A substantial portion of the fleet in the 13th edition of the CIC Normandy Channel Race has now negotiated the course mark of Guernsey. As they were weaving their way through the Channel Islands, there were just three little miles between the four leaders. Though the top trio, Crédit Mutuel, Inter Invest and Quéguiner-Innoveo navigated the Great Roussel Channel (between the islands of Herm and Sark), where they reaped the benefits of a favourable tide, Project Rescue Ocean, anticipating the rounding of Cap de la Hague and a laborious session punching tide, opted instead for the Little Roussel Channel (between Guernsey and Herm) to attempt a strategic option offshore of the Cotentin peninsula. Indeed, Axel Tréhin and his co-skipper Frédéric Denis gambled on the fact that the leading trio would stumble into the current at the western tip of Cotentin, which has some of the strongest tides in Europe (6 knots at mid-tide). It was an ‘all-in’ full of daring, which may pay off big time… or thwart any chances of outright victory.
In a bid to be less influenced by the current at Cap de la Hague, the skippers aboard Crédit Mutuel, Inter Invest and Quéguiner-Innoveo are busy hugging the coast as tightly as they can. In fact, so adept at this little game are they, that the MMRC Jobourg alerted Race Management to the proximity of the offshore raceboats to the rocks where only the local fishermen usually venture. Over the coming hours, the top trio will continue to make their way along the coast via Cherbourg harbour until the tide turns at Barfleur at 18:00 UTC, before plunging down to the south-west and Ouistreham. The last fifty miles will be punctuated by a very light breeze, which will keep the public waiting with bated breath to discover who will be crowned champion of this CIC Normandy Channel Race 2022, which is still anyone’s game tonight.
Stretched out between Paimpol and Guernsey, their pursuers are still sailing within sight of one another in light airs, linking together a series of manoeuvres as they battle to make headway. Pierre Casenave-Péré on the Class40 Legallais paints quite a picture when he describes their 28 gybes since passing Portsall, while the high-profile British sailor Mike Golding, sailing Polka Dot with American Alex Mehran, is clearly relishing the close-contact racing whilst remaining focused on the task ahead: “On this part of the coast there’s a great deal of tide and we’re trying to avoid that by getting in amongst the rocks at times. At other times we’re trying to get offshore to get into the best current so it’s a very complex set of decisions to make the best outcome.” Plenty to set the competitors’ nerves on edge then when they are already tired after four days of intense navigation, with an epic final sprint to go.
Though it’s always tricky to come up with a precise ETA prior to the passage at Barfleur, the latest estimates from the race meteorologist and Race Management suggest that the first boat will finish any time from midnight tonight to 0100 UTC on Friday morning.
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