From Sea Kayak To Classe Mini: Marcus Demuth

He’s paddled his sea kayak around Britain and Ireland in record time. He has then given up a professional sea kayak career for sailing in the Classe Mini. Now he is living on board his “Brooklyn Express”, a 6,50m long TipTop, getting ready for the Mini Transat 2017. Here is a very interesting (and entertaining) article by Marcus Demuth.

Marcus on his Classe Mini TipTop "Brooklyn Express"
Marcus on his Classe Mini TipTop “Brooklyn Express”

My name is Marcus, and I was instantly drawn to Hubert’s blog both because of its content and his sense of humor.

I was born in Frankfurt/Main, and was a professional sea kayaker before I purchased a Classe Mini 6.50 series boat a little more than a year ago. I hoped that some of my “skills” as a sea kayaker would translate towards sailing a Mini. However, it quickly became apparent that sailing a Classe Mini boat has with kayaking as much in common as running around a christmas tree with a tin drum.

Starting to sail in Classe Mini

I instantly realized that acquiring the skills and experience to sail a Mini Transat (my new passion) would take much longer than paddling my sea kayak (my 2nd passion in life) or playing a steady beat in a rock band (my passion before kayaking).

My first year sailing the Mini 6.50 TipTop was spent on the Irish Sea out of Holyhead (Wales). My connection to the Classe Mini and its sailors was strictly “virtual”. I constantly begged my fellow Mini Sailors for advice by email, and followed the races online. Also, I envied the Facebook posts about the pre- and post-race BBQs and “convoyages”. This all while I competed in shorter races on the Irish Sea against 40 ft sailboats with up to 8 crew onboard. Over there in Wales, my boat “Brooklyn Express” and myself felt isolated and out of touch. Thus, we moved to Lorient in March of 2015 to be closer to the class, the sailors, the knowledge, and the BBQs.

Moving from Wales to Lorient to get closer to the action

The idea was to spend 2015 in a “watch-see-learn” mode by competing in 3 races. One I completed successfully, one I had to abort due to a number of mechanical and “personal” handling problems. The next race is coming up in June. Also, I wanted to breath in the advice and camaraderie which is now constantly being spilled out to me by my fellow Classe Mini mates.

In 2016 I will train and compete in more races. This time with a hopefully more competitive edge and in full racing mode.

2017 will be the highlight of my campaign. The participation in the Mini Transat, the transatlantic race of the Classe Mini, is my ultimate goal.

Please allow me, just for entertainment purposes, to stop here and to start to reply to Hubert’s (the owner of this blog) points regarding the Classe Mini. To clarify: My answers should be regarded as a reply in a pub-alike setting and tone, rather than a reply with an upward pointed finger. Mainly because I think it is more fun to reply to each other rather than dispensing monologues. Please have in mind that I am sitting on the cheap seats and am not fully aware (yet) of the action in the Classe Mini. I am a rookie in all things in this, my dear and beloved, class.

“bowsprit half the length of the boat; just another widow-maker?”

Classe Mini TipTop in action (c Chris Breschi)
Classe Mini TipTop in action (c Chris Breschi)

With 2.30 m, more like a third of the boat length rather than half. Also, the dangerous aspect of the length of the bowsprit is more related to parameters such as wave length, steepness of the waves, and height of the bowsprit over the sea (wave) level, rather than boat length. Looked at it from this perspective, and disregarding the factor boat length, a 2,30m bowsprit sounds reasonable. Even more so when the tip of the bowsprit can be raised (by up to 1m) in high and/or steep seas to avoid the bowsprit dunking in the waves. I am not aware of any problems or incidents involving the bowsprit so far. Even though the history of Classe Mini accidents and equipment failures is long and extensive.

“high speed and excellent when sailing downwind, what about the other direction?”

It is true that sailing upwind in a Mini 6.50 in stronger winds makes you re-evaluate your hobby and idea of fun. But sailing a boat which does well (and sails comfortably) upwind is very possibly not able to surf on a reach or down wind. I do not know much about hull design, but in kayak design, the builders always insisted that if you add a certain feature to the hull, you will loose out on another. Simply speaking: the glass will be always only half full, each boat’s ability has a directly competing design drawback. You can’t have it all, and you must choose. Its a clear “either this or that”.

“21 ft long, 10 ft transom; unique ratio for that class, why has no one else adopted it?”

It is not the ratio, but the surface required to bring the puppy on a plane. If you have a 6.50m short boat at 0.9 to 1.0 tons, you will need approx 6-8 sqm of plane-able, almost horizontal, hull surface in order to reach the critical surface to allow planing at a reasonable (low) speed (I assume every object starts planing at a certain high speed). The best (or only?) place to put this surface is at the stern. It is a given that the boat will not, or rarely, plane if you take away just 1 sqm or two (see Pogo 1, Dingo 1, hull etc.) from this critical horizontal hull surface.

“is it really still the “cheap” class to finish a transatlantic race?”

Living in Wales, I was almost outraged when I read the Classe Mini 6.50 guide book. It states that the rules have the intention to allow ocean racing within a reasonable budget. At the same time they are throwing expensive equipment requirements, mandatory classes and insurance policies in the mix. But things look different today.

While writing this, I am moored in Lorient with the Oman Trimaran, the Initiatives Coeur Imoca, and many Class 40 boats moored around me. Some of these boats (such as the Oman) have a maintenance and logistic staff of 12 or more employed full time. Most teams (e.g. Groupama) have large buildings which contain housing, gyms, reception rooms overlooking the harbour and separate hangars for their boats (or parts of it). These teams and companies have both pity with, and also envy, my Classe Mini boat. Alan Roura, a former Classe Mini sailor, is now a proud owner of a Classe 40 boat. However, it seems too much work (and money) for him. Alan expressed yesterday his desire to return to the Classe Mini … where everything was much easier and cheaper.

“uncomfortable by all means …”

Not much more uncomfortable as camping, living in a VW camper bus (at 50,000 Euro) … or visiting your mother-in-law. Yes, I am fascinated by the Classe Mini lifestyle, which somehow includes for me to do it low-budget. I really, really liked the youtube video with Richard Hewson living on his boat and giving the boat tour in Dournanez. I feel I sat for the last 3 years on my comfy couch in my cottage in Wales in front of an open fire watching Bundesliga and Champions League, a lifestyle I am happy to return to when I am 80 years or older, but in the meantime some sailing has to be done.

That was it from my side, for today. Please feel free to get in touch any time for questions or comments through www.marcusdemuth.com or via a comment here in this post (further down below).

2 Replies to “From Sea Kayak To Classe Mini: Marcus Demuth”

  1. Hey Hubert! In a quick turn of events, and underlining (confirming?) my naivity, I managed to dunk the very said bowsprit (widow maker) only a few days after I wrote on your blog that I was not aware of any incidents involving a bowsprit … the bungee was a tad too loose and the bowsprit dove just when I wanted to pull up the large spi … Before I could spell out “What the …?” the spi was pulled under the boat, then behind around the rudders, and torn to pieces … I will have a spi lent for the upcoming race … the too loose bungee was a 2,500 Euro error… 🙁

    1. ouch – I can only try to imagine what went on in your brain when that spi got ripped apart… I do hope your funding allows for a new one soon and that your project can continue as planned!
      Enjoy the upcoming Mini Fastnet!!

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