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Allen 2017 Inner Steel 728

UK Solent 6.50 Mini Race from Hamble to La Trinité - Overall

by Graham Nixon on 7 May 2014 3-6 May 2014

Saturday, 3rd May, saw the start of the UK Solent 6.50 race for Classe Mini boats, a a 310nm 'sprint' from the Solent to La Trinité run jointly by the Royal Southern Yacht Club and the UK Solent 6.50 Class.

This is the first time the Royal Southern and the Classe Mini has worked together, along with Société Nautique de la Trinité sur Mer, who handled the race finish. This was also the first solo Mini race for Toby Iles and only the second for Lizzy Foreman - so ground-breaking all round.

The fleet of five 21 ft boats was towed out to the start off the Calshot shore at noon, in very little wind, but right on forecast the breeze went south and started to fill in, under a cloudless blue sky. The start, at 1400, was closely fought with Mo Jo (553) and NikkiCurwen.com (741) leading the way across the line. Mintaka tacked towards the Island side, to get into the deeper water with stronger currents, but sailed into a wind hole. The other boats stayed on the mainland side, where the wind was stronger, and quickly pulled ahead.

Mo Jo, the German entry crewed by the German pair, was the first to go for a code zero spinnaker, with the other boats quickly following, but they all had to come down after 30 minutes as the wind continued to go round to the south west and build. Soon they were beating past Hurst Castle and heading out past the Needles. By now, Mintaka had rejoined the back of the fleet and was catching up fast.

The fleet stayed inshore across Poole bay, but at Anvil Point Nikki Curwen broke with the pack and tacked south to go offshore, in anticipation of the adverse tide at Portland Bill, while the rest stayed inshore. Overnight the wind died leaving all the boats struggling in the east-going tide, but when it turned again, Nikki proved to have made the right choice and came out ahead.

Most of Sunday was spent in light south to south-east winds of 7-9 knots, with Nikki sailing down the rhum line to Ushant, while the other boats had to make up to windward. By late Sunday evening, Nikki was 5 miles ahead of Mo Jo and Vertigo, with Mintaka 1 mile astern and Hudson Wight about 4 miles behind them.

Nikki reached the Chenal du four in the early hours of Monday morning, at just the wrong moment - the start of the north-going flood. What followed was a demonstration of consummate sailing as Nikki, followed 2.5 miles behind by Mo'Jo tacked through the Chenal against the tide. Mintaka and Vertigo another 2.5 miles astern had less worse tides, but were cross tacking through the passage. Lizzy Foreman in Hudson Wight was further 5 miles astern and had the tide flowing with her.

As the leaders exited the Chenal, the tide turned in their favour and they faced the dilemma of deciding whether they could make the Raz de Sein, 20 miles further south, before the tide turned again. Nikki opted for the safer route outside the Isle de Sein, while Mo'Jo decided to go for the Raz. It looked to be touch and go, but they made it and came out 2 miles ahead of Nikki.

Meanwhile Mintaka and Vertigo had tacked right into the bay towards the Camaret shore and beat their way down the bay, within metres of each other. By the time they reached the Raz the tide was against them and another display of close inshore tacking among the rocks followed. Both got through beating against 17 knot winds, still blowing south easterly.

Lizzy, having had favourable tides in the Chenal, was facing adverse tides at the Raz and opted to go outside, but still suffered badly as the tide held her back at 2 knots boat speed.

Monday afternoon was spent under grey, overcast skies, on a fine reach across the Baie d'Audierne, as Mo'Jo pulled steadily ahead of Nikki, while behind them Vertigo and Mintaka were trading places. Then every racer's nightmare - the wind died away leaving the leaders struggling to get 2 knots of boat speed, while the fresh wind came in from the west, allowing Vertigo and Mintaka to catch up.

Eventually the wind returned and Mo'Jo entered Quiberon bay at 03.00 and turned north for the final 10 mile run to the finish line in the mouth of the river at La Trinité. Behind them Mintaka caught Nikki in the entrance to the bay and passed her as they too turned north. Nikki held off Vertigo to finish third overall and first solo boat.

The first four boats finished within 45 minutes of each other and Lizzy followed them in a few hours later - her first finish in a solo race and a fantastic achievement.

Technically this was a very demanding race, with light winds at the start rising to 18 knots around Brittany. The standard of sailing was quite extraordinary and all the crews deserve huge credit. What a close result after 310 miles and 64 hours of racing!

Overall Results:

Class / PositionBoat NameBoat NumberCrewNatFinish TimeElapsed Time
Solo Proto
1NikkiCurwen.comGBR 741Nikki CurwenGBR06/05/2014 05:5648S
Solo Series
1Hudson WightGBR 633Lizzie ForemanGBR06/05/2014 09:5110S
Double Series
1Mo'JoGER 553Morgan Bogacki & Felix KösterGER6 May 05:21   10S
2MintakaGBR 843Toby Iles & Pip HareGBR06/05/2014 05:4334S
3VertigoFRA 668Olivier Andre & Olivier MorvanFRA06/05/2014 06:1523S

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