October 8 1977, Penzance (Cornwall), twenty-four 6.50m racing boats set sail with a single sailor aboard bound for Antigua in the Caribbean, via Tenerife (Canary Islands). The smallest ocean racing boat is born! Special feature: its favourite playing field is the Atlantic, and they’ve just invented Transat 6.50.
After four editions, the Mini fleet takes up quarters in France.
In 1984, Jean-Luc Garnier, journalist and fan of these “Mini fireballs” takes over from British Bob Salmon who, after organising four editions, wants to hand over the reins. Voiles 6.50, an association under the 1901 Law and a club affiliated to the French Sailing Federation, is set up and organises the Mini-Fastnet, an annual race between Brittany and the mythical Fastnet Rock situated at Ireland’s extreme south-west (51°23.′3″ N et 009°36.′1″ W) in the county of Cork.
In 2010, the Mini-Fastnet celebrated its 25th anniversary.
The Mini concept brings together sailor, boat and sea. That’s all! No contact with the shore! Two-handed or solo, the concept has given birth to some of today’s greatest names in ocean racing. Not only the big media names, but also men and women that nothing in the world would persuade to exchange a place on a Mini-Fastnet or a Transat 6.50 for one on even the biggest yacht.
No ocean racing school other than the Mini can count as many gloried old hands now involved in other prestigious races. Indeed, many great champions have cut their teeth and achieved their early honours in these boats: Isabelle Autissier, Catherine Chabaud, Ellen Mac Arthur, Thierry Dubois, Laurent Bourgnon, Bruno Peyron, Michel Desjoyaux, Bernard Stamm, Jean-Luc Van den Heede… It’s worth adding too that many of those leaving the Mini circuit have gone on to participate in such great races as the