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Nerves of Steel - Normandy Channel Race


“You need nerves of steel in the Normandy Channel Race”, “The Normandy Channel Race is a race fraught with difficulties and we encountered one this morning and got caught in its clutches.”

Yannick Bestaven - LE CONSERVATEUR - and Miranda Merron - CAMPAGNE 2 FRANCE – perfectly sum up what was a familiar scenario for several of the Class40s off Lizard Point, south-west England.

Whilst caution was calling for the boats to get a few miles offshore to avoid the traditional lack of wind caused by the land mass, both boats fell into a windless hole and saw their lead over their direct rivals melt away. Meantime, passing within a few dozen metres of the headland then latching onto some breeze and stretching out their lead by an extra 3 miles was none other than BRETAGNE - CRÉDIT MUTUEL! Benefiting from their position slightly shy of the leading pack, EXPRESS also opted for the inside lane with SOLIDAIRES EN PELOTONS - ARSEP, both managing to secure 3rd and 4th place. Hedging her bets, CONCISE 8 sailed through the middle of the two options, limiting the damage and holding onto 2nd place, SERENIS CONSULTING following suit to move back up to 7th place.

Yannick Bestaven “All’s well aboard Conservateur. We’re sailing along the English coast and it’s fantastic, as it was last night after Anvil Point and again this morning when the sun lit up Lizard Point. However, having made a good comeback throughout the night, the wind abandoned us this morning. Becalmed, we watched the English head off in a puff of breeze, then we saw Halvard come over to us… then stop… then we got going again… Then we had to watch as boats we could no longer see caught up with us by creeping along the coast… Clearly it’s not over till it’s over here. We’re hounding Nico Troussel who appears to be sailing a flawless course for now, but there’s still a way to go yet and you need nerves of steel in the Normandy Channel Race... We’re all too aware of that!”

Miranda Merron “The Normandy Channel Race is a race fraught with difficulties and we encountered one this morning. We wanted to keep clear of the Lizard, to leeward of it generally. As such we stayed offshore with Concise 8 and Le Conservateur. Concise 8 just managed to sniff out some breeze and we were caught in a trap created by a transition zone and had to watch as the rest of the fleet sneaked along towards the coast… At least the landscape is fabulous! Right now we’re waiting patiently for the wind to kick back in.”

TEAM WORK 40 has also made a fine comeback after a tough time in the Solent and nearly an hour stuck firm in Brambles Bank! In the chasing pack, hoping like many to catch up with the leaders, the battle is just as intense with some 6 competitors grouped within 6 miles: CRENO - MOUSTACHES SOLIDAIRES, CARAC ADVANCED ENERGIES, FORTY SHADES OF GREY, COLOMBRE XL and ZETRA. Meanwhile, CONCISE 2, aboard which South African Phillippa Hutton-Squire had only done a couple of days sailing with her co-skipper Anabelle on Concise 2 before the start, and GROUPE SETTIN are 22 and 26 miles astern of the leader respectively, but still within contention.

Indeed, there’s a way to go yet in the Normandy Channel Race and already a new tactical stage is looming with the climb up to the Irish lighthouse at Tuskar Rock. The rounding of this course mark and the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) at Land’s End in an easing wind, had reduced the lead of the first boat to just 3.3 miles by the 13:00 GMT ranking.

According to the weather forecasts, tonight is likely to see several hours with very little breeze and then the wind is set to back before the first of the fleet round the Tuskar Rock lighthouse mid-morning and link onto the descent of the Irish coast. Meanwhile, the time is ripe for shaking up the current hierarchy, with some fine opportunities to be had and plenty of traps to fall into too!

Quotes from today’s live link-up in English:

Wouter Verbraak (Concise 8)

“It’s been tricky around the headlands, with very light winds. Last night we were unlucky and got overtaken by Miranda and Halvard and Conservateur, but this morning we had a bit more luck and now we’re in good winds heading for Land’s End. The next leg is looking even trickier, with very light winds ahead of us, so we’ll have to be sure to cover the over guys so nothing unexpected happens. We both got some sleep last night, it’s sunny and conditions are good so life aboard is very nice with 10 knots from the north.”

Tim Rogers (Forty Shades of Grey)

“We’ve just got round Lizard Point and we’re heading up towards Land’s End now. Last night we had a pretty good sail down the coast. It’s been pretty quick so far. We can still see the majority of the fleet in front of us and we can see two or three boats behind us. The sea was flat last night and right now we’ve got about 10 knots of wind. We’d like to be a little bit closer to the boats in front of us, but we are in an older boat and last night the new boats were much faster down the Channel. But we can see them and whilst we can see them I think we can beat them! We had a light patch about 2 hours ago where we stopped, but since then we’ve gained a long way on the boats behind, who were pretty close, so we’re pretty happy with the performance. Our routing is saying about 20 hours from Land’s End to Tuskar so it’s going to be one-tack. It looks like we’ll be on starboard tack until about 10 o’ clock. As the wind shifts round to the left we’ll probably tack and make Tuskar for lunch tomorrow hopefully. Yesterday was very, very, very tough. We tacked 30 times in the Solent!”

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 1400 GMT:

1. Bretagne - Crédit Mutuel
2. Concise 8
3. Solidaires En Peloton - ARSEP
4. L'Express
5. Campagne 2 France


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/NCR2015
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