A SAILOR is hoping to secure a place on a ‘brutal’ race that only takes place every two years.

Cris Miles, 59, has been ‘yearning’ to race in the Mini-Transat since 2013.

During that time, Cris recalls his wife Sheila asked him pragmatically if he could afford it?

The father-to-three daughters realised, without sponsorship, the answer was no.

Cris, who runs BOOM Sail, Power and Race Training, is part of a project - based at Conwy Marina. If successful in securing a place, the granddad believes it will be only the second time a Welsh boat has attempted the race.

“The race represents the ultimate challenge, of sailing, resilience and determination and for me will be the prize jewel in my enormously lucky richly experienced life,” he said.

North Wales Pioneer:

Cris at a prizegiving for the Scottish Islands Peaks Race (winner overall). Pictured (left) Cris with crew member James Mansell

“The next race is 2021. I will be 60 that year and if successful [in gaining a place], will be the second oldest to have ever made the start.

“The boat was brought from France before lockdown - a Classe Mini 6.50. Despite the diminutive size, these boats are faster than most speed boats in the right conditions, capable of speeds in excess of 20 knots.

“The race is a brutal test, with skippers only sleeping for 20 minutes at a time, and no luxuries on board including - no toilet.

“It’s a team thing - It’s not just about sailing the boat.”

While the race is single handed, Cris said he does have other members on the shore team who make up his team including his wife and two sailing friends, Jonathan Simpson and Nick Pridding, helping with logistics, technical issues, nutrition and tactics.

The skipper, of Conwy, added: “It’s new to all of us and we’re helping each other along, the goodwill, it’s all voluntary and so energising.

North Wales Pioneer:

One of the boat being launched at Conwy Marina

“The project has attracted support from a number of companies, but has a long way to go to get the funding for a full campaign.”

Before even getting to the start line, each competitor must qualify. This involves a 1,000 nautical mile solo passage, followed by 1,500 miles of racing.

Despite the project being set back by two months due to Covid-19, Cris plans to sail around Lundy, Ireland and the Isle of Man in the coming months. The boat will then be returned to France ready to compete in the qualifying races.

Cris said: "There are only 65 places most of which will be filled by the French where this type of boat and sailing has its beating heart.

"We won’t know until mid summer 2021 whether we’ve done enough to get on the start line for the big one.

"The project will run alongside the sailing business and we will be selling experiences sailing her, although previous experience will be necessary."

Cris said he has always been attracted to water.

"I came from a very poor background, living on a caravan site on the banks of the River Mersey," he said.

" I was always attracted to water - one of the earliest photos of me is playing in a puddle.

"We moved when I was still very young to a more rural area and I found myself with a stream at the bottom of the garden and a canal just yards from there. The River Tame was just a quarter of a mile away, a tributary of the Mersey – so you could say I moved upstream!

"I had a fantastic childhood, building dams in the stream, swimming in the canal, building rafts and canoeing but I desperately wanted to sail.

"As a present on my 13th birthday I was bought membership to Dovestone Sailing Club where I would hang around until someone offered to take me out sailing. I was hooked. Within two years I was crewing for a National Champion.

"I had a spell away from competition sailing while I was in the Merchant Navy but returned to it in 1982.

"I continued to progress and had a crack at making the Olympics in 1988, alas unsuccessfully.

"I did, however, enjoy sailing on the British team in keelboats representing the country at World Championships in Japan, USA and Canada.

"On meeting my wife Sheila, it was inappropriate to continue with the level of commitment I was giving to sailing.

"I sold the boat at a World Championships in Japan, we had finished third, and went ‘cold turkey’."

Needing to find some outlet for his energy, Cris turned to rock climbing.

"My wife and I fell in love with Conwy in 2010 and on purchasing our first ‘big boat’, a 29’ Beneteau, we brought her to Conwy Marina and sailed her together around North Wales and Ireland," he said.

"We also raced her locally and I took her to Scotland for four years on the trot to race in the Scottish Islands Peaks Race - an adventure race involving sending runners up mountains on various islands."

Cris set up BOOM Sail, Power and Race Training in Conwy in 2015.

"Having built the BOOM business to a point where I can now bring in freelance instructors, I have the time to do this race although we still need sponsorship," Cris added.