This was supposed to be the year of the foiling minis. Many would think they would be unbeatable. Among the most interesting Minis is the 747 designed by David Raison that won the 2011 Mini Transat with it. The boat was bought by Seair that has been developing a flying mini...with success:
Unfortunately it is not racing this year, surprisingly they say the boat is not yet ready and the development continues. The objective is winning the 2019 Mini Transat.
Also very interesting, the Arkema 3, a Neyhousser design, also a foiling mini but one that is not intended to fly. The foils are similar to the ones on the IMOCA boats and it has also a wing self supported mast (no stays). This one is racing the Transat on the hands of an experienced sailor, Quentin Vlamynck. Not doing a great race being now in 14th place among the Protos (prototypes) maybe because all these innovations, including being made with a recyclable resin, make the boat heavier, almost 300kg more than the lighter protos giving it a bad performance on light winds.
Then we have Simon Koster's boat, the Frog (888), a Mousselon design (Mer Forte). This one was designed to fly on foils but also at the cost of increased weight and worse upwind performance. Koster is a great sailor, in my opinion one of the best on mini and among the foiling boats, the best classified. He was 3rd for some time and sails now in 5th place.
Finally the two men that have dominated the race till now, Lipinsky and Léger, both on boats with conventional daggerboards. Lipinsky, one of the favorites (and one of the best) on a boat with a round bow, the 885, a David Raison design and Léger on an older design, a 2009 Marc Lombard one. Curiously among the first there are several relatively old Marc Lombard designs!!! Quite surprising.
But the BIG surprise is this girl, Clarisse Crémer, 26 years. Till one year ago she had never sailed solo, much less solo raced and decided to make this year's Transat. Well no big deal, but leading the Serie minis (the production ones) among more than 50 sailors? Many of those are very experienced sailors with several Transats done!!! But that is the least, she is racing 3rd overall, considering the two classes put together and the protos have canting keels, dagger-boards or foils, are much lighter boats, not to mention that among the proto sailors there are some truly great sailors.
Pretty much unbelievable!!! watch out for this girl and if you love sailing and can contribute with some sponsoring, well you will not probably find a better bet. Look at her saying that she wants to finish a Transat, so innocent and full of enthusiasm. She looks like a beginner but if she begins like this I want to see what she will do when she is experienced LOL.
She is sailing a Pogo 3, a Guillaume Verdier design, a great boat but a very simple and cheap one if compared with the prototypes that are much more technologically advanced and much more expensive. The relatively small diference in performance is truly astonishing.
This year's race is different, the race will be divided into two legs, one till the Canary Islands and the other from there to Martinique. They are almost finishing the first leg and you can follow it here: http://www.minitransat.fr/en/follow-race/cartography
There are skippers from many nationalities: France, Italy, Spain, Swiss, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Croatia and Romania, unfortunately all Europeans. It seems that solo racing is not only a French thing anymore but a European thing. I hope that in some years it will be a world affair.
Another interesting observation is that solo racing is not a men's sport anymore. There had been always some exceptions with great solo sailors being women, but 10 women on a solo race? It seems a record to me.