Dusk yesterday evening brought with it fresh deliverance and massive relief for more than half the Normandy Channel Race fleet, who’d spent the whole day becalmed to the East of the Isle of Wight.
Indeed, the NE’ly breeze very quickly covered the fleet, enabling all 27 Class40 still racing to power along westwards at a fair old lick, making an average speed of over 10 knots.
However, this morning the fleet appears to be split right in two. Aina Enfance et Avenir (Chappellier-Delahaye), by struggling its way back up to the top spot it had held yesterday morning before half running aground on a sandbank in the Solent, is presently leading the attack for a strong group of 14 boats and is battling neck and neck with Lamotte Module Création (Berry-Le Vaillant).
Some 56 miles astern of the leaders, the British duo of Peter Harding – Sam Goodchild (All in for the Rhum) is leading the chase for the pack that finally escaped the clutches of the Solent. Indeed, having to punch tide in order to try to make headway yesterday, this unfortunate group was powerless to break free from their predicament until the wind kicked in and the penalty could have a been a lot more severe for these boats this morning. Now though, they still have every chance of getting back into the match given the numerous pitfalls still left to negotiate along the course.
At the head of the race, the battle for supremacy was fierce last night and though the duo Berry-Le Vaillant hold the lead this morning, it’s only by a hair’s breadth and Carac (Duc – Riou), Campagne de France (Mabire – Merron) and Campings Tohapi (Marsset – Nélias) all tasted the delights of the top spot last night. Now in a much more established wind, the power of the new generation Class40s is now insidiously starting to make its presence felt with the latest and most honed craft vying for glory.
In this way, 10th to round the Needles to the West of the Isle of Wight, V and B skippered by the duo Maxime Sorel – Antoine Carpentier has managed to power back up into contention among the leaders this morning and the suspense is palpable again regarding the final result. Indeed, all the big names are where they ought to be, on the hunt, in on the action as the increasingly favourable downwind conditions get them firing on all cylinders once more on their way to the Wolf Rock mark, to the West of Cornwall. Marking the entry to the Irish Sea, the leaders should reach this key point by late afternoon and it will likely herald a drastic change of pace for the duos as they will be forced onto a beat towards Tuskar lighthouse.
by Denis van den Brink