Normandy Channel Race sets sail
Despite threats of an advancing cold front, the Normandy Channel Race set from Hermanville-sur-Mer in northern France at 1700 local time (1500 UTC), in near perfect conditions with 18 knots of breeze at the start, flat water and brilliant sunshine.
The 20 doublehanded Class40s completed a seven mile lap between Luc-sur-Mer and Ouistreham, before setting off on the 1000 mile long course down the Channel and across to southern Ireland and back.
Catherine Pourre and Goulven Royer on the Tyker 40 Earwen were over early by around half a minute and had to restart. However the strongest starts were made by the latest Verdier-designed Tyker 40, Norma Concept – Le Pal, skippered by French Paralympic Sonar skipper Bruno Jourdren and Mini Transat winner Thomas Ruyant, to leeward of the German duo of Mathias von Blumencron and Boris Herrmann's on their Rogers-designed Red and Made in Normandie, the Kiwi 40 better known as Roaring Forty, being sail Nicolas Jossier and Alexandre Toulorge.
Despite an small hiatus when they headed to a wrong mark at one point, leading the charge around the initial lap was mare, the red and white Mach 40 skippered by Germany's Jorg Riechers, lucky to be in the race at all after they dismasted on the delivery to Caen last Monday. For a time around the initial lap it was a German 1-2 in this French-dominated class, with Red holding second. However hot on the heels of mare were also Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron on their Pogo S2 Campagne de France and Norma Concept – Le Pal, skippered by French Paralympic Sonar skipper Bruno Jourdren and Mini Transat winner Thomas Ruyant.
From here the fleet heads towards the Saint Marcouf islands. Overnight they will be crossing the English Channel, passing through the Solent tomorrow morning, before continuing on along the south coast of the UK. They then round Land's End, sail north towards the Tuskar Rock off southeast Ireland, then along the south coast of Ireland to the Fastnet before returning towards Caen keeping Guernsey to port.
Prior to leaving the skippers commented:
Philippa Hutton-Squire, Phesheya-Racing: “It’s my first Normandy Channel Race without Nick Leggatt so for my co-skipper and I it’s all about learning the course for ourselves. We’re happy that we’re not going to have nightmarish conditions for the first few hours of racing. The temperatures will be high with a medium wind. I know my boat inside out and I have a Round the World to my credit, so I’ll be able to cope if we get 40 knots in the Irish Sea”.
Pierre Brasseur, Mare: “A 20-knot average over the entire course is what we’re predicting, with some uncertainty between Tuskar Rock in Ireland and the Fastnet rock, so this Normandy Channel Race will be run in some fairly lively conditions. That’s just as well though, because that’s how we like it aboard “Mare”.
Bruno Jourdren, Norma Concept – Le Pal: “There won’t be any surprises in the first few hours of racing. The weather appears to be reliable, but in my view it’s imperative that we’re in the leading group because we’ll be punching the tide at Saint Marcouf, so the first to get through it will be off. After that, as we traverse the English Channel, there will be an initial front to negotiate and the tactical positioning in relation to the rest of the fleet will be important. Tomorrow morning we’ll tackle the Solent, punching the tide again, with a new active depression. It’s from Land’s End that things will get spicier with strong to very strong wind forecast. Race Management will have the opportunity to reduce the course if need be”.
Louis Duc, Phoenix: “In principle we’ll have more wind than forecast for the Cross-Channel section tonight, with at least 25 knots. We’re going to have to take care of our gear and not break anything this early on. From the outset, and even when we have the current in our favour, we’re going to have to begin to lay our cards on a tactical level”.
Halvard Mabire, Campagne de France: “It’s going to be a pleasant introduction to proceedings. We’re going to quickly get in some rest after the start because from midnight and after Saint Marcouf, the wind is set to build in the English Channel. Our sprint along the southern coast of England will be tough, with a front and no less than 25 knots of close-hauled sailing. We’re also readying ourselves for some lively conditions in Ireland”.