This weekend, a new British offshore duo is hoping to cause an uproar in the Class Mini circuit, as 2013 Artemis Offshore Academy Mini skipper Nikki Curwen and Academy Graduate sailor Ollie Bond join forces for the Grand Premio d’Italia.
The British hopefuls, Mini sailors Nikki Curwen and Ollie Bond
As the single British team and female skipper, Nikki and co-skipper Ollie will be amongst 28 Mini racing duos primed and ready to start the 540nm double-handed race from Genova, Italy at 11:00 BST on Saturday 13th April, that is if the fleet are gifted with one vital sailing ingredient – wind!
The 540nm Gran Premio d'Italia around the islands of the Med
'The current course runs 540nm from Genova, Italy passing marks on the islands of Capri, Boa delle Caletta of Sardinia, between Giannutri and Giglio and, finally, the island of Elba before finishing in back in Genova,' detailed Nikki.
'However, the forecast for the weekend is showing top speeds of five knots. The exact course will be decided on race day and may be shortened to allow for the light winds forecasted.'
Nikki Curwen looks forward to the season ahead
The double-handed Gran Premio d’Italia is the second race in Nikki’s calendar this year and the first competitive race since completing her Mini Transat 1000nm solo qualifying passage on Tuesday, 2nd April. Teaming up with experienced Mini sailor and 2012 Academy Figaro Graduate Ollie is an exciting prospect for Nikki: 'I'm really looking forward to sailing with Ollie for the week long race. This will be the first race we have done together and my first double-handed Mini race. I'm hoping I can learn a lot from Ollie as he has already completed the Mini Transat 6.50 in 2009 and knows the boat inside out.
'Ollie has been officially nicknamed ‘the weight police’, with the boat now completely stripped and any unnecessary weight having been removed. Because we are racing double handed, we can afford to take a few more risks and carry less spares and repairs.' Read Nikki’s pre-race blog in full here.
Academy graduate Ollie Bond is an experienced Mini sailor
Ollie continued: 'It’s four years since I last sailed a Mini and I’m keen to get back out on the circuit. Nikki had a great result in her first race of the season, finishing seventh Series boat and 15th overall and, hopefully, together we can do even better in this race.'
As well as being the only British entry, Nikki is the only female to skipper a boat in the race: 'It feels great to be representing Britain and is also quite motivating for me being part of the new generation and one of the few females in solo offshore sailing to be following in the footsteps of Ellen MacArthur who started out in the Class Mini.'
Following Saturday’s 540-mile Gran Premio d’Italia, Nikki will have just one more race, the 290 mile Fuel Cell Systems UK Solent 6.50 race starting on the 5th May, to complete before she will have accumulated all of her 1000 race miles and 1000 solo passage miles needed to qualify for the 2013 Mini Transat 6.50, her main goal for the season that will see Nikki tackle the Atlantic, alone, in one very small boat.
Track Nikki and Ollie during the Gran Premio d'Italia here and via our website.