NORMANDY CHANNEL RACE – It is never over till it’s over in a yacht race but the two leaders of the Normandy Channel Race, Campagne de France raced by Mabire – Merron, in pole position for some 48 hours now, and Concise 2 helmed by the Collier-Wakefield – Goodchild duo, took a favourable option for the overall standing last night. One of these two Class 40s could secure victory off Hermanville-sur-Mer in the Normandy Channel Race as early as Saturday evening. Talanta, the boat skippered by Galfione – Péron, is hanging on in there in third place, containing repeated attacks from their pursuers. Towards the back of the fleet, the crew of Masai, Le Diraison – Korner, are retiring from the event for personal reasons.
Cherbourg sailor Halvard Mabire and Briton Miranda Merron, already winners of the Transat Quebec – Saint Malo this year, are currently stamping their mark on this race. “They’re not making any tactical mistakes,” explained Sam Goodchild, who is in hot pursuit of the Franco-British duo with his friend Ned Collier-Wakefield. Campagne de France has certainly put up an impressive performance since the start of the Normandy Channel Race thanks to the crew’s superb trajectory and above all their almost flawless knowledge of the difficulties to be encountered in the English Channel and the Celtic Sea. However, the young guns on Concise 2 have pretty much matched them tack for tack and still have their eye on the prize, namely victory in the Normandy Channel Race. Last night, the leaders traversed a ridge of high pressure and extracted themselves from Land’s End with relative ease. Most significantly, off Bishop Rock, they managed to latch onto a light easterly breeze before the rest of the fleet, and had just enough air to continue making headway across to the other side of the Channel in what proved to be yet another tricky passage. Today, on a beat along the coast of northern Brittany, ‘pebble-hopping’ around the Ile au Moine and Perros Guirec, they’re lengthening their stride and have a 27-mile lead over third placed Talanta.
Indeed the latter’s skippers, Jean Galfione and Eric Péron, expressed their delight at being at sea in their messages sent to Race Management. They’re very much hoping to hang onto their third place, but they’re going to be lying in ambush around Raz Blanchard, or elsewhere, in case either of the leaders fluff up their trajectory. However, they’re also going to have to watch their backs as Phoenix Europe Express, skippered by Yannick Bestaven and Julien Pulvé, aren’t far off, nor is Solo helmed by Aasberg-Lovgren, whilst Jasmine Flyer is right back in contention with Scott Cavanough and Thibault Reinhart in overdrive along with the local boys, Marc Lepesqueux and co-skipper Eric Defert on Les Conquérants – Caen La Mer. Further back, Earwen helmed by Catherine Pourre – Goulven Royer and Eole Génération GDF Suez sailed by Sébastien Rogues – Dominic Vittet, have definitively broken away from the British coast this afternoon. In contrast to the leaders, they spent many an hour becalmed in the thick of the anticyclone, with a strong current to boot. It hasn’t been plain sailing for anyone though and Sam Goodchild was keen to rename the event the Normandy Upwind Race given how much this point of sail has dominated play in the light airs. There is still everything to play for in the run-up to the finish in France’s Calvados region though and plenty of obstacles to throw a spanner in the works!
Quotes from the boats at 1000 UTC:
Halvard Mabire, skipper of the Class 40 Campagne de France: “The weather’s good. We have seven knots of NE’ly. Last night we managed to slip below the zone of high pressure. Right now we’re compelled to mark the English, who aren’t far behind. Since Land’s End, I haven’t necessarily agreed with the route they’re taking, but we’re obliged to cover them. There is little difference in speed between us. It really comes down to our tactics.”
Sam Goodchild, co-skipper of the Class 40 Concise 2: “We’re doing our best to catch Campagne de France, but they’re tough. The win could go to anyone”.
Eric Péron, co-skipper of the Class 40 Talanta: “We had a classic passage across the ridge of high pressure. The first to escape the zone immediately hit some pressure. That was what happened to the leaders and for us too in relation to Phoenix Europe Express. The game doesn’t quite have the same appeal now. The tacks we make up to Barfleur are pretty much set in stone. I reckon the positions we have right now will be the same at the finish”.
Louis Duc, skipper of the Class 40 Avis Immobilier: “We’re trying to kill time. We’ve just unfurled our gennaker to make an extra 0.02 of a knot! I hope we’ll hit fresh breeze before the tide turns against us”.
Yannick Bestaven, skipper of the Class 40 Phoenix Europe Express: “We spent a lot of the night below Land’s End. We’re hoping to come back on Talanta. There are still some opportunities to be had, even though our route is pretty much decided. The referee will be the passage around Raz Blanchard”.
Stéphane Le Diraison, skipper of the Class 40 Masai: “We’ve opted to retire from the race after determinedly battling against the current for five hours. We’ve slipped backwards for the umpteenth time and we have to be at work on Monday morning. As such it makes more sense to retire, albeit with a heavy heart as we’re competitors. We still have too far to go if we’re to stand a chance of being at work in good shape”.
Thibault Reinhart, co-skipper of the Class 40 Jasmine Flyer: “We’re very happy. We timed our arrival at Land’s End just right. ‘Solo’ is with us. For now, we’re happy with our position and our sail configuration. It’s pretty hellish in terms of sleep as I only slept for 90 minutes last night”.
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