40 Degrees consolidates second

Fog rises as Class 40 doublehanders in the Normandy Channel Race return from the Fastnet

Friday May 21st 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

With the exception of Novedia Initiatives (De Lamotte-Galfione) and Groupe Partouche (Coatnoan-Lautrou) battling it out side by side on their way to the Fastnet lighthouse, the other six doublehanded Class 40s in the Normandy Channel Race are on their way back across the Celtic Sea en route towards the Scilly Isles.

The fog, which has shrouded the boats for the last three days, is gradually dissipating the further south the Class 40s sail, but little else has changed and they're still on the wind as they head back towards the English Channel.

The Verdier-designed Destination Dunkerque sailed by Thomas Ruyant and Tanguy Leglatin continues to lead having sailed what can only be described as a faultless race and are just 300 miles from the finish line this morning. Last night's southeasterly breeze is likely to ease as day breaks and shifts further a round to the east. The ETAs don't see the fleet crossing the line in Hermanville sur Mer before
Sunday morning.

In the wake of Destination Dunkerque, the Dutch-Belgian duo of Roelland Frannssens and Michel Kleinjans on Moonpalace have sched lost the battle for second place to Halvard Mabire and Peter Harding on 40 Degrees which rounded the Fastnet Rock yesterday late afternoon with a five mile advantage. However, while Destination Dunkerque put in a big dig out to the southwest before turning her bows towards the Scilly Isles, so 40 Degrees took the direct route, followed by Moonpalace and over the course of the night have pulled out 20 miles on their rivals, now just 23 miles from the leaders.

Yvon Noblet and David Taboré on Appart City are now battling against Moonpalace, which is notable since Appart City came close to losing their rig two days ago.

Halvard Mabire sent this report form 40 Degrees: "We can't really say that we saw a lot of Ireland! The Fastnet? We barely saw the base of the rock when we went round it. We didn't even see the base of the lighthouse. Nothing. You have to wonder a little about how, long ago,
you could have managed to sail this course, almost constantly skimming past the rocks without ever seeing them.

GPS doesn't date back that long ago. It became fairly commonplace in the early nineties. In 91 we began to have them on the Figaro, which shook things up a bit. 'Long ago', which does seems a long time ago now (it has to be said that it was during the last century, in the period of black and white and silent films!), even before you knew where you were going, you already had to know where you were. Today we know perfectly well where we are, even if we can't see a thing! When you think about it it's funny to know exactly where you are on a map, or on a computer screen, whilst in fact you're nowhere because you can't see anything! Where does the reality end and the virtual begin? What's staggering is the speed at which things become part of everyday life on a cultural level.

Today nobody wonders about the very recent problems of positioning because we're surrounded by GPS systems, which are constantly telling us not just where we are, but can also track anything or anyone. Anybody can position any object or any person on a map, without even knowing which way is North, or without having the slightest idea about basic orientation in relation to the sun. Once the great mystery of positioning is no longer there, it becomes more difficult to do something sensational.

Everyone remembers Tabarly looming up out of the fog in Newport to take victory in the Transat in 1976. Probably an element of the media success of this victory stemmed from the fact that it was unexpected and that it came out of the fog like a divine apparition. Now you all know where we are and the ranking, which is constantly displayed, no longer allows you to fill pages with suppositions and forecasts. I'm under the impression that everyone wonders a bit about what they're going to be able to talk about. That's why they ask us if we have a 'strategy'. At the risk of disappointing a lot of people, I can tell you that strategy, that's to say deciding in advance what you're going to do, is a load of hot air for boats like the Class40s. Solely the big multihulls vying for transoceanic records can really play with the weather, otherwise, as a general rule, it's the weather that plays around with the boats. We find ourselves in a particular place at a particular time and there are not really any choices to be made. Or rather, if you can choose, it comes down to trying not to do something silly or avoiding doing something you mustn't do on any account and that's how you 'give up' up places to others.

When you're making virtually no headway at all, you can't 'traverse' the race zone to hunt down a miracle. That's why you notice that more and more the "fleet is right" (which is par for the course with the rising standards) and that ultimately the winner has rarely strayed far from the most direct course. The positioning of the race boats really comes down to a series of reactions in relation to an instantaneous situation, rather than a strategy decided in advance. All that to say, on 40 Degrees the strategy is not to have one and instead it's all about adapting as best you can to the situations which present themselves."

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