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Vaikobi 2024 LEADERBOARD

An update interview with Ambre Hasson about her Classe Mini campaign

by David Schmidt 25 May 08:00 PDT May 30– June 1, 2024
Ambre Hasson sailing On the Road Again II (618) as she prepares for the 2025 Mini Transat © Nora Havel

The saying goes that if you want to be a writer, go to New York; if you want to be a skier, go to Colorado. In the sailing world, it’s fair to say that if you want to be a Classe Mini skipper, you should go to Lorient, France and immerse yourself in the area’s rich culture of solo offshore sailing and its deep racing circuit. This is exactly what American Ambre Hasson has done as she prepares to race her Finot-Conq-designed prototype Classe Mini, On the Road Again II (618) in the 2025 Mini Transat.

These preparations include five doublehanded or solo races in 2024.

In April, the 31-year-old skipper raced doublehanded in the 250 nautical-mile Plastimo Lorient Mini (April 4) with co-skipper Albain Pouliquen. In May, she sailed in the 500 nautical-mile Mini en Mai 2024 (May 20).

Next up is the doublehanded, 600 nautical-mile Mini Fastnet (June 9).

Then, in July, Hasson will race 2,600 nautical miles alone in the Sables - Les Açores - Sables 2024 (July 19).

All up, this equates to 3,950 nautical miles of racing (as the seagull flies), of which more than 3,000 nautical miles will be sailed singlehanded. Factor in some deliveries and practice sails, and it’s safe to say that Hasson is living the ex-pat Classe Mini experience.

This is the second of four interviews with the American Classe Mini skipper as she prepares for next year’s singlehanded, 4,020 nautical mile Mini Transat. (The first interview can be found here: www.sail-world.com/news/272800/Ambre-Hasson-on-her-Classe-Mini-campaign)

I caught up with Hasson, via email, to learn more about her ongoing campaign.

It’s been a little while since we last corresponded. What are the biggest lessons that you learned in the Plastimo Lorient Mini?

The PLM was the first true test to ensure everything on the boat was reliable, and it was amazing that we had no technical problems. It was also a chance to compare the boat's performance in different conditions.

I realized I was slower and lower upwind than expected, so I've spent the last month working on trimming my sails flatter, leveraging the daggerboards, adjusting the mast rake, and fine-tuning my steering.

These seemingly minute adjustments have made a huge difference, and I absolutely love it when the boat finds its groove.

Building on that last question, how do you plan to capitalize on these lessons for the upcoming Mini en Mai and the two-handed Mini Fastnet?

I'm getting quite comfortable with maneuvers on the boat.

To give you context, during my first training, the coach instructed the series boats to do five tacks while I was told to do just one on my proto. Now, I can focus more on optimizing speed and fine-tuning settings, which is quite enjoyable.

I notice that of the three events that you’re racing ahead of your main 2024 goal—the solo, 2,600 nautical-mile Sables - Les Açores - Sables (2,600nm solo)—are two-handed races. Why not concentrate on more solo racing? Or, are you learning more by sailing TH?

It's important to balance solo and two-handed sailing. Solo sailing helps me manage myself alone at sea, which is crucial. That’s the main goal of the 1000nm solo qualifier that I also have to do this year.

However, sailing with others allows me to learn from their strengths and philosophies, accelerating my learning curve.

To date, what’s been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced in your campaign, and how did you get through this crux?

Time management and setting priorities have been the biggest challenges. As a skipper, I juggle training, boat work, navigation preparation, sponsor engagement, racing, exercising, and logistics.

Fortunately, I have amazing people around me who help manage the project and keep me focused on the right priorities.

Have you made any changes to your sail inventory or how you rig the boat in light of your last races? What about how you sail the boat?

I've started adjusting the mast rake, which initially terrified me. My wing mast is held by two constrictor cleats, allowing me to change the rake at sea, under sail. It's been fascinating to see how this affects the boat's behavior.

My sail inventory remains the same, but I need a solution for strong downwind conditions as I lack a reef in my medium spinnaker, and [I] don't have a Code 5.

I’ve got to imagine that breathing the same air as the other Mini sailors probably lends itself to some cool IP sharing. Can you please tell us about any cool tricks or hacks that you’ve learned about sailing alone offshore from the Mini community?

Absolutely, the Mini community is full of impressive sailors. One old-school trick I found cool is to throw your lines in the water behind the boat before opening the cleats for the halyard and tack line when dousing the kite. This prevents kinks blocking in the cleats and provides enough drag to grab the kite before it falls into the water.

What’s it like, being on the starting line of a Mini race? Also, what are competition levels like in this fleet, compared to racing that you’ve done Stateside or in other classes of boats?

The energy at the start is infectious! With 80-100 boats starting simultaneously, it's quite sporty. The competition levels vary, and given the long race duration, you need to balance a good start with boat preservation.

Unfortunately, we usually see one or two collisions at the start, which often means [seeing someone] returning to the dock.

Is there anything else about your first two events that you’d like to add, for the record?

Starting the season on this tiny speed machine has been a blast—I learn something new every day. Sharing my adventures online with young sailors is incredibly rewarding.

I owe this privilege to my sponsors who believe in resilience, boldness, and authenticity. We're currently looking for additional sponsors to finish the season, offering international visibility and a shared commitment to these values.

[Editor's note: Hasson's website is www.ambresails.com, her email address is ambre@ambresails.com, and her Instagram handle is @ambre_sails.]

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