The first highly tactical 24 hours in the Normandy Channel Race 2015
Those competing in the Normandy Channel Race are right in the thick of things now having confronted the tactical pitfalls of the Norman coast, the Channel crossing and the English Solent.
After a sunny start on Sunday in around ten knots of breeze, the Class40 fleet rapidly gained ground to the West with a favourable current carrying them to the first course mark at the foot of the Cotentin early yesterday evening. With the Saint Marcouf Islands and the Barfleur headland in their wake, they linked onto a Channel crossing and approached the Isle of Wight on a beat. After several hours battling it out within contact of CAMPAGNE 2 FRANCE, TEAMWORK 40 and CONCISE 8, the team on BRETAGNE - CREDIT MUTUEL took the lead at around 23:00GMT on Sunday night, stretching out a lead of 3 miles by first light. This Monday evening they are some 7 miles or so clear of their pursuers.
Nicolas Troussel: “Conditions are good with the breeze. We didn’t have the same sails as the others on leaving Barfleur. We were sailing under gennaker, whilst the others were under Code 0, which suddenly paid off. We got a bit of separation to the East of the direct route, which came good and I think that’s where we gained our lead.”
The Solent crossing marks the first major tactical obstacle in the Normandy Channel Race 2015. This famous sound, which separates the Isle of Wight and the English coast is known as the cradle of yachting and it is inexorably linked to a complicated zone encompassing sandbanks, strong currents and merchant shipping, the whole lot coloured by a superb backdrop. Hitting the zone mid morning GMT, the progress of the fleet was already being hampered as they punched tide at the eastern entrance to the Solent, an unfavourable situation which was to last all the way to the western exit from the sound some 25 miles down the track in the channel around the Needles.
With such a scenario, the game plan involves finding the most favourable zone with the best possible protection from the current so as to hold onto a little bit of speed in the headwind, which eased to 4/5 knots. As a result, the competitors had to take some risks as they sailed near the shore, close to the Isle of Wight or the English coast, in search of the best tactical options. Indeed, the sandbanks are never very far away, as some competitors found to their cost, quickly losing precious places.
Jean Galfione (SERENIS CONSULTING), Pierre-Yves Lautrou (L’EXPRESS) and Manuel COUSIN (GROUPE SETIN) comment on this tactical game of cat and mouse.
Jean Galfione: “All’s well. We’re in the Solent and trying to get out isn’t proving very easy. There is a light, shifty wind and above all it’s not coming from the right direction, so it’s already very tactical.”
Pierre-Yves Lautrou: “There’s been a lot of game playing since the start and that’s continuing. We’re putting in a series of tacks, trying to close on the leaders despite the fatigue after a lousy end to the night due to electronics issues.”
Manuel Cousin: “The night went very well with the majority of the Channel crossing spent under Code 0. We enjoyed ourselves on what was a fine, starry night, but we didn’t manage our entry into the Solent very well, which explains our position this morning. It looks difficult up ahead now as we’re punching tide whilst the front runners had the tide with them over this section. We’re putting every effort into making the best possible tacks and we’re hiding from the current in a bid to catch the group just ahead of us.”
At this particular game, BRETAGNE - CRÉDIT MUTUEL has clearly excelled once again, opting for the English coast rather than the shores of the Isle of Wight, stretching out a lead of nearly 5 miles in relation to its closest pursuer, CONCISE 2, and then slamming shut the door to the west of the Needles behind them at around 13:00 GMT. By 15:00 GMT that lead had increased to nearly 7 miles in relation to a group of 4 pursuers (CONCISE 8, CAMPAGNE 2 FRANCE, SOLIDAIRES EN PELOTON - ARSEP, LE CONSERVATEUR), whilst the rest of the fleet has bunched back up some 10 miles off the pace.
From now through until early evening this Monday, the fleet will have to continue making headway on a beat, bashing into a headwind with the odd thermal breeze, before they can link up with a north-westerly wind of around ten knots again, which should enable them to reach the south-west tip of England just before noon tomorrow, Tuesday.
Follow the race at www.normandy-race.com. The cartography with the boats’ positions will be updated every 15 minutes on the link http://normandy-race.com/index/followrace
Discover all the skippers’ accounts on the race’s social networks and feel free to attend the live link-ups with the boats at the Pavillon de Normandie in Caen between 12 noon and 13:00pm local time.
Provisional ranking DAY 1 – LATE AFTERNOON:
1. Bretagne - Crédit Mutuel
2. Concise 8
3. Campagne 2 France
4. Solidaires En Peloton - ARSEP
5. Le Conservateur
Photo : © Jean-Marie Liot - NCR2015