The big squeeze at the start of the Celtic Sea


The competitors in the 2020 vintage of the Normandy Channel Race have endured an incredibly tense night. For some, the certainties of the previous day are still fresh in their minds, whilst for others it’s a very different story today. Such is the state of the fleet this morning, which has squashed right back together after passing Land’s End, bringing pretty much everyone back into contention as they launch onto a beat in the climb up to Tuskar Rock, the leaderboard undergoing a serious shakedown in the process.

If you had to pick out one crew to epitomise the night’s chaos, just take a glance at the ranking for Redman from last night and this morning. Indeed, up to the Wolf Rock course mark, the duo formed by Antoine Carpentier and Nicolas Groleau had sailed an impeccably clean race, holding onto the top spot since the coastal course offshore of Ouistreham. In these conditions with light breeze, the wind strength is secondary to the intensity of the current, a situation which the pairing aboard the latest addition to the Class40 fleet bore the full brunt of overnight, something their direct rivals, literally pebble hopping along the coast at times seemingly, managed to avoid.

The timing of the passage around Land’s End, clearly did not favour the front runners, enabling their pursuers to make up the lost ground. A fact that must have thrilled the chasing pack no end. Such was the case for Everial, Virgin Media Business, Vogue avec un Crohn, Free Dom and Lamotte Module Création, who are now hot on the heels of the two leaders, Crédit Mutuel and Banque du Léman. However, it’s worth noting that there’s no such thing as a safe bet in this game and the leaderboard may well tell a different story in a few hours’ time. Nobody is shielded from another turn of events given how tightly bunched the fleet is, with just 30 miles separating the front and back runners this morning, compared to more than double that yesterday, and 13 boats grouped within a 10-mile radius. The game remains wide open then on this climb north.

It’s also interesting to note the option undertaken by two of the crews, Fondation Sextant / Amiral Gestion and Rockall 6, who seem to be playing the long game by sailing a route close to the Bristol Channel as they wait for the wind to shift round towards the NE.

Over the coming hours, the competitors won’t have to wait long before they see the wind become more intense. The light conditions will soon give way to a 6 to 8-knot N’ly breeze, which is set to flesh out over the course of the day.

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