James Boyd Photography / www.thedailysail.com

Normandy Channel Race preview

We look at the form for the 16 Class 40s setting sail today

Sunday May 22nd 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

The Normandy Challenge Race gets underway from Caen in northern France today for 16 doublehanded Class 40s.

Organised by Manfred Ramspacher’s company Sirius Evenements, the Normandy Challenge Race is the Class 40 successor to the IMOCA’s one time 1000 Milles de Calais. Once the boats have finished negotiating the canal up from Caen to Ouistreham, the start is due to take place at 1400 local time and there will be a quick triangle around the Rade de Caen before the boats set off on the course that is approximately 975 miles long.

The first mark is to the east of the Cherbourg peninsula before the boats head north across the Channel where they must pass through the Solent, leaving the Isle of Wight to port. They then sail down the south coast of the UK, around Land’s End across to the Tuskar Rock off the southeast coast of Ireland (off Wexford), then west along the south coast of Ireland to the Fastnet Rock, before they start their return journey. They then come back around Land’s End and cross the Channel to leave Guernsey to port and then up around the Cherbourg peninsula back to the finish line off Ouistreham.

The course is slightly different from last year when boats had to sail around Les Sept Iles off the north coast of Brittany.

With the present forecast the leaders are expected to take around six days and during this time they can expect the whole gamut of conditions. The start is set to be upwind into 25 knot westerlies followed by a fast reach across the Channel before the wind nicely backs into the southwest ready for a beat down the south coast of the UK and then...guess what???...the wind veers northwest on the nose again and drops for the crossing of the Celtic Sea. The Irish part of the race looks sets to be dominated by an area of high pressure the centre of which is currently forecast to be roaming around the Celtic Sea. But the race should culminate in a good blast back towards France in northeasterlies.

The line-up has increased to 16 boats, from last year’s 11 and, impressively, participating are crews from eight countries including the USA and South Africa. Unfortunately two of the newest boats haven’t made it: one of the Farr-designed Cookson-built Kiwi 40s (while Michel Kleinjans’ Marie Toit-Caen la Mer that has was launched only a week ago), while the supreme team of Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron are still in build with their new Pogo 2S just outside nearby Cherbourg.

We'll be reporting on the new Kiwi 40 in more depth in due course but the central idea to the design has been reducing the vertical centre of gravity of the hull, while down below it has an unusual arrangement where the mast is stepped neither on the deck nor on the hull, but on a platform about 600mm up from the hull, allowing lines coming down from the mast then get to run aft and then up into the central pit area in the cockpit. Intriguing...

The fleet includes many heavyhitters from former Open 60 skipper and Solitaire du Figaro winner Dominic Vittet to ex-Open 60 skipper Josh Hall, to Sebastien Audiagne, who recently competed in the Barcelona World Race race on board Kito de Pavant’s Groupe Bel. There are many Class 40 stalwarts such as Solidaire du Chocolat winner Tanguy de LaMotte and last year’s Round Britain & Ireland race winner Rune Aasberg.

Favourite for the race is probably Tanguy de LaMotte and Seb Audiagne on their Rogers 40 Initiatives Saveurs.

“The course itself is interesting for sure with a lot of corners to turn very close to the shore, fighting the tide and there are lots of options and possibilities to fall behind or catch up or pull ahead depending on where you are. So lots of tricky navigation to do,” de LaMotte told thedailysail.

Of his towering weather beaten co-skipper Seb Audiagne, De LaMotte adds: “He is big! He has a lot of miles around the world. He sailed a few times on an Akilaria. He was planning to do the Route du Rhum, but he didn’t make it to the start line. He has a lot of experience, is good at weather forecasting, good tactical knowledge, a lot of miles a and he isn’t worried by the size of boat so we won’t slow down to do a manoeuvre. He has spent so much time at sea that I think he will be functional the first second after the start. He is pretty switched on. We have a good feeling between us and because I know the boat for the last four years, it is a good combination.”

Five of the 32 sailors are British including Josh Hall, ex-Clipper Round the World Race skipper Hannah Jenner, Andrew Dawson, skipper of the exquisitely named Spliff, while Stuart Dodd and Steve Kennington are sailing Livewire, which like Spliff is an Owen Clarke-designed Express 40.

For Jenner, sailing with German Anna-Maria Renken, this will be their first competitive outing racing together aboard their competitive Owen Clarke design 40 Degrees.

“We are excited and also very nervous: It is the first time we get to see how good the good people are,” said Jenner, admitting that the only time they have so far lined up with another Class 40 was when they delivered the boat to Caen along with South African duo Philippa Hutton-Squire and Nick Leggatt on Phesheya Racing. “We know we have a lot to learn and whatever the result it is going to be a good thing. As long as we come away positive having had fun and enjoyed racing together that is the main aim for us.”

Renken adds that she is looking forward to seeing how they fair against the other Global Ocean Race competitors taking part in the Normandy Channel Race.

They are quietly confident about their prospects of making it to the Global Ocean Race start line but between now and then will focus on their training. According to Jenner in June they have Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson lined up to go sailing with them. “Dee in particular having done the two girls around the world thing... We’ll come back with a long list of ideas, thoughts and questions.”

One of the most impressive turnouts is from Germany, who also have five sailors participating. Boris Herrmann is freshly returned from the Barcelona World Race and is no stranger to Class 40s having won the Portimao Global Ocean Race. He is sailing on Matthias Blumencron’s Red, while he could meet his competitive match in Jorg Riechers.

