Competing in this 11th edition, the Normandy Channel Race fleet reached the Isle of Wight and the entrance to the Solent late morning this Monday. Benefiting from its favourable position at the head of the fleet, the skippers of the Class40 Redman (161) were first to extricate themselves from this hazardous passage, enabling them to open up their lead along the south coast of England. Astern of them, the first strategic choices are being implemented with two very distinct options.

The lead peloton made up of Redman (161), Crédit Mutuel (158), Banque du Leman (159), (Re)vivre après le Lymphome (154), Free Dom (157) and Fondation Sextant / Amiral Gestion (134), has made the decision to distance itself from the coast in the hope of a steadier breeze. However, the first chasing pack made up of Tales 2 (123), Vogue avec Crohn (135), le Choix Funeraire (139), Virgin Media Business (137), E. Leclerc Ville La Grand (160), Milai (101), Everial (147) et Concise 8 (129), has opted for the inside track close to shore in a bid to avoid the worst of the conditions as they punch the tide. Only time will tell which is the better decision and whether the front runners have enough of a lead either way to avoid a bunching up of the fleet.

A tough exit from the Solent

Astern, the hazardous Solent caught out three Class40s earlier in the day. Indeed, with the very light wind making the boats hard to manoeuvre, coupled with the strong current on site, two of the competitors ended up running aground on Shingles Bank. Entraide Marine (156) was the first to suffer the penalty. Stuck fast, skipper Charles-Louis Mourruau informed Race Management that he didn’t want to continue racing having been unable to assess the extent of the damage before negotiating the Celtic Sea. It was the same punishment for Rockall 6 (155), which also ran aground right opposite the Needles. Skipper Jörg Riechers and his co-skipper Axel Tréhin decided to grin and bear it as they waited a considerable time for the rising tide to release them back out onto the racetrack. Finally, during a gybe close to another hazard Free Dom (157) got pushed by the current towards Rockall 6 (155), which was already aground by that point. To avoid the hazard and the otherwise unavoidable collision, the duo of Thibault Lefevere and Sébastien Marsset were forced to run their engine in order to switch into forward gear. Race Management has been alerted about the situation and has informed the jury.

At the tail end of the fleet, the competitors are still spread along the length of the Solent. Bringing up the rear, Obportus IV and her neighbours are likely to be in for a more complicated ride. In addition to having to negotiate this tricky section by slaloming between the sandbanks and heavy shipping, they will also be punching tide. Vigilance will be the watchword aboard the boats then in the coming hours of racing if they are to avoid the same punishment as their predecessors, especially with dusk approaching…

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