Andreas Deubel’s Mini Transat Campaign

Andreas Deubel will complete his Mini Transat campaign in 2017.
Oh no, not another brief portrait of a Classe Mini sailor… I can assure you: it is not. I have briefly talked to Andreas and we have exchanged lengthy emails. Why am I writing about him? Because his background and especially his challenges are just so very close to my very own.

joys of sailing a mini (c andreasdeubel.com)
joys of sailing a mini (c andreasdeubel.com)

Just to clarify this upfront: “close to my own challenges” does not mean I intend to sail the Mini Transat. Or any other adventure like this one. As of today, that is.

No, I was rather referring to time juggling all sorts of activities. Sailing, training, work and – most importantly – family. How Andreas Deubel has done that in the past is something I wanted to know. So here we go, the result of our chats and emails.

Andreas and sailing in the Classe Mini. How did that come about?

My interest in the Classe Mini initially started after watching a film by (then) Mini sailor Henrik Masekowitz. With his positive attitude and enthusiasm while sailing his Mini, he has successfully infected me with the Mini virus. I did a bit of research and checked past Mini Transats. Spending time on this topic and thinking about it, the big dream evolved. In the end I got to a point where I simply bought a Mini to see if this kind of sailing is made for me. Or if I’m made for it.

Which type of Mini are you sailing? Are you happy with it?

Mine is a Nacira series Mini. A Nacira is very robust and extremely stable, especially in heavy weather. They are really fast during reaching conditions. Their so-called outriggers make it easy to stabilise the spinnaker boom. I expect to sail faster across the Atlantic than the older construction boats like Pogo2, Zero or Dingo.

What I don’t like is the disadvantage of sailing a Nacira in light winds. It is difficult to get the boat fast if there is hardly any wind. However, during the Mini Transat I do not expect any light winds at all. So this disadvantage is something I can easily live with.

One very important aspect: I feel extremely safe on my Nacira. Actually a lot safer than on larger yachts not specifically built for ocean racing.

What are your sailing plans for this year, before the Mini Transat?

Andreas Deubel during a regatta (c Thierry Martinez)
Andreas Deubel during a regatta (c Thierry Martinez)

For 2017, I have planned taking time off for a total of 25 weeks. End of February I plan to sail the Mini Golfe (100nm solo). Afterwards the Arcipelago (150nm double handed) is on the agenda. At the end of March I will be back in Brittany, the legendary Mini en Mai (500nm solo) will be the next regatta in May then. This will be followed by the 600nm Mini Fastnet, a double handed regatta.

That was mainly it for regatta sailing. In July and August final preparations will be under way. Boat repairs, change of expendable parts, check sails and the like. In September then, finally, I’ll be on my way to La Rochelle for the start of the Mini Transat.

The Mini Transat will start on 01. October, arrival in Las Palmas will be approximately 8 to 10 days later. The second leg will start on 30. October. This is the long way across the Atlantic, arrival in Martinique will be some time between 15. and 24. November (I hope). At the beginning of December the boats will be put onto a cargo ship and sent home.

What is actually running through your head when thinking of the Mini Transat?

When I think of the Mini Transat, then it is mainly one of those here.

  • oh dear, now it is for real
  • yes, I’ve done it, let’s go
  • all the preparations have come to an end, now it is payoff time
  • will I cross the Atlantic without any major damage?
  • will I need to abandon the race?
  • ideally I will finish with a pretty good result, will I live up to my own expectations and ambitions?
  • my beloved sails, will they be strong enough?
  • am I well prepared enough for all the potential mishaps, damages, problems that might arise during the regatta? Can I solve all upcoming challenges?

This is a long shot, but do you have plans for after your Mini Transat campaign already? Sailing, or some other challenge?

The first item on my to do list after the Mini Transat is to sell the boat. Seriously. Whatever might come afterwards, I do not know yet. Very likely I will join my friends again sailing the OK-Jolle (OK-dinghy). However, ocean sailing is something you cannot let go once you have started it. Maybe I will sail one or the other double handed regatta. Not in the 2018 season, I think, that would be a bit too much after the intensity of my Mini Transat campaign.

You have a wife, kids, are self-employed. You also follow a tight training and regatta calendar. How do you manage to juggle it all?

Oh well… you are right. Family, job (self-employed insurance broker) and hobby all require lots of attention. None of those I can satisfy 100%. So each one gets about 1/3 of attention only, because leaving one off is not possible either.

Maybe the quota might be different – looking at it honestly, it is probably more like 40-40-20. And the order would be: Mini Transat campaign, job, family.

To close my business is completely out of question. This would mean financial disaster or bankruptcy. Reducing my time in the office has already had an impact of about 30% less income. On top of that, I need to cater for the Mini Transat campaign expenses. Adding up those two items is something I don’t really want to do.

