Clipper Race First Mate Takes on Mini Transat

24 September 2021

Whilst the Clipper Race is renowned for training people with no previous sailing experience to become ocean racers, the event also provides challenges and new skills to more experienced sailors; including its professional Race Skippers and First Mates.

Many of these professionals have utilised their experience from circumnavigating the globe, to progress their careers within the sailing industry. Most famous would be Race Skipper alumni, Alex Thomson, who was the youngest skipper to win the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 1996. Along with breaking and holding multiple records as a yachtsman, he has also finished third and second in the Vendée Globe.

A familiar face in the current edition of the Clipper Race is Hugo Picard, known to his 126k subscribers on YouTube as The Sailing Frenchman. Hugo is taking part in the Mini Transat, a single handed transatlantic race that takes place every two years and which starts this weekend.

The Mini Transat is known to be one of the most challenging single-handed events due to the small size of the high performance boats (6.5m) and the high speeds they’re capable of reaching. It is also known to be an incubator of professional single-handed ocean racers. Taking a look at the 2020-21 Vendée Globe, 18 competitors had competed in at least one Mini Transat.

During his preparations for this ocean race, Hugo, shared details about his upcoming endeavour.

Talking about different ocean racing events, Hugo said: “The sea applies the same rules to everyone regardless of which boat you are on. It's the same spirit whether you do the Clipper Race, the Vendee Globe or the Mini Transat, you face the same constraints once you are out there.

“Being comfortable living at sea and being offshore for an extended period of time is something you don’t realise that takes its toll. It's a mind process. When you go out on the water and you know it is going to be long and hard, then your brain kind of switches into a mode that is much more comfortable. Because then your body just adapts to this new reality much faster and that is definitely something I have perfected during the Clipper Race and that is really useful today.”

Having crossed the Atlantic both on his own boat and then with the Clipper Race as the AQP on board Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, Hugo is aiming to be competitive within the 90 strong Mini Transat field of skippers. His class is divided into two categories of boats; series and prototypes. Hugo’s boat, built in 2020, number 1014 and named SVB Team, is a ‘series’, one of 65 in the division. With a focus on performance, he posted some strong results during the 2020 preliminary races, seeing top ten finishes and culminating in him winning the Trophée Marie-Agnès Péron in the last race of the season.

As a fierce competitor, Hugo has helped his Clipper 2019-20 Race team, Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, to its current position of second on the overall leaderboard. His fellow First Mate, Mike Miller, friend and opponent as AQP on Unicef, said: “What an extraordinary guy! The first thing that strikes you is his luxurious facial hair, which grows so fast he seems to be able to re-style it completely almost every week.“But that doesn’t do justice to this multifaceted individual. Clearly he is a good sailor too. Self reliant, capable and, annoyingly for us as his competitors, rather fast! I wish him all the best for the Mini Transat. From what I have seen he has built a very comprehensive programme, has a well prepared boat and has managed to get a lot of miles in and therefore has got to know the boat and ironed out any niggles. He will do really well, I am sure.”

With all at the Clipper Race wishing Hugo the best of luck in his Mini Transat campaign, Clipper Race Director, Mark Light, said on behalf of the team: “You are a top sailor, well prepared and at ease on the ocean. I know you will have a great race and we are all behind you. Sail fast, stay safe and enjoy!”

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Founder of the Clipper Race and the first person to sail around the world solo and non-stop, added: “Well done getting to the start line and now show everyone what a good sailor you are.”

To follow and support Hugo during his Mini Transat campaign check out his skippers page.

If you would like more information about taking part in the Clipper Race and potentially kick starting your own sailing career, sign up to one of our Discovery Webinars.

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