Prototype Mini Transat

It’s well understood that one of the gateways to the Open 50 and Open 60 classes for young sailors is the Mini Transat Race. Owen Clarke Design are well known for our Open 60 work, but not for the fact that we have five prototype minis on the water and that lead designer Merfyn Owen has taken part in a number of the class races in Europe over the years.

These exciting 6.5m long craft are designed for single-handed transatlantic racing and are capable of sustaining speeds in the mid ‘teens’. Owen Clarke first carried out a design in this class in 1990 for Chris Briggs, but the yacht was never built because Chris became one of the syndicate that conceived of Maverick, the open 30 we designed and built in 1992. Ahead of its time, the 1990 mini was to have had a swing keel, a feature that didn’t occur elsewhere on the race course until 1993/94.

Ian Munslow, although not a boat builder by trade, completed the build of our second mini himself over a period of 12 months at a boatyard in Plymouth UK. His project was typical of many minis, low budget, with a long lead-time and home build, or finished off by their owners. Ishtar is relatively low tech, glass sandwich construction, but with a swing keel and single gibing dagger board. Against considerable financial and logistical odds Ishtar made it to the start of the 2001 event and completed the 5000 mile race to Salvador, Brazil. Ian has gone on further to modify and improve further the performance of his boat, with a winning performance in the Demi Cle in 2003 and he completed his second Mini Transat in 2003 finishing in 14th slot overall.

A different approach was taken by Cian McCarthy, an experienced offshore sailor before he came to the mini class. He approached Owen Clarke in 2001 for a top-flight carbon sandwich design to be built by a professional builder. Launched in 2002 from Stig McDonald’s yard in Totnes, UK, Cian’s ‘The Tom Crean’ contains many of the thoughts and developments found from our work in the larger open class designs. It also represents a clear jump in our appreciation of the nuances and drivers associated with the mini class, which is in effect a box rule. As this site is written, The Tom Crean finished 5th in the first leg of 2003 race and after breaking his forestay on day 1 of leg 2, un-phased and without stopping Cian finally finished a creditable 10th overall.

An excerpt from the Daily Sail website posted on 23rd October at the completion of the 2003 Mini Transat

Positions Leg 1

Pos Sail no Skipper Boat Time Av speed
1 431 Samuel Manuard TIP TOP TOO - LE GRAU DU ROI PORT CAMARGUE 9 j 05:08:41 5.9
2 247 Jonathan Mc Kee TEAM MC LUBE + 0 j 01:59:41 5.8
3 151 Armel Tripon MOULIN ROTY + 0 j 05:38:22 5.7
4 265 Frédéric Duthil ALL MER + 0 j 07:14:56 5.7
5 393 Cian Mc Carthy THE TOM CREAN + 0 j 08:16:18 5.6
6 316 Pia L'Obry EXPATRIA.FR + 0 j 08:18:10 5.6
7 139 François Cuinet REGLISSE + 0 j 09:43:41 5.6

A man who Munslow took a tenner off on this leg - subsequently lost as they crawled through Salvadors bars on their arrival - was Irishman Cian McCarthy (above). McCarthy finished an impressive fifth on the first leg and at one point was up to sixth on the final leg. Ultimately he finished 18th in the protos on this leg and to come tenth overall on combined elapsed times - not a bad result considering that McCarthy's Mini The Tom Crean was severely disabled for the duration of leg two.

Within 24 hours of leaving Lanzarote his forestay broke. "It was a **** long race - two weeks upwind - without one, I wouldn't recommend it." McCarthy says there was a rod failure at the top of the stay. "There wasn't an incident where it went bang. Just the first morning it was hanging off my jib halyard. It was just one of those things. I've been happy with the mast all year. The rods were new this year. There is only so much you can do...

McCarthy climbed from 21st after breaking the forestay on day one to 6th on the 8th October.

1 Oct - 21st
2 Oct - 17th
3 Oct - 10th
4 Oct - 12th
5 Oct - 11th
6 Oct - 9th
7 Oct - 8th
8 Oct - 6th

Credit to Cian, given the field of Manuard, McKee, that he and his boat in their first mini together were players.This was despite the fact the foundy cast a faulty bulb that Cian accepted in order to get on the water and qualify - the boat was launched late and he had no time to loose. Having qualified with a bulb that was cast 25kg underweight Mini Classe would not let Cian add weight to his bulb in the winter and so he did all his racing with a boat that was unable to achieve the ten degrees of static heel. This is a position that has been put right for Cian as he enters the fray in the 2005 Mini Transat.

Our fourth mini was developed in conjunction with the yacht design students of Pembrokeshire College. This third year group completed the design and construction of the yacht in Wales in only one year, launching what became Portuguese sailor, Ricardo Dinez’s Gelpeixe, in 2002. Since that amazing project, the students of the college have built a second mini in 2003, a development of the first. Merfyn Owen was made a Fellow of the University of Glamorgan in recognition of Owen Clarke’s contribution to the development of the yacht design course at Pembrokeshire College and the company maintain a link to this and a number of other educational institutions in the UK.

This class remains an exciting and developmental class with a great future and one that Owen Clarke Design wish to maintain and expand their involvement alongside their Open 60 and Class 40 work.

NEW stock and custom designs available, email: Racing

Also, information on Owen Clarke's US production/series mini can be found here: Series

For an explanation of the technology behind the design process go to: NAVAL ARCHITECTURE

For an insight into our engineering and detailed design work go to: ENGINEERING

For James Boyd’s article on Munslow and McCarthy at the 2003 race finish go to:

Mini Transat Leg 1 and Mini Transat Leg 2

To review our Mini Transat page on Facebook go to:

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