Mabire and Merron take the lead

As the lead Class 40s make a break in the Solent in the Normandy Channel Race

Monday September 3rd 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

With light airs from a large zone of high pressure, the fifteen Class 40s in the Normandy Channel Race are currently circumnavigating the Isle of Wight after a long spell upwind along the Normandy coast yesterday evening, rounding of the Saint Marcouf Islands last night and a slow Channel crossing this morning.

In the provisional overall standings, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron on Campagne de France, Yannick Bestaven and Julien Pulvé on Phoenix Europe Express and Ned Collier Wakefield and Sam Goodchild on Concise 2, have been fighting for the lead and are now exiting the Solent with the current. Jorg Riechers and Nicolas Boidevezi aboard Mare, among the race favourites, had a few issues with the bowsprit of the Mach 40.

Nicolas Boidevezi advised: "The end of Mare’s bowsprit broke at 0300 UTC this morning. Since then we’ve been trying to find a solution. We’re in the process of trying to effect repairs but it looks like we’ll have to retire. It’s a bitter disappointment as we got off to a pretty good start and we’re getting along well aboard.”

Meanwhile Lupi is bringing up the rear, 27.8 miles behind the leaders.

Since the start of this third Normandy Channel Race on Sunday at 1500 UTC, from Hermanville-sur-Mer, the sailors have been working flat out. Initially they made headway upwind along the WW2 Normandy landing beaches, in a northwesterly breeze of 15 knots, but the breeze dropped and progress was further hampered by having to punch tide. The timing of tacks had to be timed just right and Bestaven/Pulvé came out on top working the middle of the course, neither too far inshore nor too far offshore. They were accompanied by Jean Galfione and Eric Péron, and Goodchild and Collier-Wakefield aboard their Akilaria RC2.

Around midnight UTC last night that the Normandy Channel Race leaders rounded the Saint Marcouf Islands before heading north across the English Channel. Here Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron, both very familiar with this stretch of water, made the most of their experience to move up into first place. With the wind regularly shifting, to the north then the NNE and at times the SE, the Class 40 crews were constantly having to retrim their sails. Gradually a lateral separation between the boats opened up and mid-afternoon the frontrunners entered the Solent. Fortunately the current was favourable for the leaders, while the majority were having to make headway as best they could in virtually no wind.

“In my opinion, the wind will be very light to non-existent along the south coast of England”, advised Sylvie Viant, Race Director. “It will gradually shift round to the west. The competitors will sail along the coast in order to benefit from a light thermal breeze. Right now and according to the tide times, they’ll be practically at a standstill and some may even have to kedge. If the leaders manage to cover the 9 miles between the eastern tip of the Isle of Wight and the middle of the Solent within the next three hours, before 1630 UTC, they’ll have a good chance of getting out of there with a favourable current. They look likely to pull that off, while things could be harder for their pursuers.”

Julien Pulvé, co-skipper of Phoenix Europe Express reported: “All’s well aboard. We have a southeast or easterly wind of 5-6 knots. We’re tired. We’ve been sailing in contact with the others since the start of the race. Right now we can see Campagne de France and Talanta. We were the first to get around the Saint Marcouf Islands. On exiting that zone, we hit fresh breeze before the others, but we were also the first to hit the calm conditions. We’re optimistic about our passage across the Solent.”

Marc Lepesqueux, skipper of Les Conquérants Caen La Mer reported: “The wind has been fickle since the start of the Normandy Channel Race. Last night we got some seaweed caught around our keel, which seriously handicapped our progress. Added to that, we didn’t sail well along the landing beaches. Being some distance from the top of the leaderboard, the passage across the Solent is agonising as we may be punching tide”.

Catherine Pourre, skipper of Earwen said: “We’re not receiving GRIB files. For now it’s not that important but it could be annoying for the rest of the race. We’re nearing the Solent. With a bit of luck we’ll pass through it at the right moment”.

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