Biggest ever entry to race Transat 6,50 Charente-Maritime/Bahia starting on Sunday 12/9/07

There is now just four days to go before the start of the 16th edition of the biennual Transat 6,50 Charente-Maritime/Bahia – the tough, amateur/semi-professional race formerly known as the Mini Transat.

At 1100 next Sunday morning a total of 84 competitors, representing 16 nations including two from the UK (see interview with Andrew Wood here) plus nine women skippers, sailing Open 6,50s will line up on the Fort Boyard start line off La Rochelle in France for the 16th edition of the race – exactly 30 years after it was first created.

This 4,200-mile solo race which is split into two legs (La Rochelle-Madeira/Madeira-Brazil) and sailed for in small, powerful, hi-tech racing yachts is one of the world’s toughest ocean races. However, the stringent qualification process which runs over a two-year cycle means the standard of competition is exceptionally high.

Although the overall formula and the spirit of this race has changed little since its inception in 1977, with the aim to provide the opportunity for everyone, particularly amateurs with low budgets, to race, the format has evolved over the years notably the number of entries. In 1999 the entry hit an all time high with 70 boats on the startline.

The last event (2005) the entry was limited to 72 but this year the organiser have upped the limit to 84. But there is still, even at this late stage, a waiting list including Yves Le Blevec (currently third on the list) one of the class favourites.

When the fleet leaves Fort Boyard on Sunday morning they’ll head off across the Gascoigne Gulf and down the coast of Portugal where’ll they’ll hopefully catch the Portuguese trade winds. The estimated time of the first arrivals into Funchal (Madeira Islands) is Friday 21 September. The restart for the second leg is 6 October.

Keep an eye onyachtingworld.comfor news as it happens from the start at La Rochelle and during the race.