Read yachtswoman Pip Hare's diary as she begins her campaign to qualify for the Mini Transat 650 in September this year

British ocean racer Pip Hare is hoping to compete in the Mini-Transat this year. The ‘mini’ 650 is a 21-foot (6.5 metre) boat, which later in the year is raced solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

It is the smallest Open Class yacht and brings the largest fleet of offshore racing yachts onto the start line – 96 in 2006. Competitors range from pure amateur to professional.

The race starts from La Rochelle, France, on 25 September 2011 and finishes off the coast of Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.

Pip has now started her ‘mini’ campaign in order to qualify. Read all about her progress here….

Saturday 15 January 2011
Back in the saddle………… and ooh it hurts

It is my third day back at CEM and training is full on in the wonderful (though apparently unseasonable) Mediterranean sunshine.

My latest purchase for the mini campaign, before leaving the UK was a fine green Mercedes Vito van – and already I have started to fit it out with a table and a bed, ready to move in and become a fully fledged mad vagrant mini sailor.

The first test for this amazing machine – named ‘The Shed for the Shed’s’ – was a mere 1000 km drive across France.

Little did I know that driving across France would also be good training for my year of solo sailing ahead, but after 400km I was suffering from a serious case of nodding donkey, so I pulled over, put my head on the steering wheel, had a quick nap for 6 tracks on the CD, then was ready to complete the rest of the journey, fresh as a daisy!

Arriving back in La Grande Motte felt like coming home, the communal kitchen at our accommodation was full of French, English, Italians; mini sailors and Figarists all talking over the top of each other, cooking, eating, gesticulating frantically – making a complete mess, and very impressed with my camionette.

The following morning we were at the gym (see pics) at 8am for a 2 hrs session of circuit training; a big shock to the system after becoming accustomed to the Christmas and new year way of life.

Most of the training this week will be theory based, and we plan to do some match racing to work on our boat on boat skills, but I have a major mission on to install my new electronics, supplied by Raymarine, whom I am now lucky enough to be an ambassador for.

My whole body is aching, my head is stuffed full and struggling to find the easily forgotten French vocab I learned before Christmas; my boat is a mess of wires and equipment.

The sun is shining – je suis tres contente!

Monday 17 January
New Toys!

I have managed to survive 4 days now of intensive physical training and slowly my poor body is getting the message, the aches and pains are disappearing and little muscles are starting to emerge again from their Christmas coverings.

My main focus for the past couple of days has been the installation of my new Raymarine autopilots and instruments.

I have upgraded all of the equipment on the boat and now have two complete stand alone pilot systems, running the GP tiller rams, one installed on each side of the boat.

My pilots are the SX5 model, which uses a gyro as well as the fluxgate compass. This is really essential for a boat as small and twitchy as the mini, as any sudden movements from the boat will affect the heading from the fluxgate compass, which can make the autopilot correct the course unnecessarily.

When the boat is moving a lot, rolling on waves or slamming, the pilot uses the fluxgate compass to give a long term overall good course and the gyro senses the small fast movements from the boat itself and corrects only where necessary, making for a much smoother ride.

The other significant improvement is the addition of a rudder reference unit which I have fitted to a tang, on my starboard rudder that comes in through the hull.

The rudder reference unit will complete the feedback loop for my pilot so it will be able to learn how rudder to use to make effective corrections to course.

The rudder reference unit has been giving me a hard time. It is the final item to install and positioning of it is critical. At the moment I have made a bracket out of plywood, just to get the pilots up and running and find the best position in the boat – later I will laminate a more professional looking version.

Last night I gave up on the installation – I was rammed into a tiny space at the back of my boat, in the dark, with a head torch on, not much room to move my arms and an array of screws, tape measures, drills and screw drivers around me, which kept falling into tiny spaces I could not reach them or moving of their own accord out of my reach.

After banging my head a couple of times and getting cramp in my neck I went home in a strop. Today however, I have returned with a don’t mess with me attitude………I am going to show that unit who is boss………just got to have a coffee first.