Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Normandy Channel Race : Surfing!

Image copyright JM Liot/Normandy Channel Race

by Kate Jennings

The Normandy Channel Race has had a busy day with a change of course implemented by the Race Committee and Race Management at 1100 hours local time this Tuesday. Due to the weather conditions forecast, namely a powerful SW’ly wind and heavy seas, Tuskar and Fastnet Rock have been ousted and the competitors will now go around a virtual mark, midway between Land’s End and Ireland. “Made in Normandy” is continuing to strut its stuff at the front of the Class 40 fleet. Nicolas Jossier and Alexandre Toulorge have an 8.2-mile lead over “Mare” skippered by the Riechers / Brasseur pairing and 14.6 miles over “Campagne de France”, piloted by Cherbourg skipper Halvard Mabire and Briton Miranda Merron. Eight Class 40s have retired from the Normandy Channel Race, due on the whole to technical issues.

In contact

The battle is on at the head of the Normandy Channel Race fleet. Over the past 24 hours, the racers have been making headway in tough sailing conditions, though it’s perfectly navigable for the Class 40s, which have been built for long offshore races. Since this lunchtime, the leaders have eased their sheets and are surfing along with the wind pretty much right on their tails in the waves of the Irish Sea. Making an average of over 12 knots, with peak speeds of 18 knots, “Made In Normandie”, “Mare”, “Campagne de France” and “Geodis” are going fast, very fast, in full combat mode, their crews wrapped up in their drysuits.

Last night, those competing in the NCR, close-hauled in choppy seas, ticked the South coast of England off their list. Tacking around Start Point then Lizard Point, “Made In Normandie” managed to keep ahead of its rivals, despite it’s pursuers letting the power of their machines do the talking. In this way, the duos Riechers / Brasseur and Mabire / Merron moved back up to the front of the fleet after a laboured start to the race.

Right now, behind the top four, “Red”, fifth, “Momentum Ocean Racing”, “Groupe Picoty”, “Al Bucq” and “Phoenix Europe Carac” are nose to tail within a 2-mile area.

End game

During this time, several sailors have experienced technical issues, whilst others have thrown in the towel, not wishing to put their sports projects in danger for the upcoming season. “Kogane” skippered by Patrice Bougard and Gilles Dadou, “Pascall Atkey and Son of Cowes” helmed by Pier Tylers and James Stablelord, “Swish” skippered by Roderick Knowles and Paul Peggs, “Groupe Partouche” helmed by Christophe Coatnoan and Jean-Charles Monnet, “Jasmine Flyer” skippered by Thibault Reinhart and Nicolas Boidevézi, “Earwen” helmed by Catherine Pourre and Goulven Royer, are all retiring following issues with their engines, sails, shrouds or automatic pilots.

“GDF SUEZ”, skippered by Sébastien Rogues and Ludovic Aglaor, have retired as they are loathe to take their brand new Mach 40 through such boisterous conditions. “Norma Concept – Le Pal” skippered by Bruno Jourdren and Thomas Ruyant, has also chosen to alter course to Plymouth. The two experienced sailors have deemed it better to call it a day so as to keep their sails intact for the Transat Jacques Vabre.

300 miles from the finish

For the remaining 11 Class 40s, once they’re around the virtual waypoint, they’ll be sailing close-hauled or on a close reach back towards Land’s End, at which point they’ll set a course for the island of Guernsey… Suspense is set to colour the next few days then and we will have to wait and see whether “Made In Normandie” manages to hang onto its lead. ETA Thursday morning offshore of Hermanville-sur-Mer…

Quotes from the Boats:

Nicolas Jossier, skipper of the Class 40 “Made in Normandie”: “We’ve just endured a pretty tough night with 25 to 30 knots of breeze and little sleep. At the start we had a beautiful sail to Barfleur, hugging the coast as we made our way along. After that we managed to extend our lead during the Channel crossing. Yesterday, as we made headway along the English coast, we extracted ourselves from the Solent rather nicely. It was a long day though, upwind on a reach with our Class 40 really slamming. Our aim is obviously to stay at the front so we’re continuing to make headway.”

Miranda Merron, co-skipper of the Class 40 “Campagne de France”: “We had a cold, dark night with rain. We’re currently sailing downwind with 16 knots of breeze and there’s a big swell. It’s never really the wind that irks us, but rather the sea state. Yesterday’s highlight was the passage through the Solent. There wasn’t much space between the sand and our keel. For the next stage, the first part of the Channel crossing will be performed with a close reach so we’ve got everything to play for.”

Jorg Riechers, skipper of the Class 40 “Mare”: “We’re happy with the course change. After a catastrophic start to the race, we caught up with the head of the fleet yesterday thanks to good control during our sail changes, switching from the genoa to the staysail. We’re on the attack but it’s not going to be easy to come back on “Made in Normandie”.

Brieuc Maisonneuve, skipper of the Class 40 “Al Bucq”: “We’re under spinnaker with less than 20 knots of breeze. The sun is out. We’ve hoisted the small kite and we’ll stick with that configuration as far as the virtual waypoint.”

Jean-Christophe Caso, skipper of the Class 40 “Groupe Picoty”: “The course change is a reasonable solution. We’re not here to scare ourselves in an Irish Sea that is often very tough with no escape routes. Last night we got dropped by the leading group. We’re in contact with “Red” and “Phoenix”. We still have the scope to make a come back as long as the leaders haven’t crossed the finish line. If we only have a 15-mile deficit in relation to the frontrunners, we’ll be able to catch up along the Norman coast with the passages around Barfleur and Le Raz Blanchard”.

