The Route de Rhum 60 footers are having a tough time at the moment – but imagine what it would be like in boats just 6.5 metres long. That’s the daunting prospect facing two young British sailors planning to sail in next year’s Mini Transat.

Jake Jefferis, 20 and Tobias Hochreutner, 22 grew up sailing the Solent and have chosen the Mini Transat 2003, a single-handed race covering 4,000 miles from France to Brazil in tiny, 6.5m racing machines, as a stepping stone to further their sailing careers.

Tobias, the more experienced of the two with over 60,000 ocean miles logged, says; “It’s always been a dream of mine. People like Ellen MacArthur and Nick Moloney have used the race successfully to get onto bigger and greater things so right now I think it’s a pretty natural step to take in my career.”

Jake, Britain’s youngest entry in the Mini Transat 2003, is a passionate solo sailor, he says; “I think it’s a serious challenge, the Mini Transat is probably one of the hardest ocean races and that appeals to me, I like a bit of a challenge. I’m definitely a single-handed sailor, I enjoy sailing on my own, it’s a challenge to control the whole boat, there’s a lot to do.”

The proud owner of his 21ft racing machine, designed by Mark Mills, Jake says; “My boat is as extreme as the rules will allow it to be. It’s about as fast as Minis get, it’s wider than most of the other boats, maximum depth, maximum mast height and sail area, with swinging keels and asymmetric daggerboards.” After the recent launch at Bosham Sailing Club, attended by over 300 supporters, Jake is now concentrating on finding sponsors and getting his boat up to speed ready for qualification in December.

Tobias who is running fairly late in the campaign aims to buy a boat in December and is currently putting all his time into fundraising. He sees safety as a major risk factor in the race and is cautious after the death of Roberto Varninelli in the Mini Transat 2001. He says; ” I’ve budgeted a lot of money towards reducing risk and I’m working on a system that is similar to dog collars so they don’t leave the yard. It’s the same idea, if I distance myself a certain amount from the boat my system will go off to let people know that I’ve gone overboard there and then. We’re currently working on the design of the system and we’re looking for someone to build it for us.”

Tobias and Jake both plan to do the Antibes – Tunisia race early next year, 1,700 miles – enough race miles to qualify as they only need 1,000 miles. But both agree that the more racing they can do before the race itself the better.

Both are optimistic at their chances of finishing in the top ten. Jake says; “I’m aiming for a high top ten but if I don’t get that then I’ll possibly try and do the race again with a faster boat, but I don’t know how fast my boat is yet because I haven’t raced it against anybody else.” Tobias adds; “Well if Jake is aiming for a high top ten I want to be one place ahead of him.”