Light start for Normandy Channel Race

GDF Suez leads the 17 Class40s away from Ouistreham

Sunday May 25th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

At 1400 local time today the 17 doublehanded Class40s set off on the fifth edition of the Normandy Channel Race in a very light southerly thermal breeze. GDF SUEZ was leading as the race set off from Ouistreham bound for the Isle of Wight.

The Class40s exited Caen’s Bassin Saint Pierre this morning to begin their descent along the canal to the open sea. They passed through the giant lock gates at Ouistreham to the cheers of a large crowd of admiring spectators. The race boats were accompanied by the warship Vulcain and the classic sailing ships such as the Marité.

Due to the lack of wind, the Race Committee decided not to hold the usual coastal race before send the boats off. Instead the competitors this afternoon are heading directly off across the Channel bound for the eastern end of the Solent.

To the great delight of the support boats, the sun showed its face and the Class40s set off gently in a southerly of less than 8 knots, bound for the weather mark to the south of the line.

Team Work, helmed by the Mini sailors Bertrand Delesne and David Raison, got off to an excellent start at the pin end on starboard tack, but it was GDF SUEZ which was first to reach the windward mark by taking the opposite option. Hot on her heels were Damien Seguin and Jeanne Grégoire on ERDF – Des pieds et Des mains and Jean-Christophe Caso and Aymeric Chappellier on Team Picoty – Lac de Vassivière. The latter rounded the mark and headed due north, while the first two, along with the bulk of the rest of the fleet preferred to make their way along the coast for a while before they too headed offshore. This has proven to be a winning option for Team Picoty, but for how long…?

Later in the afternoon the wind was becoming increasingly scarce and the monohulls are now slowly making headway towards the English coast with just one mile separating the top eight boats.

It’s going to be a long night for the 17 crews and their alertness will be their main asset. However, some a small front is forecast to cross them imminently at which point the cards will be reshuffled.

Race Director Sylvie Viant commented: “There’s a great deal of uncertainty with regards to the start due to the forecast… The weather situation is similar to that which we have in the summer, namely a great deal of storms and a number of random depressions. As such, none of the weather models can correctly analyse the situation and it’s even harder to predict the direction and the strength of the wind for the start. It’s going to be interesting to watch each of the different options!”

Louis Duc on Advanced Energies – Carac reported: “We’ll have very little wind on the start line so physically it’s not going to be that tough, though the sail changes may well be frequent. Damien and I are going to be really vigilant from the start and we’re going to keep an eye on the current too, which could play tricks on us if there’s no wind. We have a lot of ideas about strategy, since none of the models are very clear. As such we haven’t set ourselves any predefined plans and we’ll always be ready to call our current strategy into question according to what we feel on the water. We have complementary natures, Damien and I, and I trust him so I can focus more on trimming the boat prior to the start and he can analyse the course and the navigation."

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