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Storming The Normandy Channel In 40 Footers

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  • Storming The Normandy Channel In 40 Footers

    With the exception of the Class40s Fuji Zerochallenge and La Boulangere Bio, virtually all the crews competing in the 2022 edition of the CIC Normandy Channel Race have rounded the Tuskar Rock lighthouse, the most northerly point of the course, and are now plunging southwards towards a new mark at Grande Basse de Portsall, off the north-western tip of Brittany. With the fleet split into two very distinct groups, the former champions of the Figaro circuit, Corentin Douguet and Yoann Richomme, are still leading the way aboard the Class40 Queguiner-Innoveo. The first peloton is sailing under the influence of an occluded front with the sailors having to negotiate a difficult transition zone amidst a combination of steady rain and wind shifts, which is causing a significant drop in speed. Meantime, the chasing pack is ensnared in a zone of high pressure sprawled out lazily along the south coast of Ireland…

    After passing the Irish lighthouse, the leaders’ game plan was fairly clear: to make westing in order to circumnavigate a transition zone smack bang in the middle of the Celtic Sea as best they could, whilst trying to control their direct rivals. Over the course of this evening, the occluded front will clear away to the north, paving the way for a more regular 15-20 knots of SW’ly wind, which will enable the fleet to head pretty much straight for Land’s End. It remains to be seen which of the top nine boats will be in the most favourable spot once the more constant and eagerly awaited new breeze makes its presence felt.

    It’s fair to say that at every stage of the race, the battle is raging. In the second chasing pack, three small groups have formed with each of the competitors squeezed together less than two miles apart. This is notably the case for Bleu Blanc, Tquila and Nestenn–Entreprendre pour la Plan?te, as well as for Prisme, Naviguons contre le diab?te and Vogue avec un Crohn. The tension must surely be palpable aboard the Class40s given how stressful it can be to sail within sight of fellow competitors. The emphasis this evening will be on giving their all, staying focused and above all controlling their nerves in a bid to claw back precious miles in relation to their closest rivals.

    After 48 hours of racing, the top ten competitors are bunched together within 20 miles of one another. By late evening, the fleet are set to reach Land’s End for the second time, at which point the wind will gradually ease as they make for the Grande Basse de Portsall mark. Once there, the race will become an entirely different animal. With a deep fatigue beginning to set in after enduring a series of meaty and uncomfortable conditions since the start, it’ll be important to keep a clear head to tackle the second half of the race, where the breeze is due to become relatively weak, setting the racers’ nerves on edge. Indeed, at the midway mark in the race, it is still absolutely anyone’s game. Notorious for never being a foregone conclusion, the CIC Normandy Channel Race isn’t giving anybody an easy ride and further upsets in the ranking cannot be ruled out with some tricky sections still to come… This is true even among those who appear to have a slight edge. A fact that won’t be lost on the likes of Corentin Douguet and Yoann Richomme, who will be hoping to bring their tactical A’ game to the fore to disprove the statistics.

    As expected, the outward leg across the Celtic Sea has been a quick downwind passage for the fleet in the 13th edition of the CIC Normandy Channel Race, with some of the Class40s posting peak speeds bordering on 30 knots… This morning, ten crews have already rounded the course mark of Tuskar Rock. Upon their arrival at the south-east tip of Ireland, conditions were boisterous with 25 knots of S’ly wind, with possible gusts of 30-35 knots. It was Corentin Douguet and Yoann Richomme aboard Queguiner-Innoveo, who were first to make the rounding at 02:47 UTC this morning. They were 33 minutes ahead of Inter Invest (03:20 UTC) and 44 minutes in front of Redman (03:31 UTC), the latter pretty much neck and neck with Credit Mutuel (03:36 UTC).

    The leaders have already launched onto the return leg of the Celtic Sea then. Following the modification to the course as announced by Race Management yesterday, the skippers are now embroiled in a 230-mile long beat to a new course mark at Grande Basse de Portsall at the entrance to the English Channel. The sailors are continuing to contend with a S/SW’ly wind in lively conditions. “We rounded the Tuskar Rock lighthouse about an hour ago and right now the situation is somewhat tougher. We’re in upwind conditions of 25 knots with raging seas. It’s very violent…” explained Aur?lien Ducroz from the Class40 Crosscall. Like his playmates, the skipper from Chamonix, is currently under the influence of an occluded front. Forecasts indicate that the wind will ease over the course of the morning with a few gusts in some bracing squalls, which will doubtless keep the duos on their toes.

