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upffront 2018 GFM 728x90

Grouped formation for the Normandy Channel Race fleet

by Sirius Events 20 May 11:36 PDT 20 May 2019
Normandy Channel Race 2019 competitors pass the Needles © Rick Tomlinson

Obviously, the various editions of the Normandy Channel Race go by and every one is different from the last.

Having negotiated two tricky sections in the form of the Norman island of Saint Marcouf and the English Isle of Wight, which have already split the fleet in two or even three groups, the 2019 crews are bunched into just a 3-mile expanse of sea (1.8 miles between the leader and the skippers in 10thplace) on exiting the Solent. An hitherto unprecedented scenario in the Normandy Channel Race.

Since yesterday's start at 15:30 hours local time in the Baie de Seine, Normandy, there has been constant jockeying position at the front of the fleet. First to take up the reins was Eärendil, benefiting from a great introduction to play during the 'show' course off Ouistreham and first to make the South of the island of Saint Marcouf. Next, it was the turn of the crew on Beijaflore to take control throughout the nocturnal cross-Channel section, on a beat in light airs that didn't exceed 5-10 knots.

Approaching Saint Catherine's Point to the South of the Isle of Wight, the still very compact fleet had to punch tide through until midday with the wind easing. The sailors had to just grin and bear it and bring their seamanship to bear in their bid to find where to position themselves on the race zone and notably hunt down the shallower waters near the coast so as not be heavily penalised by the law of the Solent.

Aymeric Chappellier and Pierre Brasseur, respectively skipper and co-skipper of Aïna Enfance et Avenir, came off best at this little game, benefiting from their vast experience of the event (the two of them boast 7 participations in all) to bring their A game and be first to devour Spithead (the first eastern gate into the Solent).

Sailing within sight of one another, it's easy to imagine that the famous Solent was transformed into a fierce full-scale chess game out on the water this afternoon. Punching into the tide amidst sandbanks, cargo ships and race tactics in a tightly bunched fleet, the crews have been linking together tacks and gybes throughout the day. The passage off Cowes to the north of the Isle of Wight, must have felt like deliverance for the skippers, who have finally seen the current turn in their favour and with it an additional 4 to 5 knots on the speedo.

However, the night is unlikely to be very restful for our duos. Indeed, in a fleet of highly unusual density, Eärendil and Aïna Enfance et Avenir have detached themselves slightly to guide the 13 duos towards the Portland peninsula, another tricky section to negotiate this evening, which may catch a few of them out. Then onwards to the legendary Wolf Rock lighthouse, which the fleet will likely reach tomorrow morning at first light.

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