24 hours before the arrival of the first Class40s, the battle is continuing to rage. It is impossible today to announce the name of the winner, given that the distances between the 3 leaders are so slim. Port de Caen Ouistreham and Initiatives Saveurs have been neck and neck for over a day. At 1000 GMT, Fabien Delahaye and Bruno Jourdren had a lead of just 0.1 miles over Tanguy de Lamotte and Sébastien Audigane. At 1400 GMT, the two crews were completely tied in terms of theoretical distance to the finish. At the last radio session, Initiatives Saveurs had passed back into the lead off Land’s End, just 200 metres ahead of Port de Caen – Ouistreham. Enough to send even the best bookmakers into a spin!
Clearly the change of course has done nothing to upset the furious pace of the race. The 12 competitors are maintaining some fairly high speeds. In a few hours’ time, they’ll pass Land’s End to begin a long run down towards Guernsey. After that there will be two Norman headlands to round, before they cross the finish line later afternoon tomorrow, Thursday.
Since the first few hours of racing, it has been one almighty battle. A day before the finish, the 5 leaders are bunched up within 10 miles of each other. Two boats have managed to get away from the first chasing group, Port de Caen – Ouistreham and Initiatives Saveurs. It’s a real offshore version of match racing! According to Fabien Delahaye, skipper of the Class40 Port de Caen – Ouistreham, the battling is intense: “We’re having a great battle and things are very tight. Tanguy and Sébastien are within 100 metres of us. We rounded Tuskar Rock together. Last night they got ahead of us, we then overtook them, we tacked and at that point they got ahead of us again. To sum it up, it’s very much game on!”
The first Class40s are set to pass Land’s End over the coming hours. Once around the English headland, the competitors are likely to hit a Westerly wind proffering downwind conditions, which will enable them to drop quickly down towards Guernsey and then on to the finish. For the past 12 hours, the competition has been intense, with the skippers making headway into the wind by putting in a series of well-timed tacks. There are a whole range of tactical possibilities up for grabs in sailing conditions such as these. One thing for sure is that the two leaders will be marking each other’s every move all the way to the end. Tanguy de Lamotte, skipper of the Class40 Initiatives Saveurs freely admits this: “I feel like I’m doing the Tour de France à la Voile! The light from their mast passes, gets away from us, falls back, we plot our position, we just don’t stop!”
Already thoughts go to the Estimated Time of Arrival. Indeed current ETAs suggest that the first Class40s are likely to cross the finish line off Hermanville late tomorrow afternoon. The distance of the theoretical course for the Normandy Channel Race 2011 was originally around 1,000 miles. Following the change of course, the competitors didn’t round Fastnet Rock, instead setting a course straight towards Guernsey after Tuskar Rock, which equates to a course spanning nearly 200 fewer miles. Until today, the average race speed across the water was around 8.4 knots. Clearly this average speed is set to increase dramatically over the coming hours, since the current Southerly wind is set to clock round to the West, remaining fairly strong to carry the Class40s downwind to Caen. According to Nicolas Boidevézi, co-skipper of the Class40 Défi GDE – Tzu Hang, the strong wind is likely to make rounding the remaining Norman headlands a rather complicated affair: “The Channel crossing should be quick, but we’re wondering what will happen after that, especially at Raz Blanchard where 30/35 knots of downwind conditions await us as we battle against the current…”
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