Please select your home edition
RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Mini 6.50 class innovation over the years

by Robin Clegg 14 Sep 09:16 PDT
Mini 6.50 class racing © Christophe Breschi /

For over 40 years, Classe Mini has proved a testing ground for the next generation of professional sailors and innovations in boat design. Competing alongside the production class, the prototype class has enabled the introduction of future concepts to offshore sailing and set new standards for construction.

Whilst Yannick Bestaven, Thomas Ruyant and Ian Lipinski all earned their racing stripes here before going on to win major offshore honours, cutting edge designs, systems and techniques have also had a huge impact upon offshore sailing and the wider sailing community.

For the 2021 season, 90 boats are taking part in a prototype class whose roots can be traced back to the very first Mini Transat in 1977 when Spaniel came second with the then groundbreaking twin-rudder system.

By the second edition, in 1979, a dozen prototypes were on the start line, including American Express which proved the use of fixed keels with water ballast in offshore racing. A specific prototype category was then introduced two years later by founder Bob Salmon.

In 1985 Aquitaine showcased the honeycomb hull (made from kevlar and carbon), a carbon mast, lifting rudders and textile guying. In the 1990's, Speedy Pym introduced the longitudinal movement or sliding keel.

Interviewed in 2012, Salmon said his motivation for creating the Mini Transat was to give smaller boats with smaller budgets the opportunity to take part in great offshore sailing races and their size could also give rise to new innovations.

He said: "The class has always been a development class and because of the lower costs, it is possible to develop technology more quickly and we've seen it go into the Open 60s so it's been very impressive."

For some the SCOW hull design remains the innovation which has had the greatest impact, revolutionising the sport. The round shaped design, which has influenced both Class40 and the IMOCA 60s, was first adapted for offshore racing within Classe Mini. In 2011, David Raison's 'Magnum' famously adopted the hull design to win that year's Mini Transat before it became more commonplace in the sailing world.

Joël Gaté, a Classe Mini veteran of over 20 years, has long been a fan of the design. He said: "The round shape gave an incredible increase in speed, not to mention comfort, as the skipper could almost remain dry, something previously unheard of on a wide boat. The concept quickly gained admirers and imitators on the mini circuit before being exported into Class40, amongst others."

In her first season in the class, Camille Bertel onboard Marara, who works as a skipper for Lalou Multi, decided to enter the prototype division because of the complex challenges it offered.

She said: "I really like the idea of constantly challenging myself to find solutions and look for ways to go just a little bit faster and improve the versatility of the boat. There are always new avenues to explore and you forge a bond with the boat. Sometimes the changes are small but can have a big impact on performance."

Recently, the Classe Mini board have formed a Sustainable Development Commission to reduce its environmental impact, offer advice to class members and liaise with the wider sailing world.

They have developed a long list of actions event organisers and competitors can take to 'green' their events by reducing waste, reusing old materials and a specific commission which is partnering with MerConcept and Quantis to develop Life Cycle Analysis tools to examine ways to reduce the environmental footprint of the design, build, use and eventual end of life of boats. These will then be communicated in collaboration with La Vague, the Lorient-based eco-sailing collective.

The class also boasts 25 nationalities taking part and the highest percentage of women within the sport of sailing. A roster of previous Classe Mini competitors includes Ellen MacArthur, Isabelle Autissier, Sam Davies, Isabelle Joschke and Clarisse Crémer.

Jean Lorre, Mini class president, said: ""Since its inception, sustainability and diversity have been integral elements. Female sailors have played a prominent role in the class and we actively encourage their participation and want to create role models for others to believe they could also take part and use our inclusive class and use it as a stepping stone to a professional career if they choose to."

Related Articles

Polyphasic sleep management
How to get the rest required during the Global Solo Challenge Polyphasic sleep management when sailing single-handed is one of those aspects that terrorises each and every sailor who has not yet sailed by themselves. It is not a simple subject to deal with and requires plenty of practice. Posted on 6 Jun
Tom Dolan happy with position and course
Lying ninth in the Transat en Double Concarneau - Saint Barthélemy race Racing on Breizh Cola with French ace Gildas Mahé, Ireland's Tom Dolan reported today that he is happy with their positioning on the Transat en Double Concarneau - Saint Barthélemy fleet. Posted on 17 May
A full calendar for the Mini 6.50 season
Following Mediterranean races, the action has switched to the Atlantic coast The Mini class has long been a proving ground for up and coming offshore sailors with an ambition to graduate to larger offshore classes. And despite COVID restrictions, organisers have compiled a full calendar for the Mini 6.50 season. Posted on 27 Apr
World capital of single-handed ocean racing
Les Sables d'Olonne is now preparing to welcome you for the next great adventures Port Olona, with its high-quality infrastructures, the infamous channel that so many great sailors have sailed through, the South-facing bay and the Atlantic ocean landing its waves to the expansive beach... Posted on 24 Mar
Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image of the Century
French photographer Gilles Martin-Raget announced as the winner The international jury decided to honour the French photographer Gilles Martin-Raget and his image of the Orma 60 Fujifilm II trimaran, taken during the Course des Phares 2002. Posted on 24 Nov 2020
Class Xero combines coffee and epoxy
A bio-sustainable Mini Transat design Craig Palmer, based in Worthing, is looking at opportunities to bring the marine industry together in a collaborative way. In the middle of building a sustainable ocean-going yacht Class Xero he's using PRO-SET® epoxy. Posted on 19 Oct 2020
MailASail OSTAR and TWOSTAR race announcement
8 months to go to the 'original' With eight months to go, the Royal Western Yacht Club would like to formally invite all past competitors and as many new adventurers to enter and join us as we formally celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first race. Posted on 10 Sep 2020
Mini-Transat La Boulangère Leg 2 final curtain
78 sailors safely in port! At sea, the arrival of the final competitor, Georges Kick, on Saturday night through into Sunday, marked the official closure of the finish line for this second leg of the Mini-Transat La Boulangère 2019 Posted on 26 Nov 2019
North Sails Weekly Debrief
RC44 Season Champions, #NSVictoryList: Mini-Transat Igor Lah's 3Di powered Ceeref seals the deal in the series finale after taking four bullets to win them the tiebreaker and the 2019 season title. Posted on 24 Nov 2019
Classe Minis and Ultim tris negotiate the Atlantic
Plus a newly elected face on US Sailing's Board of Directors While the sailing world's attention has been riveted to the 4,335 nautical mile Transat Jacques Vabre (TJV) race, two other important offshore events have also been unfurling, namely the Mini-Transat La Boulangère race and the Brest Atlantiques race. Posted on 19 Nov 2019
Sea Sure 2021 - RED - FOOTERGet My Boat 2021 FOOTERSelden 2020 - FOOTER