Andrew Wood, new British hope for Mini Transat, prepares for Open Demi-cle later this week 14/5/07

Andrew Wood, one of the brightest, new British hopes for this year’s Mini Transat, has already started to make a name for himself in the Transat 6.50 fleet.

Thirty-three-year-old Wood from Penzance, Cornwall has only seriously been on the Mini Transat scene for a couple of years but some successful decisions along the way, including purchasing a Rogers-designed prototype from Nick Bubb (Whittlebury Hall) following the 2005 event, has put him in good stead for the 2007 event which starts from La Rochelle, France on 16 September.

Wood, who has at least 100,000nm miles under his belt from a life of racing and cruising, and who holds certificates for RYA Yachtmaster Ocean (commercial), RCC Seamanship medal, RYA Yachtmaster of the Year, and MICA Musto Cruising Award, has spent the last two years racing and training in an effort to fulfil his ambition of becoming the first British sailor ever to win the Mini Transat. While Wood understands winning the Mini Transat is going to be a tough one to crack, his experience, determination and recent racing form – an 11th in the 300-mile solo, Mini Pornichet Select 6,50 – are all the right ingredients.

Commenting on last season’s event – one year into his campaign Wood said: “My first race in the Proto fleet – the Pornichet Select 6,50 – I came in 15th followed by a 12th position in the Trophy MAP. In the Azores and back race, I managed to keep in and around the top 10 all the way to the Azores before I collided with the Whale, severely damaging my keel, but still managed 9th position under reduced sails. On the return leg I lost my spreader and had to sail half the course under storm sails. My overall finishing position ended up being a disappointing 23rd!”

Thanks to Domo Sofa for signing up as title sponsor a year ago, and a list of subsidiary sponsors such as Musto supporting him in his campaign, Wood has been able to concentrate his efforts full time on training, qualifying and winning an entry to this year’s 4,400-mile transatlantic blast to Brazil. But before then he has some serious racing lined up including the Open Demi-cle 6,50 – the 200nm double-handed race from Locmiquelic (Lorient) to Douarnenez – later this week.

Wood and his crew [Sue Pelling, yes, I’m joining Woody for this one!] are the sole British entries for this race. Fully subscribed with over 70 entries Wood says this one’s going to be a real form indicator, commenting: “There’ll be some good people there with some using it as a qualifier for the 2009 event.” Interestingly, the other British entry in this year’s Mini Transat – Dave Rawlinson on his 1992 Lucas design – won’t be racing at the Demi-cle, although Nick Bubb will be, co-skippering the Australian entry Wombat with Tom Braidwood. Braidwood has the same design as Wood so it will be interesting to see how they compare.

When Bubb owned Wood’s boat she had a carbonfibre, rotating wing mast. However, Wood has opted for regular carbonfibre section and while taking weight off the mast he’s lightened the keel bulb. “Generally the boat is lighter since Bubb had it,” added Wood, “the rig may even be half the weight of the rig Bubb had on. I’ve also modified the rudder system. They now both pop up if I hit something and I’ve increased the length of the blades. I did this because I found she lost grip.”

So, with some big winds still beating the Brittany coast it looks like the Demi-cle is going to be a fairly exciting ride. Keep an eye on for further Transat 6,50 news. Click here for Andrew Wood’s Mini Transat website.