A longtime dream is fuelling these sailor's transatlantic ambitions


The three British skippers taking part in the Mini Transat were photographed earlier this week by Thierry Martinez . It shows Ollie Bond (right) with Andrew Wood (centre) and Keith Willis (left).

They’ve all arrived here by different routes. Andrew Wood (36), otherwise known as Woody, is a delivery skipper from Penzance. Competent and easygoing, he has accumulated a vast number of sea miles and is considered a seriously good seaman. Six years ago he sailed his father’s boat round the world and through the North West Passage, then decided Mini racing was for him.

This is his second Mini Transat. His Simon Rogers-designed prototype is unusual in having a keel that not only cants but can move fore and aft, and it has a canting daggerboard. In 2007 he blew his spinnakers and had problem with keel flutter and is back to see if he can do better.

“I want to get into the top ten overall and I think that’s realistic,” he says. “I’m quietly quite confident because I know the boat, I’ve sailed 15,000 miles in it, I know the conditions from doing so many deliveries and I am practical and good at keeping things going.”

Keith Willis counts as one of the older skippers, aged 48. His been into Minis since 1997 and was Ellen MacArthur’s co-skipper all those years ago when she first sampled Mini racing. He works as a computer engineer and is doing his first Mini Transat in a Pogo 2.

“I’ve always wanted to do a transatlantic race since my father did the 1968 OSTAR and I wanted to do one that is very competitive. In this race there are 84 people and no also-rans,” he says.

The other attraction is the range of skills demanded in this class. “You have to know about electronics, sailmaking, rigging, splicing, boatbuilding, engineering, how to put a boat together – it’s a massive knowledge base but there is also a massive knowledge share between skippers on the dockside,” he says.

Willis’s aim is to finish in the top 20 of the series class.

You can follow the race when it starts tomorrow on the official site by clicking here.