Imagine this: Your boat is just 6.5 meters long and above you there is a wall of sail. You are surfing big atlantic swells and are alone on board.
The Mini Transat is the largest single-handed offshore race in the world and is considered the test for young sailors. In fact, the list of previous winners reads like a Who’s who of sailing.
Every two years 84 sailors head across the big pond. The race leads from France to the Caribbean: 4000 nautical miles that the fastest complete in less than 20 days.
Everybody pushes themselves and their boat as if they are sailing a short coastal sprint. You sleep for a maximum of 20 minutes for roughly 4½ hours per day. To save weight ropes are tapered and tootbrushes are cut off.
Weather information is relayed over the radio and sailors navigate on their laps using mostly wet paper charts. A GPS and a radio is all that is kept on board. Outside help is strictly forbidden.
The boats are physically demanding—it is really back to basics—but the mental pressure tends to be much bigger. You have to cope with your cramped surroundings, the lack of sleep and above all the solitude.
To participate in the Mini Transat, every sailor has to complete at least 1,000 nautical miles in official Classe Mini races. The more miles and the better your placement, the further ahead you will be on the waiting list.
Additionally every particpant has to sail one of two 1,000 nautical mile long qualification courses in their own time.