Big international entry for the Mini Transat, but controversially they're not all going to get a place

Mini Transat organisers are congratulating themselves on the number of foreign entries for the race next September – 41 in total from countries such as Poland, Slovenia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Belgium and the UK. But underneath this apparent success a controversy is brewing. Like their French counterparts, many of these sailors aren’t actually going to get a place.

With nine months to go, the Mini Transat is hugely over-subscribed. Yet it’s a tough race for which to qualify. You need to have sailed 1,000 miles solo, and at least that amount in competition, which demands a long and gruelling run-up on the Mini circuit.

Despite that, by mid-December there were 143 entries, 125 of them fully qualified, for only 84 places (75 from the list and 9 wild cards). It has put the organisers in a pickle and it will disappoint and enrage some of the committed sailors who’ve worked hard to fulfil the criteria and consider they’ve earned a place.

To decide between them, entries will be ranked according to the miles raced by skippers in their boats. This year it ranges down from over 3,000 miles, weighting the Mini Transat heavily in favour of sailors who have done the race before and/or are professionals.

The resulting mix would be quite at odds with the image and tradition of the Mini Transat, and will close the door to many up and coming sailors struggling on smaller budgets and ordinary sailors looking for an adventure. Commenting in L’Express, the journalist Pierre-Yves Lautrou has called it a ‘catastrophe’.

“It is an insoluble equation,” he says, “precisely because it impossible to reconcile all the different types and profiles of the competitors who want to take part in this fantastic event.”