Brits take podium spots in Classe Mini season opener
Following the cancellation of the Mini Golfe in March due to high winds at La Grande Motte, the second Archipelago Race in Italy became the first official Classe Mini event of the year.
This 160 mile doublehanded event follows a scenic course from the ancient walled town of Talamone, leaving the island of Elba to port, rounding the island of Capraia close to the top of Corsica, again leaving the island of Elba to port, round Giannutri island and then returning to Talamone.
This year's race had 31 starters, 21 Series boats and 10 Protos, entries from Italy, France, Spain and Great Britain. Surprisingly it was a race dominated and won by Series boats, with two of the three British entries on the podium.
The British representatives were Dan Dytch and Nik James in a Beaufort design Proto Soitec plus Pip Hare and Ash Harris in the Pogo 2 The Potting Shed and Becky Scott from the Artemis Offshore Academy and Andy Boyle in another Pogo 2 Artemis.
This year's race started on a glorious day, bright sunshine and 10–12 knots of wind, with a fantastic spinnaker run down to Capraia which saw Soitec ‘horizon job’ the rest of the fleet with fantastic downwind speed.
After negotiating the wind shadow at Capriai which saw most of the fleet parked for some time, the fleet split in two, the front half finding enough wind to beat past Elba before becoming becalmed and the back half getting becalmed between Elba and Capraia.
There followed an excruciating 12 hours with less than 3 knots of breeze the fleet advancing at snail's pace.
Another nightfall gave the front of the fleet the final opportunity to break away and the top three boats including Pip Hare and Ash Harris made their greatest gains by working the coastlines of the two remaining islands, seeking small acceleration zones.
The race winners Renault Chavarria and Bertrand Dreux in a Tip Top, finished the course in 42 hours and 5 minutes. Next was another series boat, a Pogo 2 sailed by father and son team Ruben and Jose-Luis Castells Sole and third Britains Pip Hare and Ash Harris in a Pogo 2 on their first ever Mini event.
The first Proto to finish came in fifth, and sixth overall, but taking second place for the Protos, was Dan Dytch in Soitec.
Only 11 boats in total finished the event, there rest being outside the 52 hr time limit.
For all the British entries this was a first event. Pip Hare on her first mini race said: "I could not have been more pleased with the result. We worked the boat hard to stay ahead of the pack on the downwind leg and upwind, we were competing with just an old and very tired solent, but still managed to hold our own against boats with bigger and newer sails.
"Naturally we made a lot of mistakes and have tried to learn from all of them, but it is a great start to build on. The boat is fun to sail and makes me think all the time."
Pip Hare is an associate member to the Artemis Academy and has so been training with them over the winter, but is running and currently funding her own campaign, while seeking a title sponsor. She completed her 1000 mile qualifying passage earlier this March with one of the fastest times recorded in the Med and hopes to finish her qualifying races for the transat in Pornichet at the end of the month.
Dan Dytch, though having already campaigned a prototype for a year has only just taken over as skipper of Soitec and not only was this his first race, but it was his first outing in the boat.
Dytch commented, ‘it was a great race to start with; we had fantastic boatspeed downwind, we were flying and it was great to see what the boat is capable of. The light upwind conditions proved very tricky and difficult but we are overall pleased with our first race result.’
Dytch like Hare will be going on to compete in the Italain GP next week and then the Pornichet Select at the end of the month which should finish his qualification to enter the transat in this new prototype.
Becky Scott is a full time member of the recently formed Artemis Academy and has been selected to campaign their Mini, sailed in the 2009 Mini Transat by Ollie Bond.