Normandy Channel Race 2011 came to a close after the emotional prize-giving that took place at the Pavillon de Normandie in Caen and now a sense of melancholy looms over the quays of the Bassin Saint-Pierre in anticipation of the return in 2012 of the fine figure cut by the Class40 fleet.
The skippers were pushed to their limits by the course and sailing conditions with wind that refused to drop below fifteen knots and at times went as high as 45 knots. The lesson has been learned that the rounding of Tuskar Rock ultimately must be earned and certainly cannot be counted on in advance.
The wild faces of certain skippers at the finish testified to this, and justifiably so given their experience: 'a legendary race' (Dominic Vittet), 'the finest offshore race I’ve done' (Tanguy de Lamotte)… words which were widely echoed by all the skippers at the prize-giving. The race management’s decision to shorten the course and miss out the Fastnet also meant that the intensity of the race was never to the detriment of safety.
This years honours go to Initiatives Saveurs, helmed by Tanguy de Lamotte and Sébastien Audigane, who managed to power across the 870 mile course at an average speed of 8.39 knots, after an epic hand to hand battle for 48 hours just a few boat lengths from second placed Fabien Delahaye and Bruno Jourdren on Port De Caen – Ouistreham. Never far behind, Pieds Et Des Mains, skippered by Damien Seguin and Yohann Richomme completed the podium.
As a result it’s initially among the skippers that the young event is taking root; the event’s concept and values being reinforced with every edition of the race. Indeed the Normandy Channel Race brings together the Class40s of northern Europe with a reference annual course spanning 1,000 miles of the English Channel, as well as targeting an international line-up. As such, beyond the race itself, the exchanges are coloured by many different horizons which serves to further boost the quality of this extraordinary meeting.
Meanwhile the event has also strengthened its roots within the Norman territory, with double the crowds flocking to the race village in Caen this year, with a vast array of maritime attractions besides the race boats.
Normandy Channel Race 2011 - © Jean-Marie Liot
These included the presence of the French Navy with their ship the Vulcain, a sizeable collection of traditional sailing ships such as the fantastic local ‘Bisquine’ classic known as La Granvillaise, introductory dinghy lessons, as well as the Class40s themselves, all lined up along the quay to the great delight of visitors.
The start day itself proved to be hugely popular, thanks in particular to the fleet’s journey down the canal from Caen to the sea, which meant that there was enough space for everyone to follow the parade of boats from its shores. In fact, by the time the fleet made it to the lock gates at Ouistreham, where a last drink awaited the crews, several thousand people had come out to wish them well.
This enthusiasm was relayed by the event’s media partners, who provided very extensive coverage of the event (twice headlining in the Ouest-France newspaper along with numerous articles, a whole score of radio reports on France Bleu Basse-Normandie, and television coverage on France 3 Normandie). Meantime the website had more than double the audience figures compared with 2010 with an average of 50,000 pages read per day.
The solid, long-term support from the region’s major communities (the City of Caen, the Lower-Normandy region, the Calvados County Council, and the Caen la Mer conglomeration) over the next few years, has given the event the necessary time to continue its development.
Indeed, whether it be the teams from the partner club SRCO, those of the CCI and the Port of Caen-Ouistreham, the V1D2 boatyard, the Sailing League, and many, many more, all the region’s marine protagonists have joined forces to contribute to the event.
The economic domain in Normandy is also gradually linking up with the operation, including the Caisse d’Epargne Normandie, the event’s Official Partner, the dozen or so Official Suppliers, as well as all the exhibitors in the race village.
All that remains is for everyone to gather together again in 2012 for a third edition, which is set to continue its development. Next year’s event is scheduled to take place at the end of August – early September, so as to fit in nicely with the other Class 40 events ('the Solidaire du Chocolat' transatlantic race in March – return of the Global Ocean Race in June - Quebec/ St Malo in July). Event website