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Normandy Channel Race – Friday 29 May 2015 -Day 5 - FINAL HURDLE
After rounding Fastnet Rock yesterday between 08:43GMT for the leader and 12:05GMT for the crew bringing up the rear, those competing in the 6th Normandy Channel Race have been getting their teeth into the furious descent towards the Norman coast, with the top teams averaging 15 knots at times. However, the passage through the Channel Islands, punching tide with the wind building, heralds a new and final hurdle.

Done with the long and exhausting beat in big seas along the Irish coast between Tuskar Rock and Fastnet Rock, the minute the fleet rounded this famous lighthouse they gladly switched onto a downwind sprint track, slipping along at a favourable wind angle at last. It doubtless came as a welcome relief for the tired bodies on the 5th day of a relentless race. The speedos are spinning in around twenty knots of breeze, with peaks of 15 to 20 knots of boat speed in the waves and the Class40 powerhouses are really showing what they’re made of.

At around 21:00GMT, leader BRETAGNE - CREDIT MUTUEL reached the Scilly Isles, a fabulous little string of exotic islands to the south-west of the English coast, and continued its ‘descent’ throughout the night towards the island of Guernsey, the next course mark which has to be left to port and is still some 30 miles ahead of them at the 06:00GMT ranking.

Having doubled their lead over their direct rivals to 30 miles as they skirted Fastnet after yet another winning option hugging the coast, Nicolas Troussel and Felix Pruvot boast a comfortable advance, which has grown to 38 miles overnight. Astern of them though, nobody is easing off the pace, even though the ‘natural’ hierarchies have regained the upper hand. Indeed the valiant Louis Duc on CARAC - ADVANCED ENERGIES and the talented Brazilians on ZETRA have not been able to match the sheer power of the most recent Class40s, namely the Verdier design skippered by Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur (LE CONSERVATEUR) and the latest Manuard designed Mach 40 skippered by Thibaut Vauchel-Camus and Victorien Erussard (SOLIDAIRES EN PELOTON-ARSEP). Meantime the Anglo-Dutch duo on CONCISE 8, Ned Collier-Wakefield and Wouter Verbraak, has moved up into 4th place and is attempting an option closer to the English coast, which appears to be paying off for now. Behind them the fleet is stretching out of the English Channel with CRENO MOUSTACHES SOLIDAIRES, CONCISE 2 and GROUPE SETTIN some 90 to 120 nautical miles shy of the front runners.

However, a tough new phase awaits the competitors and all eyes will be on those at the front of the pack to see how they fare. Indeed, with Guernsey likely to be reached at around 08:00GMT, the leaders will be the first to make the island just as the foul tide kicks in… At the same time, the passage of a front (a clash between two different air masses), will cause the W’ly wind to increase to 25/30 knots and the subsequent wind over tide will likely pick up a very unpleasant sea. It is in these same conditions that the leaders will have to negotiate the tricky zone around the island of Guernsey and above all the infamous Raz Blanchard, which boasts the strongest currents in Europe. It will be intriguing to see if their comfortable lead comes under threat by the time they come out the other side…

Will we see Bretons Nicolas Troussel and Felix Pruvot take this year’s crown?

Answer this evening at around 15:00/18:00GMT in Ouistreham.

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 5 of the race, at 06:00GMT:

1 Bretagne - Crédit Mutuel
2 Le Conservateur 28.17 miles behind
3 Solidaires en Peloton-ARSEP 30.31 miles behind
4 Concise 8 some 40.15 miles behind
5 CARAC- Advanced Energies 40.20 miles behind

Photo : Jean-Marie Liot/NCR2015
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