A Basic Guide to Mini Transat Boats

AbilynRacing.com has been up for a few days now.  If you've checked out our site, then you know that our weapon of choice is a Pogo 2 Mini Transat designed by renowned naval architect Groupe Finot.  We here at Abilyn Racing wanted to give you an introduction into these fascinating boats.

Mini Transat boats (Mini 6.50s) arose based on an idea in the late 1970s of a mini-transatlantic race to promote affordable offshore solo racing.  These races over the years have started from England and various locations in France, and have ended in the West Indies or Brazil.  Mini Transat boats have been designed as sleds that are optimized to surf downwind in the Westerly trades.

Over time, Mini Transat boats have evolved into ocean racing machines that are frequently used (at least by European sailors) as platforms to campaigns in larger boats such as Class 40s or IMOCA 60s.  Mini Transat boats are 21 feet (6.50 m) in length and designed to a strict "box rule," which limits the overall size of the boat.  Within the box rule, designers are free to push the limits of innovation, and the European Mini Class (Classe Mini), which oversees organized Mini racing--is a veritable breeding ground of marine innovation.

The Classe Mini is divided into two classes:  prototypes ("protos") and series (production) boats.  According to Jerome Sammarcelli (builder of USA 829), the protos often take advantage of the box rule by using exotic materials such as carbon fiber to create decks, hulls, rudders, and spars that have a high strength-to-weight ratio, which allows for the use of taller masts, deeper keels, and more sail area.  Innovations first made in the prototype class have trickled into larger ocean-racing yachts.  

Series boats are subject to limitations imposed by Classe Mini beyond the box rule, in part, to promote participation.  In order to race in the production boat class, critical mass must be achieved--at least 10 boats must be built.  Unlike protos, exotic building materials are prohibited in series boats:  spars must be made of aluminum; and the structure, deck, and hull are made of polyester resin.  The result is still a boat that is strong, fast off the breeze, and able to cover thousands of miles sometimes in upwards of 20 knots of boat speed.

Abilyn is a Pogo 2 series boat designed by Groupe Finot and built in the United States by Open Sailing USA.  The Pogo 2 has achieved tremendous success in the Classe Mini racing circuit, including in the fabled Mini Transat.  Although Minis are not nearly as prevalent in the United States as they are in Europe, Abilyn is one of four Minis in the NYC metropolitan area, and part of a number of other Minis up and down the east coast of the United States and in Canada.  We hope that our sister ships will be competing along side of us if we make it to the starting line of the Bermuda 1-2.

Mini designs are quite diverse, even in the "series" class.  Besides the Pogo 2, other popular "series" designs today include:

We are eagerly awaiting the first sea trial of the highly anticipated Pogo 3 being built by Pogo Structures in France.

You can find more information on Mini 6.50s at the resources below:

And here are some videos highlighting some kick-ass Mini sailing:

Benoit Marie winning the 2013 Mini Transat in the Proto class.

Team Fondation-Terrevent.org.  No. 719 (proto).

Winter training aboard No. 667 (proto).

Minis screaming along under Code 5.