Ultimately there will be 27 crews of two skippers pushing their Class40s to the limit throughout the 1,000-mile course of this year’s Normandy Channel Race, the outcome of which is more uncertain than ever.
The record number of entries is equalled then, with a significant female contingent of five as well as the now substantial quota of overseas sailors from Italy, Spain, the UK and Japan. There will also be nine Norman sailors fired up to make their mark on the event.
From today, the Quai Vendeuvre will echo to the familiar, friendly sound of the entertainment so unique to major race starts. Amidst last-minute DIY and sponsor commitments, the 54 sailors will very quickly begin immersing themselves in their analysis of the best route to adopt once the race kicks off this Sunday at 12:30 GMT offshore of Ouistreham.
Hervé Gautier, Race Director of the Normandy Channel Race
After a busy career as a racer, with numerous victories in the Tour de France à la Voile, Hervé Gautier is switching to the other side of the guardrails and taking charge of the Race Management for the Normandy Channel Race. He’ll be approaching it the exact same way he would if he were taking the start of this great Norman classic this Sunday.
A compact fleet armed with 27 craft and a course featuring a thousand and one weather-related intricacies, the post will require his every attention, day and night. “With all the teams from Sirius Evénements, event organiser, and with the assistance of the Race Committee, we’ll be able to ensure the race runs smoothly for all the boats, from the fastest to the less well ranked.
It’s our job to anticipate the type of sailing conditions encountered by the whole fleet, so as, if need be, we can modify the course and prevent the competitors from the trials and tribulations of having too little or too violent winds. This will involve a constant exchange with the racers. Being a sailor myself, makes it easier to understand the complexities encountered by the competitors out on the water. The Normandy Channel Race has two key challenges for a Race Director as it boasts a very dense fleet of 27 boats and a course with a great diversity of weather conditions. The work will involve teaming up with weather specialist David Lasnié.”
The schools too
Over 500 students from primary schools across Caen and neighbouring Ouistreham were today invited to discover the 2018 vintage of the Normandy Channel Race fleet moored alongside the Quai Vendeuvre. Their visit will notably include a tour of the Russian frigate, Shtandard, a replica of a warship from the reign of Peter the Great, which accessible in the large public area of Bassin Saint Pierre. Meetings with the skippers are also on the programme during this great day of discovery of the sea and offshore racing.
A virtual race
Virtual Regatta is offering enthusiasts the opportunity to experience the Normandy Channel Race first-hand, via their computer screens and over 10,000 enthusiasts of virtual emotions have already signed up.
Normandy Channel Race, ninth edition.
Departure from the Bassin Saint Pierre in Caen between 8 and 8:30 GMT
Race start on Sunday 27 May, 12:30 GMT
27 Class40 crews
1,000 theoretical miles of racing setting sail from and finishing in Caen, via the Solent, the Scillies, Tuskar Rock, Fastnet Rock and the Channel Islands.
Quotes from the Boats:
Phil Sharp (Imerys), reigning champion: “Second in 2016, I achieved the Holy Grail by winning it last year. Bettering that will be a tough ask, particularly as the line-up is even more refined than last year. We’ve done a lot of work on Imerys over the winter and I hope that Julien Pulvé and I will be up to the challenge…”
Louis Duc (Carac): “We are pleased to welcome the swanky sailors from other backgrounds like the Volvo, the Solitaire du Figaro and the Mini Transat. All these new skills have raised the standard of the Class40 another notch. It’s an additional motivation to be up against sailors like Vincent Riou and Jean Luc Nélias.”
Morgane Ursault–Poupon (Up Sailing): “I’m enjoying discovering the Class40. Our boat No.30 Up Sailing is certainly old, but she’s still competitive. I’m happy to get a chance to dip my toe in competition of this level after 5 years sailing in the Southern Ocean around Georgia and Ushuaia.”
by Denis van den Brink