The designers going to extremes to test their own creations


The Mini class is one of the few in which designers put their skills and reputations on the line to take part.

Here are two of those pushing out their boats, quite literally, on the Charente-Maritime/Bahia Transat 6.50 – the Mini Transat – from La Rochelle to Madeira and Brazil this weekend.

Above is Henri Paul Schipman, who works with designer Marc Lombard, and is aboard his own canting keel, water-ballasted prototype design. It actually won the Mini Transat outright in the last race in 2007 in the hands of Yves Le Blevec and just before it began two years ago Schipman says he woke up one morning thinking: “I have got to do the race.”

So he used the moulds from Le Blevec’s boat to build his own Mini, and this too has been his own work. It’s a meticulous job, the work of someone who is clearly a bit of a perfectionist. A young designer to watch, for sure.

Conversely, Pierre Rolland (pictured right) counts as an old hand. The tousle-haired veteran is doing his 5th Mini Transat this year, but this time in his own production design, the D2 or Dingo 2. It is a relatively light boat, built using a resin infusion method, and Rolland says he took a lot of care over the structure to save weight and make it as easy as possible to stack.

He adds that he thinks the prototypes have become too expensive and his aim in doing the race is to show the potential of a boat that doesn’t take too much time or money to prepare.

Asked how he thinks he’ll do, Rolland says his aim is for a podium place in the production class.