Plastimo Lorient Mini

Mini Class: New races and sobriety

For the 2024 season, the Mini Class is launching two new races, to balance out the number of miles acquired by the racers with a view to the next Mini Transat, and is renewing mixed double-handed sailing on the Plastimo Lorient Mini. It is also committed to the path of sobriety, limiting the number of new boats to 25 by 2024 and freezing all new designs.

On Thursday 4 April, the start of the Plastimo Lorient Mini will mark the launch of the Mini season on the Atlantic coast. With 72 boats registered, it’s a successful gamble for this event, which opted for mixed double-handed sailing last year. “This format, which Jean-Philippe Cau, President of Lorient Grand Large, and I have been trying to organise for several years, has met with a fair amount of reluctance,” recalls Yves Le Blevec, Race Director. “Some feared that it would be difficult to find so many female sailors, while others felt that at a time when boats are being traded, it was important for new owners to sail with the old ones.”

In the end, the race was a sell-out in 2023, and that’s the case again this year. This means that lots of women can be called on, says Yves Le Blevec with satisfaction. “Which wouldn’t be the case without this rule, because naturally, when a male or female sailor is looking for a crew member, he or she is looking for a man.”

Itzel Marie Diaz, who has just bought a Pogo 2 with a view to the Mini Transat 2025, got her foot in the door thanks to this race, she explains: “If there hadn’t been this rule, I don’t know if I would have been able to get on board so easily, as I’d never raced before. It allowed me to discover the circuit and I quickly caught the bug.”

Although the class currently has 300 members, a slight drop compared with March 2023 (330), the renewal of its membership remains high, with 81% of newcomers (compared with 89% in 2022).

Expensive prototype projects

However, just under thirty have signed up again this year for one or more races, like Marie Gendron, 4th in the Mini Transat 2023 in a proto, who is back for another season, as her boat, on sale for €220,000 excluding VAT, has not yet found a buyer. “Several protos are still for sale, so there hasn’t been the usual turnover,” explains the sailor, who is also preparing a Class40 project. “The boats, which are becoming more and more reliable and fitted with highly sophisticated equipment, often require you to work in a small team, are becoming more and more expensive and the annual operating budgets are high, around 80,000 euros for me”, she confides.

Caroline Boule, who will be taking part in this season’s races with her Nicomatic foiler, also believes that “there’s going to be a high level of competition this year”, after feeling “frustrated” in the last Mini Transat due to technical difficulties with her Manuard design. “That prevented me from performing well (16th) and I’d like to take my revenge by winning the SAS this year. My second objective is to make the boat fly, even under pilot, and in virtually all conditions, confides the 26 year old Franco-Polish sailor, who will be racing double-handed with Benoît Marie before handing over the helm of the foiler to him for the Mini Transat 2025.

If Federico Waksman, winner of the 2023 Mini Transat in proto, has left the circuit, his 2021 Raison design will be in the hands of Félix Oberle, 4th in the production race, who couldn’t see himself stopping the Mini adventure, “because I really enjoyed this mix of competition and good atmosphere,” explains the Swiss skipper. “My aim is to gradually get to grips with this proto so that I can get back to the level I was at in the series and get out in front with a view to the next Mini Transat.”

The TM650 comes into play

In the series, while the renewal of racers at the top of the table is more important, the arrival on the circuit of four to six TM650s, a design by Sébastien Magnen and Benoît Cabaret, built at Technologie Marine, should spice up the match between Pogo 3, Maxi and Vector, believes Grégoire Hue, 3rd in the Mini Transat 2023 in Pogo 3, who is returning for two races on this new scow. She’s very fast downwind, but also upwind, where she’s gained quite a bit compared to the Maxi. And as it’s of very good quality, we feel we can really pull on it.” To be approved for series production, this new scow must reach ten units and finish a category A race, which will be the case at the end of the SAS in July.

Last year, the class took a number of measures to rebalance everyone’s chances of entering the Mini Transat“The Sables-Açores-Sables (SAS), which until then had been an almost obligatory passage to qualify, was mainly raced by those who had the time and the budget,” points out Romain Bigot, who succeeded Jean Marre as president of the cass. The number of qualifying miles for this race has therefore been halved, from 2,600 to 1,300“It’s also a way of promoting the SAS as an ocean race in its own right rather than just a qualifying race,” continues the new president.

Apart from this change, the qualifying criteria for the Mini Transat remain the same: sail 1,500 miles in the race and complete a 1,000-mile single-handed non-stop course, out of the race. With places limited, the many contenders are engaged in a race for miles and some are now banking on three or even four years of preparation. This is the case for Louis Blanchier, aged 24, who is training in La Turballe on a Pogo 2: “As it’s complicated to rack up the miles, I prefer to take my time and aim for the Mini Transat 2027, so I don’t have to go racing down in the Mediterranean.”

Strong measures to reduce the impact

In the same spirit of fairness, last year the class launched an invitation to tender for the organisation of a race to promote older generation boats – production boats built before 2012 and protos built before 31 December 2009. “We had noticed that the buyers of these boats, having less budget and less time, found it harder to accumulate miles,” points out Romain Bigot. Called Mini Transmanche, this new event is being organised under the aegis of the Société des Régates de Caen-Ouistreham and will set off on August 18 for a great 500-mile solo course which is a bit like the Normandy Channel Race in Class40s, explains the class president.

Another new addition to the 2024 calendar is the Palma-Melilla-Palma race, which will run over two legs from 5 to 22 November. This is an opportunity to revitalise the Mediterranean circuit, which has been lacking in major events, and to offer an additional opportunity for the southerners to accumulate miles late in the season.

In order to reduce its environmental impact, and given the peak in boat building in recent years – 98 new numbers between 2021 and 2023! – the class has also committed itself to two strong measures: Limiting the number of new production boats to 25 in 2024 and a gradual decrease of 20% every year until 2027, as well as a freeze on the approval of new designs in order to protect the shipyards”, explains Romain Bigot.

While Technologie Marine understands the position of the class, Tanguy Aulanier, in charge of the TM650 project, believes that in three or four years’ time, when only ten new boats will be authorised for construction, “this could pose economic difficulties for our shipyard, which has just arrived on the circuit. The commitment we made when we launched the TM650 is to become a player in the class, it’s not just a one-shot deal.”

Finally, a new series rule is currently being studied for delivery by 2027. While the rules have yet to be defined,” says Romain Bigot, “they could emphasise the durability of the boats, both in terms of construction and the materials used, as well as their lifespan. But right now, anything is possible!”

Photo: Anne Beaugé / PLM 650

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