The Normandy Channel Race has had a busy day with a change of course put in place by the Race Committee and Race Management at 1100 hours local time this Tuesday. Due to the weather conditions forecast, namely a powerful SW’ly wind and heavy seas, Tuskar and Fastnet Rock have been ousted and the competitors will now go around a virtual mark, midway between Land’s End and Ireland.
'Made in Normandy' is continuing to strut its stuff at the front of the Class 40 fleet. Nicolas Jossier and Alexandre Toulorge have an 8.2-mile lead over 'Mare' skippered by the Riechers / Brasseur pairing and 14.6 miles over 'Campagne de France', piloted by Cherbourg skipper Halvard Mabire and Briton Miranda Merron. Eight Class 40s have retired from the Normandy Channel Race, due on the whole to technical issues.
The battle is on at the head of the Normandy Channel Race fleet. Over the past 24 hours, the racers have been making headway in tough sailing conditions, though it’s perfectly navigable for the Class 40s, which have been built for long offshore races. Since this lunchtime, the leaders have eased their sheets and are surfing along with the wind pretty much right on their tails in the waves of the Irish Sea. Making an average of over 12 knots, with peak speeds of 18 knots, 'Made In Normandie', 'Mare', 'Campagne de France' and 'Geodis' are going fast, very fast, in full combat mode, their crews wrapped up in their drysuits.
Last night, those competing in the NCR, close-hauled in choppy seas, ticked the South coast of England off their list. Tacking around Start Point then Lizard Point, 'Made In Normandie' managed to keep ahead of its rivals, despite it’s pursuers letting the power of their machines do the talking. In this way, the duos Riechers / Brasseur and Mabire / Merron moved back up to the front of the fleet after a laboured start to the race.
Right now, behind the top four, 'Red', fifth, 'Momentum Ocean Racing', 'Groupe Picoty', 'Al Bucq' and 'Phoenix Europe Carac' are nose to tail within a 2-mile area.
During this time, several sailors have experienced technical issues, whilst others have thrown in the towel, not wishing to put their sports projects in danger for the upcoming season. 'Kogane' skippered by Patrice Bougard and Gilles Dadou, 'Pascall Atkey and Son of Cowes' helmed by Pier Tylers and James Stablelord, 'Swish' skippered by Roderick Knowles and Paul Peggs, 'Groupe Partouche' helmed by Christophe Coatnoan and Jean-Charles Monnet, 'Jasmine Flyer' skippered by Thibault Reinhart and Nicolas Boidevézi, 'Earwen' helmed by Catherine Pourre and Goulven Royer, are all retiring following issues with their engines, sails, shrouds or automatic pilots.
'GDF SUEZ', skippered by Sébastien Rogues and Ludovic Aglaor, have retired as they are loathe to take their brand new Mach 40 through such boisterous conditions. 'Norma Concept – Le Pal' skippered by Bruno Jourdren and Thomas Ruyant, has also chosen to alter course to Plymouth. The two experienced sailors have deemed it better to call it a day so as to keep their sails intact for the Transat Jacques Vabre.
For the remaining 11 Class 40s, once they’re around the virtual waypoint, they’ll be sailing close-hauled or on a close reach back towards Land’s End, at which point they’ll set a course for the island of Guernsey… Suspense is set to colour the next few days then and we will have to wait and see whether 'Made In Normandie' manages to hang onto its lead. ETA Thursday morning offshore of Hermanville-sur-Mer…
Nicolas Jossier, skipper of the Class 40 'Made in Normandie': 'We’ve just endured a pretty tough night with 25 to 30 knots of breeze and little sleep. At the start we had a beautiful sail to Barfleur, hugging the coast as we made our way along. After that we managed to extend our lead during the Channel crossing. Yesterday, as we made headway along the English coast, we extracted ourselves from the Solent rather nicely. It was a long day though, upwind on a reach with our Class 40 really slamming. Our aim is obviously to stay at the front so we’re continuing to make headway.'
Miranda Merron, co-skipper of the Class 40 'Campagne de France': 'We had a cold, dark night with rain. We’re currently sailing downwind with 16 knots of breeze and there’s a big swell. It’s never really the wind that irks us, but rather the sea state. Yesterday’s highlight was the passage through the Solent. There wasn’t much space between the sand and our keel. For the next stage, the first part of the Channel crossing will be performed with a close reach so we’ve got everything to play for.'
Jorg Riechers, skipper of the Class 40 'Mare': 'We’re happy with the course change. After a catastrophic start to the race, we caught up with the head of the fleet yesterday thanks to good control during our sail changes, switching from the genoa to the staysail. We’re on the attack but it’s not going to be easy to come back on 'Made in Normandie'.
Brieuc Maisonneuve, skipper of the Class 40 'Al Bucq': 'We’re under spinnaker with less than 20 knots of breeze. The sun is out. We’ve hoisted the small kite and we’ll stick with that configuration as far as the virtual waypoint.'
Jean-Christophe Caso, skipper of the Class 40 'Groupe Picoty': 'The course change is a reasonable solution. We’re not here to scare ourselves in an Irish Sea that is often very tough with no escape routes. Last night we got dropped by the leading group. We’re in contact with 'Red' and 'Phoenix'. We still have the scope to make a come back as long as the leaders haven’t crossed the finish line. If we only have a 15-mile deficit in relation to the frontrunners, we’ll be able to catch up along the Norman coast with the passages around Barfleur and Le Raz Blanchard'.
Manfred Ramspacher, organiser of the Normandy Channel Race: 'Given the fact that the weather conditions could worsen over the coming hours, the Race Committee and Race Management have proposed the idea of a course change to the competitors. We’ve removed the passages from Tuskar Rock and Fastnet Rock. The Class 40s are continuing to race towards a virtual point, midway between Land’s End and Tuskar, which they’ll leave to port. They’ll then begin the return leg, where they’ll stick to the initial course.'
Catherine Pourre, skipper of the Class 40 'Earwen': 'We are informing you of our retirement following sail and electronic issues and given the weather conditions forecast it would seem reasonable to us to cut short this NCR. All’s well aboard. We’re heading to Caen.'
Thomas Ruyant, co-skipper of the Class 40 'Norma Concept – Le Pal': 'Since the start, we’ve been suffering from some serious ballast tank issues. Last night, despite being in second place in the competition, Bruno and I took the tough decision to retire from the event. In addition to this technical issue, we weren’t keen to compromise our only set of sails for the year. Our joint aim is to focus on the Transat Jacques Vabre'.
David Lanier, weather adviser for the Normandy Channel Race: 'With the modification, the front runners will round Land’s End on the return leg with 18-20 knots of wind, gusting to 28-30 knots. Those with a five-hour deficit will pass Land’s End with an average of 25 knots of breeze, gusting to 35 knots. Those with a 10-hour deficit will have 30 knots, gusting to 40 knots.'
Normandy Channel Race website
by Kate Jennings Translation
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2:59 PM Tue 16 Apr 2013GMT
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