A fabulous sunny start for the 24 Class40s attacking the English Channel and the North Atlantic!

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Normandy Channel Race got off to a splendid start today with breeze and sunshine. From noon, the 24 competing duos on their pacy Class40 monohulls launched into the traditional parade along the Orne canal, bound for Ouistreham and its lock gates. To rapturous applause from a large crowd, the crews passed safely through into the open ocean, ready to do battle. Ahead of them lie an abundant supply of hazards between the Solent, the Scillies, Tuskar and Fastnet, before they return to their starting point in France’s Calvados region, most likely at the end of the coming week. On the start line, a heady mix of nervousness for some, concentration for others, as the sailors prepare for what the weather has in store for them, all too aware of how important the first few hours of the race will be as the wind shifts round from the North-East to the South-West. Initially at least, the scenario is sure to favour those at the head of the fleet as they make for the first passage mark of this Norman event, the rounding of the Saint Marcouf islands off the Cotentin peninsula. With a great variety of points of sail on the cards, the double-handed crews are guaranteed a fast and bracing 2017 edition, with initial estimates seeing the leaders returning to the Baie de l’Orne as early as Friday morning.

Sport, tactics and tricky sections…

The 2017 vintage of the Normandy Channel Race is a mouth-watering feast for fans of great, close-contact racing, in what are likely to be radically different wind and sea conditions from one day to the next. Indeed, an initial analysis of the grib files envisages some extremely varied sailing configurations after a start in a light thermal breeze from the north-east. Région Normandie, skippered by Olivier Cardin – Cédric Château, took control of the fleet the second the starting gun fired, leading the way in a short triangular inshore course towards Les Lucs. Very soon after this coastal course off Hermanville and a potentially tricky transition phase, the wind is set to shift round to the South-West with the arrival of the first low pressure system. The Channel hop will take place tonight in freshening downwind conditions. A highly tactical gybe will likely be triggered mid-Channel, amidst the intense maritime shipping. A short session of upwind conditions is forecast as they escape the Solent via the Needles, at which point the sailors will ease their sheets a little en route to Cornwall. The first somewhat virulent episode in this NCR 2017 will play out off Land’s End, when the powerful swell is picked up by a strong W’ly wind. Once they manage to extract themselves from this area, made all the trickier by the Traffic Separation Zone (TSS), which is forbidden to the racers, they will hook back up with some favourable downwind conditions in the climb up to Tuskar. Set to be an enjoyable section for once, a welcome relief after last year’s rollercoaster ride, the crews will then get a serving of upwind conditions on their way to Fastnet, in what will be a strong wind throughout the 140-mile sprint between the two Irish lighthouses. Here, the ‘survivors’ will be in seventh heaven as they revel in the hair-raising downwind conditions, schussing down towards the Channel Islands and Guernsey.

The many faces of the Normandy Channel Race

Sometimes quick and tormented, sometimes slow and tedious, every year since the creation of the Normandy Channel Race, the event has enjoyed a rich history, made all the more memorable by the sailors’ remarkable performances. Back in 2010, Thomas Ruyant and Tanguy Leglatin penned the first chapter of this beautiful race book, covering 1,124 miles at an average speed over the ground of 6.90 knots to secure victory. Tanguy De Lamotte took the win the following year with a staggering average speed of over 9 knots. The German skipper, Jorg Riechers, won the shortest Normandy Channel Race, with a course reduced to just 645 miles, which he covered at an average of 8.43 knots. So far, the 2016 edition has gone down as the fastest ever sprint, the Spanish sailors on Talés devouring 1,055 miles at an average speed of 9.27 knots.

And to follow the race, positions are updated every 15 minutes... http://www.normandy-race.com/index/followrace

But for even more fun, why not join the 15,000 people participating in Virtual Regatta: http://www.virtualregatta.com/index_ncr2017.php

Quotes from the boats

Eric Varin (France), Evernex - Delicecook

“We’re feeling very confident as we’ve done a lot of sailing in the early season. Brieuc (Maisonneuve) and I know each other very well having sailed together for 35 years. You mustn’t be too playful or risk getting left behind from the start. There won’t be much respite until Saint Marcouf. We’re going to have to try to get some rest in the English Channel before a big chunk of bravery in the Solent. Our aim is primarily to have fun…”

Ari Kanakoski (Finland), Fuji

“The weather’s looking good for our type of boat. We’re not going to take any excessive risks with the weather. Our focus will be on trying to hang on in there on our older generation boat…”

Claire Pruvot (France), Calvados

“We’ll be setting sail in little breeze, so it will be a regatta atmosphere from the start. With the wind due to kick in via the West, we’ll need to be at the front from the get-go. There are sure to be some zones of transition to deal with between the thermal breeze and the wind on the synoptic charts. Neither Louis nor I have done a lot of sailing recently. We’ll need to find our sea-legs as the wind is set to pick up very quickly and pack a real punch as far as Tuskar, with a beat sure to be in store to reach Fastnet. We’ll find our bearings and then adapt to the conditions we get…”

Manu Cousin, Groupe Setin

“The pressure’s slowly building. We’re itching to get going. We know what weather will colour our ride. We’re ready for it. Things will reach a crescendo, with some more boisterous conditions from Monday. For my third participation, we’re going to try to give our mates a run for their money and really show what we’re made of. We’re going to have to know how to hunker down at some point. I’ve been practising in the Solent for a long time, sailing from Saint Valérie en Caux. I love the area.”

Pablo Santurde, Imerys

“I’m very excited about this start. We’re expecting some breeze along the English coast, but things are shaping up well. I’m really beginning to familiarise myself with Phil’s boat, which has a great deal in common with Talès, the boat I won on last year. We’ll need to be prudent at the start, but this race is dotted with hazards and we can’t afford to dawdle…”

Antoine Carpentier, V and B

“The Irish Sea promises to be complicated for the boats and skippers alike. We’re keen to post a solid performance, so we mustn’t let ourselves be distracted by what our friends are up to. This race is very interesting. We’ll be able to compare ourselves, tack for tack, with 23 boats. However, gaps could open up between us very suddenly. The Solent is a great section, near Cowes, the Mecca of European sailing. I love sailing here…”

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Last Updated ( Monday, 15 May 2017 )