Normandy Channel Race - Fleet set off on 1,000 mile journey

Normandy Channel Race 2012
The Normandy Channel Race 2013 got underway today, bang on 1700 hours local time offshore of Hermanville-sur-Mer in northern France. Twenty Class 40s and their double-handed crews have kicked off their 1,000-mile, week-long race. After an initial seven mile inshore course between Luc-sur-Mer and Ouistreham, the competitors are currently making headway towards the Saint Marcouf islands, an archipelago in the Bay de Seine.

It’s 'Mare' skippered by German sailor Jorg Riechers and Picardy sailor Pierre Brasseur, who are leading the way this evening, with 'Norma Concept – Le Pal' hot on their heels helmed by Bruno Jourdren and Thomas Ruyant.

The Normandy Channel Race couldn’t have hoped for a better start. Finally spring was very much in evidence today. At 1700 hours local time, the temperature off France’s Calvados region was up to 20 degrees, with flat seas and about 15 knots of breeze; perfect sailing conditions for the 40 sailors competing in the fourth edition of the Normandy Channel Race.

The fleet got away to a clean start, with 'Geodis' first to cross the start line, followed by 'Norma Concept – Le Pal', 'Red' and 'Made In Normandie'. They were close-hauled as they set a course for the first race mark. Taking the left side of the course offshore of Hermanville-sur-Mer, 'Mare' skippered by Jorg Riechers and Pierre Brasseur, screamed away from their pursuers and were first to round the mark. Beam onto the wind, 'GDF SUEZ' helmed by Sébastien Rogues and Ludovic Aglaor, managed to catch up, as did 'Red', Mathias Blumencron and Boris Herrmann’s Roger’s design, which was carrying its spinnaker. This was the top trio then at the Luc-sur-Mer mark.

With the wind on their tails, bound for Ouistreham, 'Mare' took a wrong turn and was overtaken by Rogues – Aglaor, 'Campagne de France' skippered by the experienced Mabire – Merron duo, moving up into third place.

Heading back to the original start line position, there was some drama prior to the fleet being released into the English Channel… The race committee read out the ranking. 'Mare' had snatched back her lead, 'Norma Concept – Le Pal' was second, 'GDF Suez' third. Three of the latest Class 40s were leading the way then, two Mach 40s and the Tyker Evolution 3. 'Made in Normandie' sailed by the Nicolas Jossier and Alexandre Toulorge pairing were fourth, 'Campagne de France' fifth, 'Groupe Picoty' helmed by Jean-Christophe Caso and Aymeric Chappellier in sixth.

As we go to press this evening, the fleet is making headway in a regular SSW’ly breeze towards the Saint Marcouf islands. For now, the boats have the tide with them, but the latter is set to turn at 1900 hours local time. As such some major moves may be set up according to their offshore or inshore options. Strategically the fleet will then have to position itself in relation to the first front, which is due to scoop up the sailors early tonight for the cross-channel hop. Fair winds!

As was the case in 2012, locals and tourists alike came out to see off the fleet for today’s start of the Normandy Channel Race. Crowds flocked to the Quai Vendeuvre in Caen this morning to bid the crews fair winds as they cast off from the pontoons and prepared to make their way down the canal to Ouistreham, chaperoned by the Navy boat, Vulcain. There was a great throng of onlookers at each lock gate too, keen to be part of the show, which was reminiscent of a Tour de France a la Voile event!

Philippa Hutton-Squire, skipper of the Class 40 'Phesheya-Racing': 'It’s my first Normandy Channel Race without Nick Leggatt so for my co-skipper and I it’s all about learning the course for ourselves. We’re happy that we’re not going to have nightmarish conditions for the first few hours of racing. The temperatures will be high with a medium wind. I know my boat inside out and I have a Round the World to my credit, so I’ll be able to cope if we get 40 knots in the Irish Sea'.

Pierre Brasseur, co-skipper of the Class 40 'Mare': 'A 20-knot average over the entire course is what we’re predicting, with some uncertainty between Tuskar Rock in Ireland and the Fastnet rock, so this Normandy Channel Race will be run in some fairly lively conditions. That’s just as well though, because that’s how we like it aboard 'Mare'.

