It was a strange feeling not to have a boat to care and worry about. Without Mem Pas Peur I felt I no longer had a purpose to fill in my limited spare time. When I was a boat owner, I had a constant list of things that I wanted to do on the boat, small projects to improve its sailing or comfort. When these vanished, I started feeling restless, a bit depressed, as if all of a sudden all my sailing dreams were cancelled.
This situation could not be tolerated for long and despite Cristiana’s reluctance, I started searching for my next boat. I thought that at least the searching part would reignite my imagination. I was not yet prepared to buy a new boat, but with each new discovery I pictured myself sailing it alone, studying its special features and thinking about how I would gybe, raise or douse the spinnaker, take in reefs while in a blow. It was a fun exercise that gave me a sense of direction and purpose while allowing me to start dreaming BIG – with a small boat no longer than 6.5 m in length and 3 m in width I could cross oceans and take part in the famous Mini Transat race organised every two years!
Thus I focused solely on minis, extremely fast sailing boats built for downwind sailing. The mini races were first organised at the end of the 1970s and the first Mini Transat took place in 1977. Since then Classe Mini has become very popular in Western Europe, representing the smallest or entry-level single-handed offshore racing class (the other offshore racing classes for monohulls are Figaro, Class 40 and Imoca).
In the 1990s the technical features of the boats became standardized under a box-rule that stipulated that all boats should fit into a box 6.5 m long, 3 m wide and 12 m high. Furthermore the boats were split in two different classes, a series class with more drastic requirements that should allow for a fairly equal racing among the skippers, and a proto class that had more lax requirements under the box rule and which over the years became the hotbed of innovation for new technologies (such as carbon rigging, canting keels, water ballasts, rotating masts and foils, to name only some of the most important ones that made a profound impact on the development of the current offshore race machines).
Picking a second hand Mini was not an easy task. There were many choices available on the market, from the most recent Pogo 3s and Ofcets, to protos from the 1980s. As always, the most important constraint for me was the budget – I wanted to buy the new boat with the money I got for Mem Pas Peur. However I decided to take a good look at the entire market and see how the existing models were spread over a budget line. The situation I discovered was the following:
- 3rd generation series boats – the already mentioned Pogo 3s and Ofcets, the fastest minis in the series class, built after 2012. The cheapest ones available costed more than 60,000 EUR – completely out of the question for me.
- 2nd generation series boats – Pogo 2s, still the most popular boat in the class, prices started from 25,000-30,000 EUR. A well equipped Pogo 2 ready for a Transat could be over 40,000 EUR. Thus they costed almost double my budget. From the same generation, there were Gintos, Tip-Tops and Zeros, their prices varying between 20,000 and 30,000 Euros, depending on their equipment list. They were all excellent boats matching the performance of the Pogo 2, but being built by smaller shipyards, you could find them in smaller numbers. In terms of design, I really liked the Zero a lot and came very close to buying one in July… But eventually Cris brought me back to my senses and I cancelled the trip to La Rochelle at the last minute.
- Protos from 2000-2005 – you could find boats in very good shape up to 20,000 EUR, but all of them were one-off examples built with exotic materials. In general they were faster than most of the series boats built until 2012 and costed about half their price for the same or a better performance. Nonetheless everything costed more after the initial purchase plus it was much more difficult to find the needed parts. In the fall I also got very close to buying a proto, but refrained at the last minute when I received a positive answer from the owner of a Pogo 1.
- 1st generation series boats – from this category there were only two models still racing in the mini circuit: Pogo 1 (or Pogo 6,50 as it was originally named), the first successful mini sailboat to be produced on a large scale by the Structures shipyard (actually Pogo Structures launched their business in 1995 with this model, now being at the forefront on building racing boats for the Mini Classe and Class 40), and the Super Calin. The prices of these boats ranged between 12,000 and 20,000 Eur depending on their inventory and overall maintenance.
I did most of the research using the small adds section of the mini classe website and the French adds website https://www.leboncoin.fr because most Minis in the world are found in France.
Thus my Mini market analysis came to a conclusion and decided that the only feasible option for me is to try to buy a series boat from the 1st generation, either a Pogo 6,50 or a Super Calin. I looked hard at both models and tried to dig as much information as I could from the Internet. There were two major differences between these two early models. The hull of the Pogo was made from GRP and had a maximum beam of 2,97 m, whereas the Super Calin was made from plywood and had a maximum beam of 2,74 m, being the narrowest boat in the mini class. Thus the Super Calin was about 100 to 150 kgs lighter than the Pogo 1, still being considered one of the fastest mini and the one to beat in light airs. I thought of the prevailing weather conditions that we have along the Black Sea coast over the summer when most regattas take place in light to medium winds and since the Super Calin was both slimmer and lighter, I decided that it would be a better option for the local inshore and coastal races.
So I started looking feverishly for a Super Calin. I had found one in Belgium that I followed for quite a while and when I made up my mind to actually buy it, I contacted the owner only to find out that he sold the boat literally a couple of days before my message. Quite disappointed I told him that his boat was the only one I could find in Europe and I really-really-really wanted it. He was supportive and recommended me to try http://www.leboncoin.fr where, to my great surprise, I identified two other Super Calins. One was more expensive and located on the Atlantic coast, the other one was the last Super Calin to be produced and lied in a marina near Marseille. And so I contacted the owner of the later, initially in English, then again in English, then in French using Google Translate, then again in French… no reply! And throughout this period, he actively sought to sell his boat decreasing its price from 14,000 to 12,000 Eur, as the winter was gradually approaching. Extremely frustrated I realised that everything had to do with my name and my country of origin, because hard as he tried to sell his boat he did not wish to talk to and deal with a Romanian 😦
But this event had a lucky consequence, as it usually happens in life. Not finding a way to get to this guy, I remembered that Marc, the previous owner of Mem Pas Peur, lived in Marseille. I decided to ask him if he would be kind enough to check a boat for me. Marc replied promptly and readily accepted to inspect any boat I wished in or around Marseille. We tried once more with the Super Calin, but to no avail. At about the same time, I found a new ad for a Pogo 1 in Bandol, Marc called the owner who immediately agreed to meet and show him the boat.
And this is how in November 2016 I came across my soon-to-be mini. Details about the condition of the boat, signing the deal, storing it for winter in Marseille and then finding a way to transport it on the road to Romania will be presented in later posts, as all these represented adventures and (mighty) challenges on their own.