Three British boats qualify and secure entry for this year's Mini Transat 31/1/07

The Mini Transat – or as its officially known the Transat 6,50 Charente-Maritime / Bahia – will start from La Rochelle in France on Sunday 16 September.

This 4,200-mile transatlantic sprint for amateur sailors that takes place every other year in 21ft Class Mini yachts was first run 30 years ago and is now one of the most popular small boat events of its kind attracting young, enthusiastic sailors who see the event as a stepping stone into professional ocean racing arena. Many of the world’s top ocean racers cut their teeth in the challenging Mini Transat including the likes of Dame Ellen MacArthur, Yves Parlier, Isabelle Autissier, Patrice Carpentier, Thierry Dubois, Bernard Stamm, Brian Thompson, Jean-Luc Van den Heede and Thomas Coville.

So popular is the race that now in its 16th edition there are 141 skippers itching to make the start line. While it is not unusual to see a bulging waiting list and a certain amount of controversy over who gets and entry and who doesn’t – despite qualifying for the event – there is no doubt the waiting list is on the increase see story of how British sailor Nick Bubb qualified but failed to get an entry in 2003 here . Unfortunately, because of safety issues there is an entry limit which means many of those who’ve posted an entry will definitely not be on the start line this year. Although the entry limit has increased gradually over the last few years the organisers have taken the decision to increase the numbers from 72 as it was in 2005 to 84 which means there’ll be an extra 12 boats on the start line this year.

Although 12 extra boats doesn’t sound like it would make too much difference in the overall scheme of things apparently it’s a big step for the organisers who not only have to deal with the safety issues but logistical issues too. Apparently 12 more boats on the start line means an extra support boat bringing the total to seven boats in attendance for the duration of the race.

The British contingent already qualified and secured entries this time round include Stephen Simpson who’ll be racing a Mills 99 ProtoBlue One, David Rawlinson in a Proto – a Lang 91 design –, and Andrew Wood in a Proto Rogers 04 There’s just one on the waiting list – Alex Franklin in a Finot Pogo 05 Series.

One of the top contenders and definitely one to watch this time around will be Adrien Hardy the former French 420 sailor who finished a creditable fifth overall last time when he was just 21 year’s old. Interestingly this time he will be racing the same Magnen 97 designed ProtoBrossardthat demonstrated such exceptional speed in 2005.

When the race starts in September from Fort Boyard in La Rochelle the fleet will head on a 1,100-mile sprint to Funchall on the Portuguese island of Madeira instead of the previous route to Lanzarote.

The second leg is 3,100-miles across the Atlantic to Salvador de Bahia.