The course for the Normandy Channel Race was shortened at 1100 local time time, the change made by the Race Committee and Race Management due to the forecast of strong southwesterly winds and big seas. The Tuskar and Fastnet Rocks have now been cut and competitors will instead round a virtual mark, between Land’s End and the Tuskar Rock.
Made in Normandie continues to lead the Class 40s, her crew Nicolas Jossier and Alexandre Toulorge holding a 8.2 mile lead over second-placed mare.de, skippered by Germans Joerg Riechers and Pierre Brasseur, and 14.6 miles ahead of Campagne de France, sailed by the Franco-British duo of Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron.
Eight Class 40s have now retired from the Normandy Channel Race, the latest formal abandonment being Mr Bricolage sailed by Damien Rousseau and Benjamin Develay, who were already heading back to France yesterday with autopilot problems on their Pogo 40S2.
Over the past 24 hours, the racers have been progressing in tough conditions, though perfectly navigable for Class40s, built to withstand such conditions. Since lunchtime, the leaders eased their sheets as they have rounded Land's End and are now surfing along, as they run towards the turning mark in the Celtic Sea. Averaging 12 knots, with peak speeds of 18 knots, Made In Normandie, Mare, Campagne de France and Geodis are sailing very fast, their crews dressed in drysuits.
As for the rest of the race, once they round the virtual waypoint, they’ll be back on the wind as they return to Land’s End, after which they’ll set a course for the next turning mark of Guernsey.
Nicolas Jossier, Made in Normandie: “We’ve just endured a tough night with 25 to 30 knots of breeze and little sleep. At the start we had a beautiful sail to Barfleur, hugging the coast as we made our way. After that we managed to extend our lead during the Channel crossing. Yesterday, as we made headway along the English coast after we'd extracted ourselves from the Solent rather nicely. It was a long day though, upwind with our Class 40 really slamming. Our aim is obviously to stay at the front and we’re continuing to make headway.”
Miranda Merron, Campagne de France: “We had a cold, dark night with rain. We’re currently sailing downwind with 16 knots of breeze and there’s a big swell. It’s never really the wind that irks us, but rather the sea state. Yesterday’s highlight was the passage through the Solent. There wasn’t much space between the sand and our keel. For the next stage, the first part of the Channel crossing will be performed with a close reach so we’ve got everything to play for.”
Jorg Riechers, mare.de: “We’re happy with the course change. After a catastrophic start to the race, we caught up with the head of the fleet yesterday thanks to good control during our sail changes, switching from the genoa to the staysail. We’re on the attack but it’s not going to be easy to come back on Made in Normandie.
Brieuc Maisonneuve, Al Bucq: “We’re under spinnaker with less than 20 knots of breeze. The sun is out. We’ve hoisted the small kite and we’ll stick with that configuration as far as the virtual waypoint.”
Jean-Christophe Caso, Groupe Picoty: “The course change is a reasonable solution. We’re not here to scare ourselves in an Irish Sea that is often very tough with no escape routes. Last night we got dropped by the leading group. We’re in contact with Red and Phoenix. We still have the scope to make a come back as long as the leaders haven’t crossed the finish line. If we only have a 15-mile deficit in relation to the frontrunners, we’ll be able to catch up along the Norman coast with the passages around Barfleur and Le Raz Blanchard”.
Thomas Ruyant, Norma Concept – Le Pal: “Since the start, we’ve been suffering from some serious ballast tank issues. Last night, despite being in second place in the competition, Bruno and I took the tough decision to retire from the event. In addition to this technical issue, we weren’t keen to compromise our only set of sails for the year. Our joint aim is to focus on the Transat Jacques Vabre."