The prize-giving for the CIC Normandy Channel Race took place at noon today in Caen. The Italo-French crew on Alla Grande Pirelli lifted the crown, rounding off this splendid 14th edition of the great Norman classic in style. This 2023 vintage certainly lived up to expectations once again, providing a perfect showcase for the sport to the great delight of the media and the spectators. We get the low-down on this splendid 2023 edition.
A suspenseful show of sport
One week ago, on Sunday 4 June, 30 Class40s and 60 sailors set sail on the CIC Normandy Channel Race 2023. An exceptionally dense fleet, it equalled last year’s participation numbers for the event, making it the most popular of all the races reserved solely for Class40s. In fact, it boasted both quantity and quality, since there was a truly stellar line-up taking the start, including all the big names from the circuit, keen to do battle on this intense and technical course in the English Channel and the Celtic Sea. Due to the strong breeze and heavy seas on the start line, the fleet avoided the usual coastal course off Ouistreham and powered straight off towards the Marcouf Islands. Making excellent speed, the competitors ticked off the first tricky sections of the course. Exiting the Solent, the skippers had some stark strategic choices to make and the fleet promptly diverged into two separate pelotons before bunching back together as they rounded Land’s End, progress slowing due to the wind shadow created by the south-west tip of England. This is where the Class40 Alla Grande Pirelli (181) took the head of the race after being the first to extricate itself from this hazardous zone. Despite the rest of the fleet constantly nipping at their heels, the duo managed to pretty much hold onto the reins from then on. After Tuskar, they hugged the coast of southern Ireland initially, undaunted by the fact that some of their competitors were trying an option further offshore. Putting in a neat little counter tack after Fastnet to line themselves up for the TSS off the Scillies, they then had the confidence to tuck right in around the headlands of Land’s End and Lizard Point before traversing the English Channel. With the fleet scooped up by an intense 25 knots of established NE’ly winds, gusting to 36, the beat proved hard to negotiate with the heavy seas. Ducking through the Channel Islands the winners gave the Cotentin Peninsula a wide berth, despite the chasing pack breathing down their necks ready to pounce at any moment with an option further inshore in a bid to cut the corner. The final sprint for victory in the Baie de Seine was timed to perfection though and the glory was theirs.
A fraught and tactical battle, the leaders were closely matched from beginning to end. Alla Grande Pirelli (181) led the way for much of the course, though she never really managed to shake off her pursuers. At the finish, twenty Class40s crossed the finish line within around ten hours of one another after 5 days and over 1,000 miles of racing. However, there were a few boats in the chasing pack whose skippers managed to post a fabulous performance and showed real spark. At the front of the pack, one of the standout duos were sailing Vogue Avec Un Crohn (195), fresh out of the box with only a few sea trials to their credit, who secured a more than honourable 7th place. Equally impressive were the skippers of the pointed bow Nestenn – Entrepreneurs Pour La Planète (153) who placed 11th and left no fewer than eight Class40 scows in their wake. “We’re going to take lots of positives away with us from this race. Robin and I manoeuvred really well. I’ve really raised my game from a strategic and weather perspective and I have a much better vision of what’s going on out on the racetrack now. I’ve learned a lot in my past season. Today, I try to sail my own race to stand out. Between the Isle of Wight and Lands’End, we were notably able to make up ground because we weren’t putting in the same tacks as the others, and that works!” explained Jules Bonnier at the finish. Also worth a mention is the great course sailed by the first female crew, Irish sailor Pamela Lee and French co-skpper Tiphaine Ragueneau on Cap Pour Elles (154), 21st, who kept pace with the leading pack throughout.
A popular media sensation
Enjoying exceptional media coverage for an event that is exclusively reserved for the Class40s, the CIC Normandy Channel Race has really established its status as a unique event in the offshore racing landscape. This was evident on a televisual level first of all, with national and regional media coverage across France via short programmes broadcast daily on La Chaîne L’Équipe with the support of the CIC, as well as on France 3 Normandie. For radio listeners, France Bleu Normandie featured a whole series of programmes throughout the 2 weeks of the event. Finally, Ouest-France featured daily columns about the great Norman classic in its newspaper and online platform. The race village also proved extremely popular among the locals in Caen, who got to enjoy a wealth of entertainment on offer to them, including the brand-new CIC Paddleboard Base. Another local high point was the fact that the village welcomed nearly 500 students along the Quai Vendeuvre the day before it opened, giving the children and the skippers a chance for an intriguing tour of the dock and Q&A session.
There is no question that the CIC Normandy Channel Race is a firm fixture among Class40 events. Boasting all the ingredients that make a race so special, it has really earned this special recognition: a demanding course, an international level, incredible competitive appeal, Class40 spirit and major media coverage. The perfect Norman cocktail, it attracts all the sport’s specialists eager to add this prestigious title to their list of accolades.
Roll on 2024 and the Normandy Channel Race’s quadrennial late-season slot on Sunday 15 September!
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