The jewel in the crown


4155-672x372The most popular in the circuit

The countdown has begun for the 31st Mini Fastnet! This is the most classic of the Mini 6.50 Class races and since 2002, it has been organised by Douarnenez’s Winches Club.

Because it is a double-handed race, it has been a training ground and a starting point in the careers of many young skippers. Six hundred nautical miles between the western tip of Brittany and Ireland are a true test of commitment! Some get properly put off after being rained on, shaken about, given the rough treatment, whereas most others catch the bug for good and from then on live with the itch to join in again the following year.

The Mini Fastnet is the stuff of legends thanks to its magnificent route, which takes entrants through the Bay of Douarnenez,  the Iroise Sea, the Chenal du Four, the Channel crossing towards Lizard Point and Wolf Rock, then across the Celtic Sea to Ireland and the mythical Fastnet lighthouse, then back to Douarnenez and the finish line.  A mighty fine itinerary! A terrific, unforgettable route, 4 to 5 days at sea, including inshore and offshore sailing, and probably the fullest range of points of sail known to man.

With over 100 sailors in the starting line-up every time, the Mini Fastnet is the most popular race in the Mini 6.50 Class circuit. This year there will be 58 boats, 116 sailors, and16 nationalities represented: France, Belgium, Great Britain, Netherlands, Croatia, Switzerland, Tahiti, Australia, Italy, Czech Republic, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Hungary and Brazil.

A prologue will take place this Saturday (18 June), leaving at 2pm. The starting signal for the Mini Fastnet will be given this Sunday at 7pm.

In Proto: Griffon flies the Admiral’s flag

Ian Lipinski, who has won every race in the Atlantic circuit so far this season (Bretagne Sud Mini, Sélect 6.50, Mini en Mai, and MAP Trophy), will be assisted by Sébastien Picault for this Irish ramble. Victory will not easily slip the grasp of this crack squad on the snub-nosed 865, ‘’. Unfortunately, Quentin Vlaminck’s brand new vessel (900) will not be there to counter-attack. Following a last-minute cancellation, we will have to wait till next year to witness the clash between the two boats and to find out if Vlaminck’s 900 can overthrow the Raison designed 865.

However, let’s not underestimate the challenge presented by other boats in this year’s starting line-up, which includes a few dazzling duos at the helm of very fast craft, on the lookout for any small mistakes or signs of failure from 865.

Emmanuel Renaud on 753, ‘Wild Side’, took second place in the Mini en Mai, demonstrating that he is getting to know his boat better and better. At his side will be Nicolas d’ Estais, whose personal talent and experience should further improve Renaud’s performance.

719, ‘NickJoyceOceanRacing’ will be reunited with its captain, Nicolas Boidevezi, who will give 719’s British new owner, Nick Joyce, a thorough induction to this plucky little pocket rocket. This is a fine crew to keep under close scrutiny.

Skippering 618, ‘On the Road Again II’, Maxime Salle, who finished the MAP Trophy in second place. He will be keen to retain his position with help from Ludovic Mechin, who came third in the Mini Transat on the Finot-Conq designed ‘Microvitae’, 618’s sister ship.

Another one to watch is 802, ‘Femmes de Bretagne’, whose skipper Charlotte Mery can benefit from team mate Etienne Bertrand’ tips and insider’s knowledge – Bertrand himself designed the boat.

In the Production division: not enough space on the podium.

With Production boats, there is an awful lot of potential podium material. Over a dozen boats can make a perfectly valid claim for pole position. However, there are only three places to take on a podium, and they will be savagely contested, because these competitors are fierce fighters.  It would be pointless to try and predict a winner, as there are too many qualities in each case to make the scale tip either way.

All we can do is draw up a list of the teams which appear to be the most-likely winners. (Please note that they are all skippering a Pogo3, which is unquestionably the most successful type of Production boat this 2016 season:

869 – ‘Le Fauffiffon Hénaff’ – Charly Fernbach and Davy Beaudart.

882 – ‘Volvo’- Albert Lagneaux and Jonas Gerckens.

886 – ‘Stinkfoot’ – Sander Van Doorn and Dimitri Simons.

887 – ‘Blue Orange Games – Sea Owl’ – Pierre Chedeville and Paul Cloarec.

895 – ‘Emile Henry’ – Erwan Le Draoulec and Erwann Le Mené.

902 – ‘TBS’ – Clarisse Cremer and Clément Bouyssou.

903 – ‘Shaman’ – Valentin Gautier and Patrick Girod.

905 – ‘Mini Oiri’ – Guillaume Combescure and Benoit Hantzperg.

906 – ‘Dragobert’ – Yannick Le Clech and Fabrice Guillerm.

908 – ‘Pogo Dancer’ – Pavel Roubal and Milan Kolacek.

909 – ‘Pogo Partners’ – Tanguy Bouroullec and Erwan Tymen.

910 – ‘’ – Tom Dolan and François Jambou.

912 – ‘Like Crazy’ – Anna Corbella and Aitor Ocerin.

913 – ‘Adonnantes’ – Germain Kerleveo and Frédéric Duthil.

…as well as a few others !