    The whole of the compact fleet in the CIC Normandy Channel Race 2022 is powering its way along the coast of southern England. The surprising and unexpected duo made up of Matthieu Perraut / Kevin Bloch is still leading the way in front of the hotshots on Qu?guiner-Innoveo, Redman and Cr?dit Mutuel. Aboard their Class40 Inter Invest, Matthieu and K?vin have already negotiated Lizard Point and are now hurtling towards Land’s End. On a reach in around fifteen knots or so of SW’ly breeze, the leaders should make the Wolf Rock course mark by early evening, at around 16 to 17:00 UTC.

    To round off this epic sprint along the south-west coast of England, the 26 crew still in the competition will need to find the energy for one last effort in the beat towards Land’s End. The sailors will have to take particular care with any changes of tack to latch onto the favourable current expected at Longships as quickly as possible, in the knowledge that the front runners will benefit from the full force of the latter. The seven boats in hot pursuit, namely Crosscall, Credit Mutuel, Edenred, Eora, Redman, Groupe SNEF and Project Rescue Ocean, will have to navigate a flawless course and absolutely nail the strategic sail choices if they are to close on the two leaders Inter Invest and Queguiner–Innoveo and steal a march towards Ireland.

    Once they’ve left Wolf Rock to port, the competitors should benefit from a southerly wind shift of around twenty knots or so, which will slingshot them across the Celtic Sea, thus enabling them to devour the 130 miles of ocean separating them from the iconic lighthouse at Tuskar Rock on a long run, which may well take under a dozen hours. From there, the leaders of this 13th edition are expected to reach the south-east tip of Ireland at first light tomorrow morning, Tuesday.

    The low-down on the damage to the fleet

    Am?lie Grassi and Anne-Claire Le Berre, aboard the Class40 La Boulangere Bio, have been experiencing alternator issues since last night, which notably prevents them from recharging the boat’s batteries. This basically translates as no on-board electronics for navigation and no watermaker for eating and drinking. As such, the duo decided to make a pit stop in Cherbourg. Arriving safely in port at around 13:30 hours UTC this afternoon, Am?lie and Anne-Claire are giving their all to effect repairs and get back out on the racetrack as quickly as possible.

    For their part, Andrea Fornaro and Igor Goikhberg, aboard the Class40 Influence, are also on a pit-stop in the port of Weymouth in a bid to resolve their electronics issues.

    In terms of retirements, Clara Fortin and Martin Louchart aboard the Class40 Randstad-Ausy have decided to put an end to their race following rudders problems. They’re now making for Cherbourg. Equally, the Courbon brothers, who have also informed race management of their retirement without giving any specific details, are making for Le Havre. Everyone is fine aboard.

    As announced, the passage across the Channel proved to be extremely quick for the fleet competing in the 13th edition of the CIC Normandy Channel Race. The crews even benefiting from a steadier breeze than forecast enabling them to really put pedal to the metal in their sprint across to British shores. Some boats were even polled making over 17 knots… defying all the routing in the process. As a result, it was around 18:30 hours UTC that the first Class40, Queguiner-Innoveo, made its entrance into the Solent. The typically treacherous and dreaded rounding of the Isle of Wight was a relative breeze, with the competitors latching onto a favourable current, good wind shifts and the shortest possible route. The Class40s were fiercely jockeying for position, switching leaders every 15 minutes according to the timings of their gybes and route choices. The first duo extracted itself from the Solent at just 21:30 UTC.

    Since then, the sailors have been accompanied by storms as they navigate their way along the south coast of England. “We’ve had some incredible storms with lots of lightning and rain punctuating our passage at the end of the Solent and the start of our journey westwards. Each time it was very beautiful, but equally very worrying,” reports Ian Lipinski, skipper of the Class40 Credit Mutuel.

    In these menacing conditions, the Class40 Inter Invest has come off best. Matthieu Perraut and Kevin Bloch were the first to commence hostilities and head south. The first to opt to distance themselves from the coast, they were also the first to reap the benefits of the turn of the tide, the effects of which were stronger offshore.

    It’s worth noting that the Class40 Influence, skippered by Andrea Fornaro and Igor Goikhberg, has stopped off in Weymouth due to electronics issues.

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