Unfinished business for Sam Manuard at Transat 6,50 Charente-Maritime/Bahia 13/9/07

Sam Manuard was one of the favourites for the 2003 edition of the Transat 6,50 Charente-Maritime/Bahia. He went on to win the first leg of the 4,200-mile race and was lying in second on Leg 2 when Jonathan Mckee dismasted not far from the Bahia finish line. Manuard took the lead but broke his mast too – just 60 miles from the finish. He’s now back with a brand-new design, a new generation prototype Mini and admits he has some unfinished business out on the racecourse.

The new Manuard design was completed in April which makes it the newest boat in the fleet. Chatting about how it was possible, bearing in mind the stringent qualification rules and huge Mini Transat waiting list, to get a place in the race Manuard said: “Because it was so complicated to qualify it was impossible to have a brand-new boat and as one of the interests of this race is to have interesting and innovative boats the event has evolved too, and they [Class Mini] stated there would be at least three places available for new boats so this is how I could qualify in such a short period of time. All I had to do was the 1,000 miles to qualify.”

The boat has a new hull shape and chines on the aft sections but the basic concept of the boat is its light weight and lateral ballast/canting keel to provide maximum power upwind. Manuard commenting on his latest design said: “The idea of the chines is to provide a good compromise to get reasonable drag for maximum power. The position of the chine is slightly emerged when you are sailing upwind. The chines allow you to draw a different section below the chine which is where you get the benefit of lower drag but more stability.”

According to Manuard, the concept of this boat was simplicity. It has a straight-forward twin spreader, cathedral mast, twin asymmetric daggerboards, two lifting rudders and a canting keel. All the control lines are led aft to the cockpit area and there’s a simple runner system with the controls led either side of the tiller. Manuard added : “I like simple things, I like the boat to be light, cheap and as easy to sail as possible.”

Although Manuard’s dream would be to go out on the racecourse and head straight to the front of the fleet he is first to admit that the line-up for this year’s event is a tough one. “It will be a very open race because we have little information about weather while we are racing. There are plenty of good sailors who are well prepared. I’ll do my best but it’s a race where you can never predict anything? I learnt that last time!”

According to the latest weather forecast competitors will enjoy a light start on Sunday in a ridge of high pressure but the north wind will then increase and go right, round to the north-east. Then about 70 miles before Cape Finisterre until about 100 miles after it is forecast to blow quite seriously – about 40kts or more – which according to Manuard, will last for two days.