Yet another victory for GDF Suez

Normandy Channel Race concludes

Saturday May 31st 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

GDF Suez and her skippers Sébastien Rogues and Bertrand Castelnerac continued to demonstrate that they are the form boat in the Class40 today by winning the Normandy Channel Race with Groupement FLO and L'Express-Trepia completing the podium.

GDF Suez, made landfall in Normandy in 10 knots of breeze, powering along under spinnaker to cross the finish line at 0728 GMT today after covering 974 miles at an average speed of 6.98 knots, with a race time of 5 days, 19 hours, 28 minutes and 30 seconds.

For the race winner, the toughest times came when the fleet bunched up. Rogues explained: “These are the most tiring moments, where the tension is at its peak. Groupement FLO can certainly relate to that too. Our strength was that we never took any overly daring options and we stayed in the middle of the race track, and we remained rested, which enabled us to remain lucid. The goal was to get all the way to the finish without going us into the red. We suspected that the race would be played out at the finish, so we did everything we could to stay in shape until then."

A little over 20 minutes after GDF Suez arrives, Groupement FLO, skippered by the Lower Normandy businessman/sailor Brieuc Maisonneuve with Rémi Aubrun, crossed the finish line at 07:51 GMT.

Maisonneuve explained: “We could have done better… We made a few silly mistakes after Tuskar, but coming second was well beyond our expectations, as originally we’d just hoped to finish in the top half of the fleet! We were leading for a fair old way and that couldn’t make us more proud or happier!”

In fact, Groupement FLO surprised a great many people in this highly competitive fleet. Describing themselves as "non-professional sailors", they have shown the big guns what they’re made of. Their daring tactical options, which they followed through on, crossing the Celtic Sea between Land’s End and Tuskar Rock and then again south of Guernsey, reaped dividends. The red and white boat even built up a 20 mile lead over second place on the descent from Tuskar down the southeast coast of Ireland. This was an excellent performance for this Class40 sponsored by “a logistical transport business fabric which, some 20 years ago, pooled its resources to provide a number of different services. Being the supplier to some of these, it’s a partner I have great trust in as far as my professional life and my life as a sailor is concerned,” as Maisonneuve explains.

An hour after the arrival of GDF Suez, it was the turn of L’Express-Trepia, skippered by Pierre-Yves Lautrou and Thomas Ruyant, to cross the finish line and secure the third and final place on the podium at 0849 GMT this morning.

Lautrou commented: “The boat is only a month old so it’s a great first run for her, despite a few majors for us like having the aft ballast tank full, which wasn’t planned! We didn’t even notice until fairly late in the day… It’s clear that the Class40 really is in the peak of health, when you see the fact that the top 10 boats aren’t all from the latest generation, it’s incredible!

"We knew it was a race, which took a lot out of you, but you get some idea from the ranking alone, which saw us yo-yoing up and down throughout the race. What really made a difference was the nav by Toto [Thomas Ruyant] at Guernsey and Raz Blanchard. That’s where we overtook Team Work and were able to extend away from them.

"Thomas is a very talented Mini and Figaro sailor. All you have to do is keep him fed and he never stops! Managing yourself over the end of the course is very important and we succeeded in handling that side of things. In any case, it was an absolute thrill to see all the comebacks and the twists and turns. Incredible. Groupement Flo was extraordinary. We have massive respect for the pair of them.”

There has been a succession of finishes throughout the day for the top 10 Class40s. ERDF – Des pieds et Des mains (Damien Seguin and Jeanne Grégoire) finished fourth after a close-fought battle with Bertrand Delesne and David Raison on Team Work.

Campagne de France, skippered by the Franco-British couple Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron just claimed sixth place ahead of Team Picoty – Lac de Vassivière sailed by Jean-Christophe Caso and Aymeric Chappellier.

Jean Galfione and Roland Jourdain's Serenis Consulting brought its race to a close in a time of 5 days and 22 hours in 8th place ahead of Le Conservateur sailed by Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur, which crossed the finish line at 1044 GMT.

Finally Advanced Energies – Carac, sailed by Louis Duc and Damien Rousseau, completed the arrivals in this first pack at 1326 GMT, securing 10th place overall.

Six Class40s are still racing across the Baie de Seine and are set to finish later today and over the course of the night.

With its constant changes of leader and its intense battles, the 2014 Normandy Channel Race will definitely go down in the history books

Winner Sébastien Rogues, echoes this sentiment: “It’s one of my finest races! I may not have a big track record yet, but I can’t recall having experienced such intensity for so long before!”

“We had quite a fright in the Solent when we were hugging the coast, but at least I know where the hazard is now for the next time. At Guernsey, we had the chance to see all the little rocks we’ll know to avoid next time too. We nearly started going backwards at one point, so we had the time to look around. Groupement FLO got past us again by going via the Big Russel, which paid off, but their option to go to the north of Aurigny enabled us to really steal a march and go all out to ensure they had no chance of giving us the slip again.

"I’m happy because in 2011 I was 8th, in 2013 we’d launched the boat that same year and it was only her 6th outing and we had to retire to protect the boat.

"This year, it was extremely interesting to watch the others in what was a fantastic battle!

"It was really in the descent from Tuskar Rock where we put the pedal to the metal! We pushed the boat hard and she responded like a dream! We’ll be happy to get some rest now! The race was full-on. It’s one of my finest races! I may not have a big track record yet, but I can’t recall having experienced such intensity for so long before! Crossing the Atlantic is full-on for two days and then everyone does their own thing. The extension to the course was tough in the sense that our minds, our bodies and even our food were geared up for the finish. When we found out it would be longer it was quite a knock. That said, it’s great to finish in daylight and I have no regrets now I’m here.”

Roland Jourdain added: “It’s a fabulous race! We’ve had exceptional weather to keep us amused throughout the course!”


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