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Chess game in the Celtic Sea - Normandy Channel Race
Wednesday 27 May 2015


At 06:00GMT this Wednesday morning, the fleet of Class40s in the Normandy Channel Race was embroiled in a tough slog up to Tuskar Rock, the Irish lighthouse and course mark some 5 miles offshore of the entrance to St Georges Channel. The front runners still have 30 miles to go.

After clearing the sublime backdrop of Land’s End bathed in sunshine early yesterday afternoon, the competitors linked onto a new phase of the course with the 150-mile climb northwards to Tuskar Rock. Unable to set a direct course as they beat into the wind, the fleet first had to make headway to the west before switching back to the direct course with the subsequent wind shift.

With this tack to the West being temporarily unfavourable, BRETAGNE - CRÉDIT MUTUEL saw her lead over the second boat shrink away to just 1.3 miles by late afternoon. However, once the leader had managed to eek out enough room for manoeuvre, it changed tack onto what was a virtually direct course towards Tuskar Rock, plumping out a lead of 10 to 15 miles over the course of the night.

For the Class40s in hot pursuit, the game plan was all about getting the correct timing to hang a right. They had to decide whether to follow the leader or head further West in the hope of being the first to hit a wind shift or, yet another option, put in the turn well ahead of the point chosen by the leader. In addition to boat speed and manoeuvring, strategy and tactics also came into play in making the right choice.

The right choice was clearly made by a group of 3 boats, which were previously outside the top ten, whose crews opted for a N’ly course well ahead of the front runner. CARAC ADVANCED ENERGIES initiated the move, which paid off big time, COLOMBRE XL and ZETRA soon moving up into the top spots too behind. In contrast, those who headed further West, namely LE CONSERVATEUR, EXPRESS and TEAMWORK 40 really suffered. The British-Dutch duo on CONCISE 8 and the British-Norman duo on CAMPAGNE 2 FRANCE didn’t take quite such an extreme option but on the latter boat Miranda Merron described the route this morning as “a road full of holes that is very badly tarmacked”.

However, as previous editions of the Normandy Channel Race have witnessed, it’s not over till it’s over and after a large part of the night on a direct course making good speed, the front runners fell into a zone of easing wind at around 04:00GMT, forcing them onto a zigzagging course northwards. This situation is set to last until early afternoon before a W/SW’ly wind moves into play for the coming days, opening up another tacking session as the fleet head from Tuskar Rock to Fastnet.

Right now, the best performance of the night doubtless goes to CARAC ADVANCED ENERGIES skippered by the Norman crew of Louis Duc / Christophe Lebas, who were lying in a very fine 2nd place at the 06:00GMT ranking this Wednesday. Bringing up the rear of the fleet, the women’s crew on Concise 2 has had 24 hours of engine trouble but is now back up to 100% and sailing hard. The arrival of the front runner at Tuskar Rock is scheduled for around mid-morning GMT, and with it will come yet another phase of the chess game that is the Normandy Channel Race!

Follow the race on www.normandy-race.com. The cartography with the position of the boats will be updated every 15 minutes. Find the skippers’ accounts on the race’s social networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and come along to the live link-ups at the Pavillon de Normandie in Caen between 12:00 and 13:00pm local time.

Provisional ranking on Day 3 of the race, at 06:00GMT:

1. Bretagne - Crédit Mutuel
2. Carac - Advanced Energies
3. Concise 8
4. Colombre XL
5. Solidaires En Peloton - ARSEP

Photo : Jean-Marie Liot/NCR2015
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