Manfred Ramspacher, organiser of the Normandy Channel Race: “Given the fact that the weather conditions could worsen over the coming hours, the Race Committee and Race Management have proposed the idea of a course change to the competitors. We’ve removed the passages from Tuskar Rock and Fastnet Rock. The Class 40s are continuing to race towards a virtual point, midway between Land’s End and Tuskar, which they’ll leave to port. They’ll then begin the return leg, where they’ll stick to the initial course.”

Catherine Pourre, skipper of the Class 40 “Earwen”: “We are informing you of our retirement following sail and electronic issues and given the weather conditions forecast it would seem reasonable to us to cut short this NCR. All’s well aboard. We’re heading to Caen.”

Thomas Ruyant, co-skipper of the Class 40 “Norma Concept – Le Pal”: “Since the start, we’ve been suffering from some serious ballast tank issues. Last night, despite being in second place in the competition, Bruno and I took the tough decision to retire from the event. In addition to this technical issue, we weren’t keen to compromise our only set of sails for the year. Our joint aim is to focus on the Transat Jacques Vabre”.

David Lanier, weather adviser for the Normandy Channel Race: “With the modification, the front runners will round Land’s End on the return leg with 18-20 knots of wind, gusting to 28-30 knots. Those with a five-hour deficit will pass Land’s End with an average of 25 knots of breeze, gusting to 35 knots. Those with a 10-hour deficit will have 30 knots, gusting to 40 knots.”

In French, by Tanguy Blondel :

Image copyright JM Liot/Normandy Channel Race

Changement de parcours

Manfred Ramspacher, organisateur de la Normandy Channel Race : « Au regard des conditions météo qui pourraient s’aggraver dans les prochaines heures, le Comité de course et la Direction de course ont proposé un changement de parcours aux concurrents. Nous avons supprimé les passages de Tuskar Rock et du Fastnet Rock. Les Class 40 restent en course et se dirigent vers un point virtuel à mi-distance entre Land’s End et Tuskar qu’ils passeront à bâbord. Ils prendront ensuite le chemin du retour suivant le parcours initial. »

Décidemment « Made in Normandie » réalise une belle Normandy Channel Race. Le duo Jossier / Toulorge mène toujours les hostilités au pointage de 8h00. En parallèle du Cap Lizard et après une nuit, au louvoyage, dans un vent orienté au Sud-Ouest, 20 nœuds et moins, les normands possèdent 4,4 milles d’avance sur « Mare » skippé par Jorg Riechers et Pierre Brasseur et 5,1 milles sur le redoutable couple Mabire / Merron du Pogo S2 « Campagne de France ». Fabrice Amedeo, le journaliste, et Armel Tripon sont bien revenus dans la partie à bord de « Geodis », ils sont quatrièmes. La flotte de l’édition 2013 de la Normandy Channel Race est en route pour Land’s End et va, en fin de matinée, tirer sur la barre afin, au portant, de rejoindre Tuskar Rock en Irlande. Les conditions seront alors plus musclées avec plus de 25 nœuds annoncés dans une mer d’Irlande difficile mais manœuvrable.

Sept concurrents ont abandonné la course. « Kogane » de Patrice Bougard et Gilles Dadou, « Pascall Atkey and Son of Cowes » de Pier Tylers et James Stablelord, hier soir, pour respectivement, une surchauffe du moteur et un problème important de hauban. Ils font route, pour le premier, vers Brest ou Roscoff, pour le second vers Cowes.

« Swish » a éclaté sa grand-voile. « Groupe Partouche » de Christophe Coatnoan et Jean-Charles Monnet jette l’éponge. Les deux normands ne peuvent plus charger leur moteur. « Jasmine Flyer » n’a pas encore donné son mobile d’abandon à la direction de course.

Sébastien Rogues et Ludovic Aglaor « GDF SUEZ » se sont déroutés sur Plymouth, tout comme « Norma Concept – Le Pal » du duo Jourdren – Ruyant. Les navigateurs de ces deux voiliers « dernière génération » estiment que leur Class 40 n’est pas encore assez optimisé pour naviguer au portant dans des conditions de mer et de vent fort. « Norma Concept – Le Pal » évolue, depuis le départ avec son jeu de voile de la Transat Jacques Vabre, objectif de sa saison tout comme « GDF SUEZ » qui a été mis à l’eau il y a quatre semaines. Enfin, « Mr Bricolage » se dirige actuellement vers les côtes françaises. Damien Rousseau et Benjamin Develay ont des problèmes de pilote automatique et une petite voie d’eau. Ils parlent d’une réparation.

Ils ont dit :

Patrice Bougard, skipper du JPK 40 « Kogane » : « Nous avons toujours des problèmes de surchauffe moteur. J'ai décidé d'abandonner la course et de rentrer à Lorient, ou si le moteur ne permet pas suffisamment de petites charges, arrêt à Brest ou à Roscoff. Je vous en dirais plus en avançant. Le standard C reste allumer. Dommage mais c'est plus sécurisant ».

Anne Combier, manager du Class 40 « GDF SUEZ » : « Notre voilier a quatre semaines. Il est tout neuf. Il n’est pas encore totalement au point. Nous ne pouvons pas nous permettre de compromettre la saison. « GDF SUEZ » n’a pas encore navigué dans des conditions de mer et de vent fort. Sébastien et Ludovic ont donc pris la sage décision de se retirer de la course avec regrets ».

Normandy Channel Race