“A legendary race” commented Dominic Vittet at the finish, co-skipper on the Class40 L’Express Sapmer. However, after 4 days of intense, action-packed racing it was Tanguy de Lamotte and Sébastien Audigane aboard Initiatives Saveurs who took victory. On the second step of the podium were Fabien Delahaye and Bruno Jourdren on Port de Caen – Ouistreham and in third position Des pieds et des mains helmed by Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme.
Nearly 870 miles were covered at an average speed of 8.39 knots. The change of course, much awaited by the racers, shortened the course distance by 170 miles but took nothing away from the quality of the competition.
8 Class40s completed the course today. The last four are set to finish tomorrow, from daybreak. On Friday 27 May, the 12 Class40s who took part in the Normandy Channel Race 2011 will all be alongside in the Bassin Saint-Pierre in Caen, having ‘looped the loop’, for now at least.
A look back at what has been an exceptional edition
At 1300 hours GMT, on Sunday 22 May, 16 Class40s take the start of the Normandy Channel Race 2011. 12 hours later, the first retirement is announced. Livewire encounters numerous technical issues and the two skippers, Stuart Dodd and Steve Kennington decide to return to Cherbourg.
The rest of the fleet make very fast headway downwind towards England. In the leading pack, there is little separating them. On Monday 23 May, at 1400 hours GMT, Partouche, skippered by Christophe Coatnoan and Sébastien Figue, also throw in the towel, the sailing conditions seemingly too much. For those still racing, the cavalcade continues. Fabien Delahaye and Bruno Jourdren on Port de Caen – Ouistreham lead the way, but lying in ambush is the crew on Marie Toît – Caen la Mer, Marc Lepesqueux and Michel Kleinjans, who move up into the lead after a favourable close-hauled option over the course of Monday night. A few hours later, the race comes to an end for the Franco-Belgian team, who are forced to retire after a collision.
On Wednesday, the strong wind that has accompanied the fleet from the start, isn’t letting up… quite the contrary in fact. A deep depression is shifting towards the Fastnet lighthouse. Race management decide to make a course change. Those competitors still racing won’t now be rounding the famous lighthouse. This 170 mile course reduction comes as a relief to the skippers who are really starting to feel exhausted. That same day, Andrew Dawson and Rune Aasberg aboard Spliff announce their retirement. They don’t feel able to continue in such conditions.
At Tuskar Rock, the wind is pumping at 30 knots. The 12 Class40s still racing round the mark drop back down towards Land’s End on a beat. Here, finally, they enjoy some downwind conditions with a long run as far as Guernsey. At this precise moment in the race, nobody can say who will win the Normandy Channel Race. The top 3 are neck and neck. Port de Caen – Ouistreham and Initiatives Saveurs are sailing within sight of each other.
Finally, after a few sail issues, Fabien Delahaye and Bruno Jourdren drop back to third position and the Damien Seguin/Yoann Richomme team aboard Des pieds et des mains move up into second after a great option.
At Raz Blanchard, Initiatives Saveurs boasts a 10 mile lead. Victory appears imminent. Behind them the battle is relentless and the drag race will last right the way to the finish. In Ouistreham it’s Fabien Delahaye and Bruno Jourdren who snatch second. Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme take the third step of the podium. As for the winning crew in this edition, Tanguy de Lamotte and Sébastien Audigane cross the finish at 11 hours, 25 minutes and 25 seconds GMT in dramatic style, their mainsail in tatters. Since rounding the final headland, where they blew out the sail in a gybe, they had been sailing with a mainsail split in two, significantly reducing their ability to make fast headway. They pull it off however and just snatch victory…
Early tomorrow, the last 4 Class40s will cross the finish line to conclude this 2011 edition, at which point it will be time to say: See you next year!
Quotes from the boats
Tanguy de Lamotte and Sébastien Audigane, Initiatives Saveurs, winner of the Normandy Channel Race:
“The mainsail ripped in half just after Raz Blanchard. At that point we still had 70 miles left to go… We must have lost an average of 1 knot in all that but we kept the gennaker aloft in 30 knots so we were flying! We were making between 16 and 20 knots along the ground, flat out! We dumped the gennaker two hours before the finish. We knew we were going slower. Séb was helming and I was keeping an eye on the rankings and the distance between us and our pursuers. It’s no secret, we certainly didn’t think we’d bagged the win… We feared we’d lose out on the first place all the way to the finish, but we gave our all to sail at our best.
We’re happy to win the race. It was a closely fought battle from beginning to end! We haven’t changed our clothing since the start. I’m still in the same lycra and the same socks. All I want is to get my boots off. We’re done in but we’ve really enjoyed it. It was fantastic! Intense but fantastic!”
Fabien Delahaye and Bruno Jourdren, Port de Caen – Ouistreham, second in the Normandy Channel Race:
“We had some peaks of speed at 24 knots, which was nice! In conditions like that, you’re just linking together a series of manœuvres and it takes a lot out of you. I can’t even remember the last time I slept. We haven’t eaten much. All of a sudden we had no gas left in the bottle so we couldn’t cook up a hot meal or a tea during the race. We tried to eat cold ready-made meals but it wasn’t great.
At 1800 GMT yesterday, we were neck and neck with Initiatives Saveurs. One minute they were ahead, the next it was us. That’s all we were doing the whole night until a big cloud came along. It was full-on. We decided to reduce the sail area and pull the sock down over the spinnaker, but it got caught. We struggled with it for an hour and then finally the spinnaker was unusable. After that we had issues with our code 0, so to cut a long story short, it was one thing after another. We lost 6 miles with all that. That was enough for them to get ahead! But we didn’t give up, because at 0700 GMT, Des pieds et des mains were ahead of us, and suddenly we were working flat out on deck. Bruno went into overdrive! We were constantly on the sheets and managed to get level with them 2 miles from Barfleur and ultimately we recovered our second place!”
Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme aboard Des pieds et des mains, third in the Normandy Channel Race
“We were on the attack as soon as we rounded the SW tip of England. We were under full mainsail and small spinnaker. I think we were the only ones to be carrying those sails at that point. It made the difference. We were flat out, sailing at 200%(!) of our potential throughout the night and all the way to the finish. We were second just off Caen – Ouistreham but whilst we were on a reach they got past us. We’re happy to be back. Throughout the race, we just got closer and closer to this third place, without ever managing to snatch it back for good, so it’s great that we got there in the end!
We had a ball. There were some phases that were more difficult than others. When you’re having to take the close-hauled sailing on the chin like that, it’s hard. If I’d be asked whether I was enjoying myself halfway round, I’m not sure if I’d have given the same response as today! It’s just as well we didn’t go to Fastnet because that really would have been long, especially for those at the back of the fleet!”
Ranking – Thursday 26 May:
1. INITIATIVES SAVEURS – 3d 22h 25m 25s at 8.39 knots
2. PORT DE CAEN OUISTREHAM – 3d 23h 4m 12s at 8.33 knots
3. DES PIEDS ET DES MAINS – 3d 23h 12m 35s at 8.32 knots
4. MARE.DE2 – 3d 23h 40m 14s at 8.28 knots
5. L ‘EXPRESS – SAPMER – 3d 23h 42m 56s at 8.27 knots
6. TALANTA – 4d 1h 0m 10s at 8.16 knots
7. DEFI GDE – TZU HANG – 4d 2h 34m 27s at 8.03 knots
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