In 24 hours, those competing in the Normandy Channel Race have covered 150 miles - a good distance for the Class 40s.
At the latest sched Nicolas Jossier and Alexandre Toulorge, aboard Made in Normandie, are neck and neck at the front of the fleet with Bruno Jourdren and Thomas Ruyant on Norma Concept – Le Pal and Groupe Picoty sailed by Jean-Christophe Caso and Aymeric Chappellier.
The sailors have been eating up the miles since yesterday’s start off Ouistreham - the pace is a lot quicker than last September's edition!
Despite a slight drop in speed rounding the Saint Marcouf islands last night, the fleet has been making good speed since then. Monday afternoon and it is already en route down south coast of England, having passed through the Solent this morning.
The lead boat Made in Normandie, is a Kiwi 40, formerly Michel Kleinjans' Roaring Forty 2, and her crew, sailing together for the first time, is familiar with these waters through past participations in the Solitaire du Figaro. They were fastest away from the Cherbourg peninsula with Louis Duc and Stéphanie Alran on Phoenix Europe Carac. By keeping some westing in their course last night for the Channel crossing, they’ve extended their lead over the circuit’s heavyweights.
By dawn today the Isle of Wight was within sight and managed to pass through the Solent at speed. This afternoon Groupe Picoty and Norma Concept – Le Pal were match racing their way past the Needles in a 15-20 knot southwesterly breeze. The Rogers design Red, campaigned by Germans Boris Herrmann and Mathias von Blumencron, were up to fourth place.
Off Poole, the top 10 were within four miles of each other, in similar sunny, flat water conditions similar to Sunday's start, but a front associated with a depression off Ireland is set to cause condition to intensify as they head west.
Today the crews commented:
Catherine Pourre, Earwen: “We’ve just left the Solent in our wake via the northerly channel at the Needles. The fleet has bunched up together again, with the backrunners currently able to play catch-up. We’re on a beat in around 19 knots of breeze, which is nice as the sea is calm. Three Class 40s managed to pull out all the stops last night and open up a lead. On the passage through Saint Marcouf, we didn’t have the forecast conditions so there wasn’t too much wind”.
Christophe Coatnoan, Groupe Partouche: “The night kicked off with the rounding of Saint Marcouf in light airs. We took refuge inshore so as to be less affected by the current. During the Channel crossing, we repositioned ourselves in the middle of the pack. Right now we’re on a beat making our way out of the Solent and we’ve managed to get some rest”.
Jean-Christophe Caso, Groupe Picoty: “We remained very vigilant last night, as the situation was complicated, with a number of potential pitfalls. Little Louis, skipper of Phoenix, pulled off a superb manoeuvre at Barfleur. He was the first to begin the Channel crossing thanks to a fine inshore option. For our part, we were hunting down all the veins of wind and came off pretty well in the end. After that, last night, during the Channel crossing, we were focused on our trajectories in particular. Five minutes ago, we didn’t respond at the radio session as we were close to the sand banks in the Needles and had to be careful of the breakers. “Made In Normandie” is 0.5 miles from our position. “Norma Concept” is just to windward of us.”
Miranda Merron, Campagne de France: “It was a complicated night, especially at Saint Marcouf, where Mare got the better of us. Since then we’ve been on the hunt in the Solent, punching into a lot of tide under mainsail and solent. I’m currently looking at the GRIB files and we’re due for a Force 8 seemingly”.