Bruno Jourdren, skipper of the Class 40 'Norma Concept – Le Pal': 'There won’t be any surprises in the first few hours of racing. The weather appears to be reliable, but in my view it’s imperative that we’re in the leading group because we’ll be punching the tide at Saint Marcouf, so the first to get through it will be off. After that, as we traverse the English Channel, there will be an initial front to negotiate and the tactical positioning in relation to the rest of the fleet will be important. Tomorrow morning we’ll tackle the Solent, punching the tide again, with a new active depression. It’s from Land’s End that things will get spicier with strong to very strong wind forecast. Race Management will have the opportunity to reduce the course if need be'.

Louis Duc, skipper of the Class 40 'Phoenix': 'In principle we’ll have more wind than forecast for the Cross-Channel section tonight, with at least 25 knots. We’re going to have to take care of our gear and not break anything this early on. From the outset, and even when we have the current in our favour, we’re going to have to begin to lay our cards on a tactical level'.

Halvard Mabire, skipper of the Class 40 'Campagne de France': 'It’s going to be a pleasant introduction to proceedings. We’re going to quickly get in some rest after the start because from midnight and after Saint Marcouf, the wind is set to build in the English Channel. Our sprint along the southern coast of England will be tough, with a front and no less than 25 knots of close-hauled sailing. We’re also readying ourselves for some lively conditions in Ireland'.

Follow the race on our cartography with new rankings at Midnight, 0300, 0600, 0900, 1200, 1500, 1800 and 2100 hours GMT…

Ranking at the final mark of the inshore course:

1. Mare (N°115)
Skipper: Jörg riechers
Co-Skipper: Pierre Brasseur

2. Norma Concept – Le Pal (N° 119)
Skipper: Jourdren Bruno
Co-Skipper: Thomas Ruyant

3. GDF (N° 130)
Skipper: Sebastien Rogues
Co-Skipper: Ludovic Aglaor

4. Made In Normandie (N°107)
Skipper: Nicolas Jossier
Co-Skipper: Alexandre Toulorge

5. Campagne De France (N°101)
Skipper: Halvard Mabire
Co-Skipper: Miranda Merron

6. Groupe Picoty (N°85)
Skipper: Jean- Christophe Caso
Co-Skipper: Aymeric Chappellier

7. Eärwen (N°88)
Skipper: Catherine Pourre
Co-Skipper: Goulven Royer

8. Red (N°59)
Skipper: Mathias Blumencron
Co-Skipper: Boris Herrmann

9. Jasmine Flyer (N°112)
Skipper: Thibault Reinhart
Co-Skipper: Nicolas Boidévezi

10. Phoenix Europe - Carac (N°65)
Skipper: Louis Duc
Co-Skipper: Stéphanie Alran

11. Momentum Ocean Racing (N° 93)
Skipper: Dan Dytch
Co-Skipper: Emma Creighton

12. Pascall Atkey & Son of Cowes (N°102)
Skipper : Piers Tyler
Co-Skipper: James Stableford

13. Partouche (N°113)
Skipper: Christophe Coatnoan
Co-Skipper: Marc Lepesqueux

14. Pheysheya-Racing (N°23)
Co-Skipper: Pip Hare
Skipper: Phillippa Hutton-Squire

15. Geodis (N°81)
Co-Skipper: Armel Tripon
Skipper: Fabrice Amedeo

16. Swish (N°52)
Skipper: Roderick Knowles
Co-Skipper: Paul Peggs

17. Kogane (N°91)
Skipper: Patrice Bougard
Co-Skipper: Gilles Dadou

18. Obportus3 (N°60)
Skipper: Olivier Roussey
Co-Skipper: Philippe Burger

19. Mr Bricolage (N°109)
Skipper: Damien Rousseau
Co-Skipper: Benjamin Develay

20. Al Bucq (N°124)
Skipper: Brieuc Maisonneuve
Co-Skipper: Ned Collier Wakefield

Normandy Race website