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A string of Class40s make for Land's End - Normandy Channel Race


After a lively crossing of the Solent between the Isle of Wight and the English coast punching into tide and wind, negotiating sandbanks with incessant manoeuvres, the Class40 fleet extricated itself from this highly tactical stage midway through Monday afternoon.

From there, around 170 miles separated the fleet from the famous Lizard Point, that welcomes in the transatlantic record attempts, and a further 20 or so miles to Land’s End, the most westerly point of mainland England. Along the way a succession of bays with strong currents have had to be negotiated from Poole Harbour, Portland (and Weymouth where the Olympic Sailing Games were held), Lyme Bay with Torquay, and on to Plymouth sound. For the two front runners, the tactical play was much in evidence the whole way with the light headwind, the duos having to choose between entering the bays to hunt down more breeze and less current, heading offshore or simply remaining on a direct course. Once the N’ly breeze kicked back in as night fell, the competitors were able to set a direct course from Portland at an average speed of 9 to 10 knots.

Briton Miranda Merron and Norman Halvard Mabire on Campagne 2 France are very much on the pace in the leading group this morning, in immediate proximity of the Anglo-Dutch duo of Collier-Verbraak (Concise 8) and the formidable Bestaven-Brasseur on Le Conservateur. Miranda describes yesterday’s action: “It must be bank holiday Monday - the Solent was packed with boats, some cruising, some racing. As usual, we had to put in what seems like hundreds of tacks in shallow water to stay out of the foul tide. A couple of Class40s opted to clean the underside of their keels with sand. There is an annual cricket match on one of the sandbanks in question, at spring tide when it uncovers for a short while. I digress. A long day after a long night. And yes, we are still going upwind, off Anvil Point. Just about to have our first proper meal.”

Heading the chasing pack, Pierre-Yves Lautrou (L’EXPRESS) is feeling the pressure. "We’re chasing along the English coast under code 3 and a half moon accompanied by a big starry sky, which is consoling us after an exhausting day spent in the Solent, tacking from morning through to the afternoon. We’re making between 8 and 10 knots with the wind at 345. We’re slamming a bit with a chop picked up by the current, but nothing serious. Ahead of us, Concise’s AIS appears at regular intervals. A little to leeward of us and astern, we can make out the lights of P'tit Louis (Duc) and his Carac; Jean Galfione is directly in line not far behind.

The day got off to a bad start yesterday with a fairly unexpected electronics hitch, which took us a good two hours to resolve. Between this big scare and the incessant tack changes it was far from restful, especially given all the current every which way. Being able to make headway in a straight line under the stars tonight is enabling us to recover whilst readying ourselves for the next stage. We’re leading the second group, but it’s not over yet!”

In the battle for supremacy, BRETAGNE - CRÉDIT MUTUEL has managed to keep her position at the head of the fleet, with a lead ranging from 4 to 7 miles overnight. However, they’re still under pressure from their pursuers, LE CONSERVATEUR just 5.7 miles shy of them at the 06:00 ranking. CONCISE 8 and CAMPAGNE 2 FRANCE completing the first pack, with SOLIDAIRES EN PELOTON - ARSEP slightly off the pace some 11 miles astern of the leader. They’re followed by a second group led by EXPRESS, which boasts 8 boats within 8 miles of one another. The back runners remain in contention, with the Brazilian crew on ZETRA clearly getting a feel for their new Class40, which won the previous edition of this race.

Early this Tuesday afternoon another tactical phase will commence for some with the 150-mile climb up to the Irish lighthouse of Tuskar Rock, a tough stage with a light headwind constantly changing direction and strength, which may well cause some upsets in the ranking.

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 2 of the race, at 06:00 GMT:

1. Bretagne - Crédit Mutuel
2. Le Conservateur
3. Concise 8
4. Campagne 2 France
5. Solidaires En Peloton – ARSEP


Created in 2010 by Sirius Events with the support of Lower Normandy’s local authorities, over the years the Normandy Channel Race has become a reference within the Class40. Contested in double-handed configuration over a very demanding course – a 1,000-mile return sprint to Ireland – the event is run every spring. The village, set up in the centre of Caen, has also become an event recognised by the local audience.

Photo : © Jean-Marie LIOT / NCR 2015
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