The two recent Round Britain record holders, one in crewed configuration, the other in solo, are embroiled in an almighty head-to-head at the front of the pack in this 2020 edition of the Normandy Channel Race with just hours to go till the denouement. At the heart of the fleet, the rather lively weather conditions in the English Channel have been what one might call selective. At the end of yesterday, some seven Class40s were forced to retire from the race after suffering material damage. The battle lines have been drawn then and the fight continues to rage out on the racetrack for the exhausted sailors. After all, this is the only event in the Class40 championship this year and it is important to hold rank. Roll on the finish!
We hadn’t expected to relive such intensity and such suspense as in previous editions, but the epic of the final sprint resurfaces again and again, year on year, in this very unique race. With some 90 nautical miles to go (at the time of writing) to the finish line off Ouistreham, Crédit Mutuel (158) and Banque du Léman (159) are still neck and neck. A genuine match race continues in heavy seas and the duos made up of Ian Lipinski and Julien Pulvé and Valentin Gautier and Simon Koster both have their sights on the top step of the podium. The final sprint promises to be tough and closely fought, but victory will surely be all the sweeter for it…
Astern of them, the situation is no clearer. Six crews are grouped within 15 miles. Suffice to say that anyone from the 3rd to 8th boat stands a chance of completing the podium in this 11th Normandy Channel Race. The Class 40 No.139, Choix Funéraire, skippered by a crew from Saint Malo have been posting an impressive performance as they slug it out with the duo and long-term race leader from La Trinité aboard the brand-new Redman. Not far behind is the English crew of Ian Hoddle and Jack Trigger on Virgin Media Business who remain in ambush. Equally interesting is the positioning of Free Dom skippered by Thibaut Lefevere and Sebastien Marsset, who are clearly looking to be the first to dip under the Casquets TSS. Placement on the race zone and the cleanness of the manœuvres will be key today if the crews are to succeed.
The 25-30-knot NE’ly breeze, combined with the strong springs have prompted several crews to take shelter in the ports dotted along the south coast of England. This is permitted for a minimum of two hours in the Sailing Instructions of course, but where crews stop off in a port, the skippers can break the seal on their engine and send photographic evidence of the new seal before setting sail again. It’s worth noting that right now, American father and son team on Kite, Greg and Hannes Leonard, still remain out on the racetrack in the hope off picking off some of their rivals towards the tail-end of the fleet whilst they’re sheltering. However things play out for them, this Normandy Channel Race is sure to be a race to remember for the young 16-year-old.
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