Interview / Sailing News

Shoreline Interview: Diane Reid, Canada’s Mini Transat Racer

Solo racer Diane Reid’s idea of  a sailing adventure, admittedly exceeds any of our wildest dreams of racing. She purchased her Mini 6.5 sailboat in March of 2010 and has been tirelessly dedicated to her goal of  racing in one of the world’s most prestigious and best known singlehanded races – the Mini Transat. The race, scheduled for September 2013, is sailed solo on a 21 ft. boat with tons of sail area and sophisticated systems. The course crosses the Atlantic Ocean, more than 4,300 nautical miles of open water. This is not a race for the feint of heart. The extreme nature of this race has attracted the finest sailors in the world, and has launched the careers of some the world’s most decorated solo sailors.

We caught up with Diane while back in her hometown of  Toronto, Canada. While extremely busy with the full-time demands of her campaign, we were especially thankful that she was able to make some time to answers our questions.

When did the dream of doing the Transat become reality? When was it full speed ahead for your campaign?

That’s a complicated answer. I think each time we achieved a new milestone, the dream became more and more real. When we purchased the boat and got it home, when I finished my 1,000 mile solo qualifier…and more recently when I finished all of my qualifying events and secured a spot on the start line…these were all significant moments in campaign life. If I hadn’t achieved those steps, then the race would never become a reality. But, ultimately, I think the EXACT moment, ironically, will be crossing the finish line. Sounds strange as a moment to know that things are “full speed ahead”, but up until then who knows what can happen.

What has been the most challenging part of your journey thus far?One Girl's

Two answers… Securing the partnerships has definitely been the biggest battle and most “fundamental” challenge. It’s the business behind the campaign that keeps the campaign running and gets me to the start line. Working for the partners is a full time job and it’s critical for me to make sure that they get their return on investment. The second piece is the mental health.  Racing solo is thought of as a physical game, but it’s really a massive emotional game. You are constantly battling your inner demons and your intensive drive to push the boat as hard as you possibly can…running on the edge of safety, sanity and self questioning “why am I here” kind of stuff. We actually write notes all over the boat just to keep the mind focused and on track. Remember, we only sleep for fifteen minutes at a time and sometimes only 3 or 4 times in a twenty four hour period! Just imagine how your mind can break down, and how mental functionality can become impaired!

Have you had to face any obstacles because of your gender? Have the male members of the Mini class been welcoming and inclusive? Do you see yourself as a role model for female sailors?diane_reid1

It’s interesting. Typically in sailing you find a very very small percentage of women on boats, and an even smaller percentage of them run their own boats and programs. In the Mini fleet in an event of 50-80 boats you will typically see upwards of 8 or 9 women driving their boats single handed, and several others co-skippering in double handed events. It seems to be about ten percent but even when events run lower registrations of 10 to 15 boats, you will see almost a fifty percent split of men and women. I expect for the Transat that about 8 out of the 84 will be women. The male members of the class treat us the exact same. Last year the top production boat was a woman. This year that same woman has either won every event she has done, or at very least been top three. The first race this year she legged out on the fleet and finished three hours ahead of the second place boat! The exciting thing about Minis is that men and women are physically equal on the boat. The loads that we carry are big for a 21 foot boat, but not so big that systems need to be accommodated for those with less muscle structure… we’re all equal. Added to that, there is a massive amount of talent in the Mini class. It truly is the breeding ground for the pro round the world racers and as a result, the talent in the fleet is deeply respected, regardless of gender. I think I have become a bit of a role model for women, girls and men and boys. The feeling of gender equality seems to translate through it all. I receive tons of emails and notes from people living the life vicariously and loving the moment.

How about Canadian national pride?

One Girl's 2

Repairs to mast on Diane’s #655 – UK Solent Race


What can I say… I fly my Canadian flag and my ABYC (Ashbridge’s Bay Yacht Club) club burgee with massive pride! I’m also very proud of being the third Canadian ever to do the race. We are so bound by fresh water racing, that it means there are not a lot of Canadians who can participate in intensive offshore racing…within Canada. To be able to develop the skills to be able to keep up with the French who live, sleep and breathe offshore talent, is something to be very proud of for sure!

What is left for you to do between now and the race start?

I’m home from June through to September 1st. During that time the OGOC camp is working on securing the last of the funds to get to the start line, satisfying existing partnerships and getting the boat’s kit sorted out so that we’re ready for the start line. My last race this season was the UK Mini Fastnet. It’s famous for being horrific, and this year certainly delivered! My electronics took a massive beating from the salt water and the pounding. After a lifespan of 25,000 nautical miles, most of my fantastic electronics equipment has reached the end of their expected lifespan. Time to replace or resurrect. I’m also going to be racing locally and hopefully doing some racing on the east coast for Wichard / Profurl / Cousing Trestec. As far as “mental preparation”, it’s very very nice to be home. I’ve been away training and qualifying in France for four months. As fantastic and tough as that has been, it’s nice to come home.  This is a nice piece of mental preparation to put my head straight for the start of the race.

Have you given thought to what it will feel like when you hit the start line off the coast of France?… And when you finish off of Guadeloupe?

Hmmmmm… How do you combine euphoria, massive panic, fear, triumph and an insane adrenaline rush all in one? That’s my guess.

Shoreline Sailboats would like to extend our congratulations to Diane for gaining entry into the 2013 Mini Transat Race. We will be continuing to follow her story very closely, and are excited to watch the race tracking in September.

Best of luck Diane!

Check out Diane Reid’s story:

Just what kinds of speeds are attainable on a Mini 6.5? This video captures the speed potential: