Nick Bubb took out a student loan to buy a Mini Transat yacht. He's now in the process of qualifying for the race which starts in September

A student loan enabled Nick Bubb to purchase an ageing Mini Transat yacht when he was just 24 years old and gain his first step on the ocean racing ladder. Now, one year on, this gutsy, up-and-coming East Coast sailor has launched a brand-new, race-winning Seb Magnen-designed Mini which could be a serious threat to the highly competitive Transat fleet.

Having had a taste of solo ocean racing during last year’s Mini Transat qualification races, and sailing the boat with co-builder Nigel Waller in the Demi Cle race, Nick decided to have a new boat built. “It was such a shame, particularly as I’d qualified for the Mini Transat in my original boat, but during this 700-mile race her lack of speed downwind really came to light. We were always in the top three or four at the start and upwind but downwind we were well off the pace.”

Fortunately for Nick, he was able to sell his old boat without too much trouble and put the money towards his new boat. And with the help of Richard Woolf, a close friend who helped out with the remainder of the money, Nick was able to start work on the second stage of his Mini Transat campaign. Having persuaded Seb Magnen to allow him to use his design, Nick comissioned Nigel [Waller] to build the plug last October. “Thankfully his plans were faultless,” said Waller. “We were amazed at the attention to detail Magnen had put in; we simply just had to follow them exactly to the last minute detail.”

Thanks to Nick, Nigel and the dedicated build team who spent the winter constructing the boat in a barn in Suffolk, ‘Northern Exposure’ was finally launched on 28 February at Levington Marina. As well as the massive support from friends and local companies Nick was fortunate in obtaining 11th hour title sponsorship from Northern Computers hence the name. “The last three weeks of building were amazing,” said Nick, “we were working 18-hour days in an effort to have her ready for the qualifiers. To do the race you have to do a 1,000-mile solo qualifier and 1,000 miles of Mini class association racing, in the boat you’re going to do the race in. I’ve qualified in the old boat so I’ve got to do all my qualifying in the new boat which is part of the reason for the rush.”

So far there are 103 entries, including seven British boats, currently preparing for this year’s Mini Transat which starts on 14 September. The majority of entries are French but there’s a fair mix of Italians, Swiss, Polish, Italians, Spanish, Swedes, Norwegians, and Americans. Interestingly, as well as Nick, there’ll be a large young contingent taking part, including 21-year-old Jake Jefferis sailing a Mark Mills design, 21-year-old Swiss sailor Tobias Hochreutener, and the 26-year-old Swede, Eskil Degsell sailing a Marc Lombard-designed 6.5m.