Any takers to knock Phil Sharp off the top spot?

Thursday, 18 May 2017


Is Imerys absolutely killing it in this race? Has the Class40 skippered by the British-Spanish duo Phil Sharp - Pablo Santurde gained a decisive edge over the competition after being the first to round Fastnet lighthouse late this morning ? The first to Fastnet, but also the first to benefit from the favourable downwind conditions, the duo has tripled its lead in a matter of hours, now nearly 40 miles ahead of Serenis Consulting (Galfione - Troussel), who are hanging onto them with all their might. At ease at every point of sail seemingly, the Manuard design now has a virtually clear run across the Celtic Sea and the English Channel. The small ridge of high pressure, which was languishing off the Scillies should have little effect on their ability to make headway. In fact, the duo has been here before, albeit on different boats; Phil Sharp really putting the pressure on Pablo Santurde at this stage of the race last year, the latter ultimately gaining the upper hand to take the win by just 2 minutes and 48 seconds on his Talés II. At a time where the head of the fleet has done with the exhausting episode of upwind sailing wonderfully described as ‘mackerel stunning’, has Imerys quite simply stunned the competition  some 340 miles from the finish? 

See the Fastnet and… come back to life! What blessed relief for the newly invigorated duos competing in the Normandy Channel Race as they contemplate the legendary Fastnet lighthouse, whose history is so inextricably linked to offshore racing legend! From experienced sailors like Halvard Mabire (Campagne de France), to a highly skilled sailor finding his feet on the offshore racing scene like Cédric Château (Région Normandie), the sight of the famous rock, suffused with light for once, comes as quite a reward after over 20 hours of sailing, against a particularly wearing wind and sea state. And when rounding it finally offers up an opportunity to slip along under large headsails, with the bonus of being able to peel off foulies and other layers of neoprene, the joy turns to rapture! Forgotten is Brieuc Maisonneuve’s (Evernex - Delicecook) knee damage after an impact and Halvard Mabire’s shoulder injured in an unintentional manœuvre. Forgotten are Marc Lepesqueux’ unmanageable ballast tanks. Solely Maxime Sorel (V and B), handicapped by his computer problems, is unable to see the funny side of a situation that has seen him tumble down the rankings from what was a fine second place. He has since been struggling like someone possessed in a bid to snatch a podium place from Campagne de France.

A podium that is sure to be highly coveted through until Friday. “The race configuration seems to have erased the generational differences between the lead boats”, notes an amused Claire Pruvot. “The power of the new generation boats struggles to express itself upwind and in medium conditions.” The upshot of this is that 10 boats are making headway less than 25 miles apart, quite some pressure on the sailors then who still have 370 miles left to go. That said, they all believe they are in with a chance. Indeed, the duos are now benefiting from a more comfortable point of sail to get some rest, eat and outline the ideal route plan for what is already starting to resemble a final rush for the finish, schussing down towards the Channel Islands, with Friday morning likely to herald their landfall in the mouth of the Orne.

Quotes from the boats:

Miranda Merron, Campagne de France

“Very happy to see Fastnet, which is synonymous with an end to the mackerel stunning. Halvard worked well and hard last night. There’s everything to play for. Imerys seems to have opened up a lead but behind the game is wide open. We’re battling to contain our rivals. What a delight to be able to peel off our foulies and take the time for a hot meal!”

Claire Pruvot - Calvados

“The sun is coming out off Fastnet and the end of the upwind is nigh. Last night was pitch black and very wet. We weaved our way along upwind in the breeze and heavy seas to shelter from the current along the Irish coast… I’m learning lots alongside Louis (Duc), who always wisely decides on the sail choices. I’ve rounded Fastnet three times in the Figaro and it’s always just as magical.”

Marc Lepesqueux, Sensation Class40

“We haven’t encountered favourable conditions to really show off our boat’s potential. However, Calvados and Serenis Consulting have shown themselves to be very at ease close-hauled. We’ve got a match on our hands right the way to the finish. We have a fair few minor repairs to make, doubtless due to our short amount of preparation.”

Marc Duos, Esprit Scoot 

“The weather’s improving so we have a bit of time for some news. At 13:00pm yesterday, the sun came out after 24hrs of gloom, drizzle and poor visibility. The wind switched round from the S to 25/27 knots of SWly. The first part of the course after the start was amusing, with lots of crossing of tacks between the Class 40s, who were flying along in sports dinghy mode. Vigilance was necessary as we crossed the shipping lanes with some changes of course needed to avoid collisions (due to little or no change of course from the cargo ships). Rounding the Needles off the Isle of Wight was a bit tricky, upwind, with a chop at low tide and the shallows clearly visible just downwind of us! Then we had just one tack on a close reach and quite lumpy sees that shook my stomach up a bit. After that we eased the sheets slightly in quite strong winds. We hadn’t used the spinnaker before due to the wind and fatigue. Things are better now with the sun and a drop in the wind so we’re under large spinnaker. No other Class 40s are in sight. No technical problems. The race has got off to a gentle start and we’re happy to be at sea.”

 denis.van-den-brink@wanadoo.fr

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 18 May 2017 )