Job-wise I am in a more than fortunate position. Colleagues support and help out a lot. This is a huge mark of confidence, and nothing I could put a Euro figure to. I hope to be able and give something back in the future, their support has been amazing.

new main sail for 819 (c andreasdeubel.com)
new main sail for 819 (c andreasdeubel.com)

Sailing itself you cannot really pursue as you want, due to the limitations with the other two factors (family and work). Quite fortunate for me, I am used to sailing with good teams, or successfully solo. And that’s the reason why I would like to finish the Mini Transat project with a good result as well.

However, I understand that to be successful with sailing the Mini Transat, a lot of training is required. Regattas are excellent practice as well, but training units with a dedicated trainer or a sailing team are unbeatable. That, I am afraid, I cannot do as well, otherwise there would not be any time left for the family. To still get the best out of this, I will continue to sail in regattas. No training group, however.

Without major support from the family I would not be able to do this. You need full and unconditional backing from your wife, otherwise this won’t work. During most of the time of the Mini Transat campaign, especially during my absences from the family, she is a single mother. And this certainly is not her idea of family life. We have discussed this all before the start of this project. She knows how much sailing means to me, and that’s why she has said yes.

Looking back, however, we both have significantly underestimated the extent of this all. Especially the strains and stress of being away from each other makes this whole thing so difficult. Well, even while being at home most of my thoughts are around the boat, sailing, regattas, Mini Transat. I have to acknowledge and accept that she simply does not understand how I can spend 365 days a year thinking about this project. This, I must admit, only those can fully understand which have done this before. On their own.

Let me tell you, it definitely is a job for 365 days a year. Most certainly, not a single day passes by without thoughts on the Mini Transat project. To talk about “all” of it would be way too much for our talk here. Maybe I am going to write a book about it in the future. There is just one final conclusion on this: marriage, family and job do suffer a lot during this kind of project.

What would you suggest to sailors which think of sailing in the Classe Mini?

It all depends, of course, especially on the sailing background. To get started in Classe Mini, I would advise to sail as crew for one or two seasons. Sail a couple of Mini regattas, do some leisure sailing on a Mini, get some impressions what it is all about. This refers to the class itself, the people, effort, costs, and all the other stuff to be done. This will give you a good impression on what sailing a Mini is all about. And whether you would be able to run a larger Mini Transat campaign or not.

Ideally, you already have a pretty good six digit balance on your bank account (not counting commas and this being a credit balance…). A large sponsor also helps a lot with finances and organisational items.

It does probably help a lot if you don’t have any commitments of any kind (family and job, namely). Being a student might make it easy, or being self-employed with the possibility to spend a lot of time on this project. If you have a family plus are maybe employed, a Mini Transat campaign is not a good idea in my eyes. It does not always have to be a Mini Transat, of course, simply sailing a Mini is great as well.

If you want to run a Mini Transat campaign, you better plan for something like two years. In those two years, expect to spend 730 days on your project. It can all be done in one year, but it is getting more and more difficult. The reason is quite simple – and positive for Classe Mini. Popularity of the class is on the rise, dramatically. The starting list for the Mini Transat will very likely be fully booked even before you manage to complete all the qualifications. So, a campaign running for more than one year is quite the usual setup.

What have been the greatest challenges, biggest hiccups so far for your Mini Transat campaign?

Oh well… something that seriously annoys me is that Pogo 3 and Ofcet are around. When I bought my Nacira it was one of the fastest designs in Classe Mini. Pogo 3 and Ofcet, those two designs have an additional 10% speed potential – which is something you cannot beat during a three week regatta. Initially I wanted to achieve a very good result. Now I need to adjust my plans and ambitions, this is extremely frustrating but I cannot change it.

I have neither time nor money to change from Nacira to Pogo 3 or Ofcet. But who knows, time will tell, maybe I will organise and sail another Mini Transat campaign. And then I will have a very close look at design trends and so on.

One of the main challenges (and frustrations) has been the topic of sponsorship. Besides sailing, family and job there is hardly any time left for looking for sponsors. It is one of the most important areas, to get the money for your Mini Transat campaign. At the same time, it seems to have become very difficult nowadays to get a large sponsor. It might make sense to invest time into the topic of sponsoring beforehand, and start with buying a boat, sailing and the setup of the Mini Transat campaign later on.

 

Andreas, many thanks for your thoughts and comments on your Mini Transat campaign. I found your insights into the problem of family, sailing and job very useful. And although I hate to say it: Your honest answers and information have killed any micro plans I might have had for a Mini Transat campaign…

Good luck and lots of fun during your sailing and regatta season 2017. And have a safe, adventurous and fantastic Mini Transat!!

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