The boiling hot sunshine, which bathed the Baie de Seine off Ouistreham all day long seems to have inspired the Norman racers at the start of the 9th edition of the Normandy Channel Race today.
Amidst perfectly summery conditions, smooth seas, azure skies and a light NNE’ly wind of a little less than 10 knots, the leg locals were quick to stamp their authority throughout the short ‘show lap’ proposed.
The Race Committee released the 27 competing duos bang on schedule at 13:30 GMT, with a 5-mile double return leg off the mouth of the Orne River on the programme for the Class40s by way of a prelude to the intense battle expected throughout the theoretical 1,000 miles that pepper this event.
Manorga, skippered by Nicolas Jossier and Adrien Hardy took control from the opening tacks, hanging on tight to their lead throughout the coastal sprint. They were first to hoist their big gennakers to slip along towards the next course mark off the Saint Marcouf Islands, set at around 37 miles from the start, in the Baie des Veys. Jossier le Granvillais, supported by the recent winner of the Transat AG2R Adrien Hardy, lengthened his stride, with two other Norman crews in hot pursuit, that of Région Normandie (Olivier Cardon-Benoit Charron) and Aina Enfance et Avenir skippered by Aymeric Chapelier from La Rochelle and Fabien Delahaye from Caen.
Defying all expectations, the wind gods dished out quite a strong breeze throughout the afternoon for the 54 sailors competing in the Normandy Channel Race. With it the fog lifted, giving way to glorious sunshine, and the calm conditions initially feared by the organisers and competitors alike were swept up by a NNE’ly wind of around ten knots.
This favoured a high voltage start, the keenness to get going palpable the moment the start procedure was launched. Nearly everyone favoured the pin end of the line to head off on a beat, on starboard tack, towards the first windward mark, the subsequent traffic jam causing a few frights.
Nicely clear of the fray in the middle of the line, the formidable due of Jossier – Hardy, demonstrating their Figaro backgrounds, escaped this first pitfall and took off in clean air, followed by the very wise Benoit Charron and Olivier Cardin, at ease on home waters in the Baie de Seine.
There are 37 miles between the last mark of the show leg off Ouistreham and the compulsory passage mark set to the West of Saint Marcouf. The competitors should benefit from downwind conditions in this light NNE’ly wind, associated with a favourable current through until late afternoon. As is often the case in this great Norman classic, Saint Marcouf should reshuffle the cards, according to how inspired as well as how lucky the sailors prove to be.
Following this fine start, the fleet will then launch into the rather less amusing episode of the Channel Hop amidst heavy shipping. The power of the breeze is likely to be crushed somewhat as they approach Saint Marcouf and begin to feel the effect of the stormy masses of air circulating around the lower section of the Cotentin. The Channel hop will involve close-hauled sailing in some very light puffs of N’ly breeze. With the tide turning on them twice during their crossing, the skippers will have to remain highly vigilant and opportunistic throughout in order to adapt to the stormy gusts and the effects of the current. This configuration will likely break up the fleet before they have to muster up the courage to tackle the Solent midway through the day on Monday.
Passage at the final mark of the show leg:
134 – Manorga – Nicolas Jossier – Adrien Hardy
135 – Region Normandie – Olivier Cardin – Benoit Charron
151 – Aïna – Aymeric Chappellier – Fabien Delahaye
?153 – Lamotte / Module Création – Luke Berry – Arthur Levaillant
129 – Concise 8 – Jack Trigger – Yoann Richomme
130 – Imerys – Phil Sharp – Julien Pulvé
139 – Tohapi – Sebastien Marsset – Jean Luc Nélias
123 – Talès II – Loïc Féquet – Benoit Champannhac
101 – Colombre XL – Charles Louis Mourruau – Gery Atkins
by Denis van den Brink