Compression due in the Normandy Channel Race

Class 40s fogbound along the south coast of Ireland

Wednesday May 19th 2010, Author: Denis van den Brink, Location: none selected

While the Normandy Channel Race is taking the double-handed Class 40 crews along the south coasts of England and Ireland, at present nothing at all can be seen because of thick fog has engulfed the Celtic Sea since the Class 40s' entry into it.

With competitors set to run into an area of high pressure the organisers have chosen to shorten course, with the route now heading directly back from the Fastnet to Caen, without having to round the Sept Iles along the Côtes d’Armor in Brittany.

Behind leaders Thomas Ruyant and Tanguy Leglatin on Destination Dunkerque, the eight chasing boats are set to round the Tuskar Rock lighthouse to the southwest of Ireland throughout today, at which point they will be roughly halfway round the course. The long run under spinnaker in steady breeze but sizable seas since Land's End has seen the leaders gradually extend but further tricky sections lie ahead with a particularly difficult stretch between the Fastnet and the Brittany coast with a zone of high pressure positioned right across their route.

With a lead of around 30 miles over the 'Flying Dutchmen' - Roelland Franssens and Belgian round the world sailor Michel Kleinjans on Moonpalace, the Destination Dunkerque crew Thomas Ruyant and Tanguy Leglatin, are cautiously giving themselves a pat on the back: "We're happy to have opened up our lead. We knew we were the first to hit the southwesterlies and we were on the attack the whole night under large spinnaker.

"Other tricky sections are taking shape on the horizon and we can't have too much of a cushion of a lead if we're to stand a chance of winning."

The analysis from Roelland Franssens echoed this and doubtless the same is true for Peter Harding and Halvard Mabire who are
close behind the Dutch in 40 Degrees. These two boats will be hunting down Destination Dunkerque as the leaders move into the high.

Roeland Franssens reported: "We're in great shape. We've just passed Tuskar. For now all's going well. It was a fine night under large and small spinnaker and we're making good headway. Right now there's not much wind and we're suffering a bit in 6 to 8 knots. It's hard to get past the lighthouse sailing close-hauled, but we'll have to get on the right road to the Fastnet. 40 Degrees is 3 miles behind us. They've made up ground on us with the current. It's not great news but we're doing our best. We're only halfway. We didn't get much sleep under spinnaker. We had to helm a lot and the sleep suffered, as is set to be the case between now and the Fastnet. We're delighted with our second place."

Halvard Mabire from 40 Degrees added:  "Here we are on our way to Tuskar. We are making the most of sailing under spinnaker, alongside the Flying Dutchmen, because if the weather files are correct, after Tuskar we will yet again be going upwind... The Organisers of the Normandy Channel Race should go and do a tour in the mountains, where they will discover that eventually you can go downhill after going uphill on seal skins. If ski touring involved only going uphill on seal skins, there probably wouldn't be many takers. The conclusion is that only sailors are mad enough to keep taking part in races which involve so much uphill work...  But there are compensations for all this uphill work, and it is interesting. As with all games, there is strategy, experience, and above all, if one is honest, there is also a significant element of chance (or luck, depending on how you look at it...). I think it was luck which got us past the Lizard. We were trying something tactically, but we missed a small wind shift, and the end result was that we did come out more or less where we planned to, but not in the way originally intended.

"So for a while we really thought that we would lose out to some of our playmates on the water. But it must have been our lucky day, because it is clear that others did not get lucky, and it is not down to lack of doing things right. If the wind had done what it was supposed to, they would have come out well ahead of us. We aren't complaining - we were just very lucky. However, I don't know how many more lives we have left, so we will have to think carefully about strategy all the way to the end of the race. In the meantime, there is quite a gap between the leaders and us, and not enough of a gap between us and everyone else behind, as is always the case".

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