Riechers, who skippers mare.de, is running a unique double shorthanded offshore racing campaign in both the Class 40 and also the Mini. In the former he is competing in the Normandy Channel Race and will follow this up with the singlehanded Les Sables-Horta-Les Sables race starting on 3 July. In the Mini he is sailing the Trophee MAP, the Mini Fastnet and the TransGascoigne in the build up to the Mini Transat itself starting on 25 September.

Going off piste for a moment Riechers says that the Proto class in the Mini is getting considerably more competitive now that more training is being put in. He has been part of a group of five Protos training out of Pornichet five days a week. “Now it is a bit like Figaro – one mistake and you lose three or four places,” he says. “The level this year is incredible - At the Select Pornichet the first seven boats were half an hour apart after nearly two days of racing.” Also training in Pornichet is veteran Swiss skipper and Whitbread competitor Etienne David, with whom Riechers is doing all his doublehanded racing this year.

He is slightly worried by David Raison’s Magnum, which he says is a rocketship upwind but slow downwind. “In the Grand Prix d’Italie I was sailing with Andrea Caracci and we had a downwind to Sardinia in 25 knots and we took 10 miles out of them. But when we were upwind in 20 knots and we were thinking there was a class 40 coming from behind us. It is superfast upwind.”

Back to the race in hand and Riechers is looking forward to lining up with Boris Herrmann for the first time. But he also reckons Tanguy de LaMotte and Sebastien Audiagne will be strong as well as the Figaro pairing of local Caen skipper Fabien Delahaye and Bruno Jourdren.

Riechers says his heavily chined Owen Clarke design, the former Cinnamon Girl, is good upwind and downwind in big breeze, but it’s weak point is downwind in 10-12 knots.

Meanwhile Boris Herrmann admits the Normandy Channel Race is a very different proposition to the Barcelona World Race in which he finished fifth with American Ryan Breymaier. There is a lot of land to negotiate! “It seems quite challenging with all these coastal sailing and through the Irish Sea twice and along the Irish coast. It is going to be quite tough after our little relaxed trip around the world!”

He has previously only sailed with Mathias Blumencron once prior to this race. Red, another Owen Clarke design, but with less extreme chines to Riechers’ boat, Herrmann reckons to be better in lighter winds and VMG sailing, both upwind and downwind. “It lacks reaching - it is a bit narrow compared to the latest generation boats.”

Herrmann rates Tanguy de LaMotte and Jorg Reichers as well as Fabien Delahaye and Eric Peron, who is sailing on Talanta with, bizarrely, Jean Galfione who won the Gold medallist in the Olympic Games in Atlanta...for polevaulting.

There are five women competing in the Normandy Channel Race including two women’s crews – Hannah Jenner and Anna-Maria Renken on 40 Degrees and French duo Stephanie Alran and Caroline Vieille on Ocean Eleven, while Pippa Hutton-Squire returns with Nick Leggatt on their much travelled South African Akilaria, Phesheya Racing.

Hutton-Square competed in the Normandy Channel Race last year when she was the sole female and has fond memories of beating Tanguy de LaMotte in that race. “It is tidal, shipping lanes, it is always a challenge,” she says. Compared to last time when the boats had to sail around Les Sept Iles, this time the Guernsey mark is new which means they will have to take on the Alderney Race.

She and Leggatt will be keeping a close eye on the other Global Ocean Race competing as this is likely to be their last race until the doublehanded round the world race for Class 40s sets sail from Palma on 25 September.


Boat Skipper Co-skipper Type No
Defi GDE-Tzu Hang Axel Strauss (GER) Nicolas Boidevezi (FRA) Akilaria 53
Red Mathias Blumencron (GER) Boris Herrmann (GER) Owen Clarke 66
Livewire Stuart Dodd (GBR) Steve Kennington (GBR) Owen Clarke Express 40 48
Ocean Eleven Stephanie Alran (FRA) Caroline Vieille (FRA) Pogo 40 20
Des Pieds et des Mains Damien Seguin (FRA) Yohann Richomme (FRA) Rogers 40 52
Partouche Christophe Coatnoan (FRA) Sebastien Figue (FRA) JPK 60
Port de Caen Ouistreham Fabien Delahaye (FRA) Bruno Jourdren (FRA) Rogers 40 59
Spliff Andrew Dawson (GBR) Rune Aasberg (NOR) Owen Clarke Express 40 67
Talanta Jean Galfione (FRA) Eric Peron (FRA) Pogo 40 S2 95
Mare.de 2 Jorg Riechers (GER) Etienne David (SUI) Owen Clarke FS40 79
Phesheya Racing Philippa Hutton-Squire (SA) Nick Leggatt (SA) Akilaria 23
Marie Toit-Caen la Mer Michel Kleinjans (BEL) Marc Lepesqueux (FRA) Farr Kiwi 40 107
Griffin Solo 2 Joe Harris (USA) Josh Hall (GBR) Akilaria RC2 106
40 Degrees Hannah Jenner (GBR) Anna-Maria Renken (GER) Owen Clarke Jaz 40 90
L'Express-Sapmer Pierre-Yves Lautrou (FRA) Dominic Vittet (FRA) Pogo 40S 68
Initiatives Saveurs Tanguy de Lamotte (FRA) Sebastien Audigane (FRA) Rogers 40 30

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