The Mini 6.50 races are the testing ground for both sailors and designers whose goal is the professional ocean races like the Vendée Globe and the Volvo. It provided the initial testing for many innovations, among them the canting keel, double rudders and carbon fibre masts. There are two groups in the race – series production boats (at least 10 must have been built) and prototypes. Clearly, a high-tech 21 foot ocean racer is not going to be cheap, but $50,000-odd is something an amateur with the skill to attract sponsorship can afford, unlike the going rate of around a million for a new Ocean 60.
Women such as Ellen MacArthur and Sam Davies cut their teeth on the Mini Transat, and 6 out of this year’s 84 starters are women.
Dee Caffari was a teacher until the ocean sailing bug bit her and she became a professional yacht skipper. Here’s a French girl who also flipped while pursuing a mundane career on land.
Growing up in Les Sables d’Olonne, willowy blonde Fabienne Robin can’t have missed the excitement generated by the Figaro and the Vendée Globe, but sailing wasn’t a big thing for her. In 2004 she was happily following her career as an accountant when a member of the local yacht club advertised for people to form part of a racing crew. She applied without any real idea of what it would entail.
She was accepted, and that was her epiphany. She gave up her job, and by 2007 had obtained her professional skipper’s ticket. A year later, she’d bought a Pogo 1 and raced in a number of Mini 6.50 events.
She seems given to snap decisions – which she says have always worked out well. In 2008, she saw the moulds for Pierre Roland’s D2 before any had been built. She decided that was the boat for her, and ordered one. Hers was the second, after Rolland’s own boat which he raced in the Charente Maritime Bahia Transat 6.50. Once it was built, she did two or three Mini 6.50 events per year, so she’s now one of the class’s experienced skippers.
The boat has no main sponsor, so it carries the name she gave it – Plume d’Ange. This haunting song (monologue, really) was recorded by Claude Nougaro in 1977, the year before she was born. I’d love to know why she named her boat after it.
If you are rich and love the ocean, you can change the name of Fabienne’s boat. But for only 50 euros you can have your name displayed less prominently – as long as you do it before 25 September. Why not? It would make a change from spending the evening in the pub, and give you something to talk about. It could also give your business a bit of useful publicity. Here is a list of current sponsors.
To tell Fabienne the name or phrase you want her to display on the boat, click here. You can also pay by cheque if you insist.