The Normandy Channel Race fleet saw progress slow dramatically overnight. Indeed, as a prelude to a very deep low, a vast stormy and windless zone lay in wait for the competitors from Plymouth sound as far as the Celtic Sea.
Land’s End, the most westerly point of mainland Cornwall, was negotiated at a very gentle trot by the four leaders, with the Anglo-French pairing of Phil Sharp – Sam Manuard (Imerys) still leading the way, tailed by what are historically the big players in this seventh Normandy Channel Race, French pairing Thibaut Vauchel-Camus – Fred Duthil (Solidaires en Peloton – ARSEP), Spanish sailors Pablo Santurde – Fidel Turienzo (Talès II) and the French duo Maxime Sorel – Hugo Dallhenne (V and B). Of particular note is the spectacular albeit temporary comeback by the Spanish duo in the middle of the night, with Talès II managing to get the better of Imerys for four hours, before once again getting outflanked to the East.
Behind this vanguard, things have turned into a bit of a disaster with their pursuers caught in the clutches of a zone of calm conditions. Marc Lepesqueux and Laurent Pellecuer (Sensation Class40) seem to be the only ones who have found a bit of breeze by tightly hugging the English coast.
The upshot of this in terms of the provisional overall ranking is that the leaders have managed to stretch away from the rest of the fleet. As is often the case in sailing, the ‘rich become richer’, by being the first to feel the effects of the upcoming low and its powerful northerly winds, which will require the duos to launch into the highly physical and much dreaded task of beating into the elements on the slog up to Tuskar lighthouse, to the south-east of Ireland; a point still over 60 miles away for the majority of the front runners. The delta between the first and last competitor had extended to 120 miles this Tuesday morning.
Over the coming hours, the Celtic Sea is likely to bubble up from the impact of the strong winds, with 25 knots and more on the cards. As a result, the Class40s will likely make for Fastnet on a high speed reach from Tuskar, before launching into an equally quick return leg enabling them to drop back down towards the south-west tip of Cornwall. There is already considerable separation between the leaders and the first chasing pack is some 38 miles off the pace this morning (Generali-Horizon Mixité helmed by Isabelle Joschke – Alain Gautier), a delta that is set to grow over the course of the day.
Of note are two retirements which occurred yesterday afternoon and tonight; Brieuc Maisonneuve (teamed up with Fabien Delahaye) on Delicecook opted to retire from the race yesterday after breaking the link arm on their port rudder. Since then, more rudder issues have taken their toll on Catherine Pourre and Antoine Carpentier (Earendil), who were sailing a great race. Following damage to their starboard rudder bearing, the duo were forced to give up last night and they are currently heading back to France.
Miranda Merron – Campagne de France
‘Had a rather exciting time getting past the Lizard courtesy of an evil cloud, big wind shifts and lots of wind. Naturally this sort of fun is often reserved for night time. And then on the approach to the SW corner of Cornwall, the horizon turned black, huge wind shift, frantic furling of the gennaker, and then through the short cut between Longships and Land’s End, which is about 0.3 nm wide. Fine as long as the chart and GPS are accurate… And now, awaiting the low, and there is currently no wind whatsoever. Generali is a couple of miles ahead, Serenis not far behind, all drifting north on the tide.’
Patrick Losq – Thomas Guichard – Axar
“The English Channel has decided to block our way into the Irish Sea. We’re in for a long windless night off Plymouth in a long swell. Have a good day landlubbers! Patrick and Thomas
Robin Marais – Cedric de Kervenoael – Grizzly Barber shop
“Hello! Some news from the bearded chaps on Grizzly Barber Shop. Decidedly the nights aren’t proving to be very successful for us. The first was tough and the second has been worse still, stuck for 4 hours off Lizard Point. Fortunately, our Dutch friends on Maisai are accompanying us in this business.
Right now, it’s raining! That wasn’t part of the weather data we’ve come across, but at a loss to provide a landlubber with the slightest explanation, we’re still managing to enjoy ourselves… That’s the magic of offshore racing!!! Have a good day. Cedric and Robin”
by Kate Jennings