderate downwind sailing. The hull has a glass and foam hull and deck. Ian has £5,000 when he started the project so we built a basic boat and put all the money raised into foils, sails and mast. So the mast is AMOCO Thierry Fagnent rigs like most of the top boats and the sails are by North Sails in France."
The million dollar question is still - who will qualify for September's Mini Transat. In theory Brian Thompson and Sam Davies believe they have, but this at present is not indiciated on the Classe Mini website.