Not without a struggle, the first Class40s in this 11th edition of the Normandy Channel Race rounded Lizard Point at around midday and are currently sheltering from the worst of the counter current close to the coast that wraps around Mounts Bay, awaiting the shift which should give them a slight lift around Land’s End. In their wake, the competitors will have to go all out if they too are to stand a chance of getting through before the tide turns and the leaders hotfoot it up to Tuskar Rock.

“Our hands are beginning to warm up” declared the skipper of Crédit Mutuel, Ian Lipinski, at today’s radio link-up. It’s a statement that perfectly sums up the difficulty the skippers are facing in their quest to get around the south-west tip of England. Evidently the skippers have spared no effort aboard the Class40s. The conditions on site, namely a light and shifty breeze in terms of direction, together with some misty phases, have required almost superhuman energy from the sailors to perform the requisite sequence of manœuvres and remain vigilant when the visibility faded. An opportunistic streak would also have been a bonus as they tried to make the most of even a hint of something favourable and ensure they were on the right tack at the right time. In addition to the demanding conditions encountered by the sailors, the fleet has bunched right up since exiting the Solent, and the sailors have a really close-contact race on their hands, as Pierre-Louis Attwell explains. “For now the Normandy Channel Race is true to form with crews we thought we’d seen the back of coming right back into the frame”, explained the skipper originally from France’s Calvados region.

It’s the same picture at the head of the fleet, where the leader is constantly changing in the match race between Crédit Mutuel, Redman and Banque du Leman, who have each had a turn at the front of the pack over the past few hours. It’s a stressful situation as Antoine Carpentier (Redman) explained at the radio link-up this lunchtime. “Psychologically it’s hard, but it’s why we’re here and street brawls were one of my specialities for a number of years…” A lovely image to set the scene then, as the sailors slug it out, the bit between their teeth, ready for anything in their quest to be the first to be spat out the other side of Land’s End.

Hooking onto the right wagon

For the rest of the fleet further astern, the main preoccupation is trying to work out whether they can hook onto the right wagon and benefit from a favourable shift in the current from 19:00 GMT. On the flipside of that, should they fail in their mission, they’ll see the road ahead barred, giving the front runners a bit of time to try and make a run for it while the coast is clear.

That said, the climb up towards Tuskar Rock may well take on the airs of a north face ascent. Indeed, weather conditions will remain complicated and look set to be accompanied by a light NNE’ly wind.

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