Nick Brennan is one of two Australians lining up on the Mini Transat startline on Sunday 14/9/07

Nick Brennan from Sydney in Australia has been training for this year’s Transat 6,50 Charente-Maritime/Bahia for over a year joining fellow Australian competitor Tom Braidwood in 572Wombat.

Brennan bought his boat (419)Rafikifrom British sailor Phil Sharp just after the last event where Sharp finished a creditable fourth overall. The boat has certainly proved itself among some of the more modern, newer generation boats, and if more recent results are anything to go by (7th Azores and Back last year, and seventh in this year’s epic Transgascogne Race from 70 boat fleets) Brennan could be one to watch out for in the 4,200-mile Atlantic dash.

Chatting about the Transgascogne when he finished seventh Brennan recalls the extreme conditions, the sort of conditions the Mini Transat crews are likely to expect when they start the race on Sunday: “The first leg we saw 50kts of breeze which wasn’t really forecast, we were looking more at 35-40kts. The seas in Biscay, over the Continental Shelf in the very strong breeze were extremely steep with lots of breaking waves. That caused a lot of problems throughout the fleet. There were six boats in the race that ended up rolling, just hit by big breaking waves, all dismasted and there were various levels of rescue and self rescue. Some managed to rig jury rigs, a couple of boats started sinking, one of the skippers was knocked out, a couple airlifted off. It wasn’t ideal in the run-up to the Transat.”

So how are you feeling with just two days to go? Brennan continued: “A bit nervous but the boat’s finally prepared and the last couple of days now I’ll be taking it a bit easy. I’ve spent every day for the last six weeks working on the boat. All I need to do now is pack food onboard and seal the batteries and liferafts and then I’ll be there. I’m hoping to go for a little sail today, if the organisers allow it, just to check everything works but I have to write a letter to the race director asking permission.”

The latest forecast for Sunday’s start is looking fairly light from the east, hard upwind but a cold front is coming through across the North Atlantic so that’s going to hit on the second day: “The forecast is currently saying 25-30kts but because we’ve got to go round Finnistere there’s usually a local acceleration of wind there because of the high coastline on that Iberian Peninsular so we could easily see quite a lot of seas just over the edge of the Continental Shelf, so as the Velux 5 Ocean Race skippers found out last year, it’s a pretty nasty area to be when there a lot of breeze.”

Among the Australian contingent here in La Rochelle, helping out Brennan as shore crew, is Andy Doolan. Doolan picked up the Mini Transat bug in 2003 and interestingly has managed to purchase Ellen MacArthur’s former Mini Transat boat with the aim to compete in the 2009 event. Doolan commented: “I was fortunate enough to come across the boat about 18 months ago in Australia. She was in need of a lot of TLC. I spent the best part of 12 months restoring her. She’s now looking good and back on the water. I’ve yet to do my first solo in her yet though, so I’m looking forward to that.”