As forecast, on approaching Guernsey, the speeds of the lead peloton in the 12th CIC Normandy Channel Race began to drop away before vanishing into nothing to the south of the Channel Island, despite the current being in their favour. It is the very latest Class40, Project Rescue Ocean (162), which came off best in this tricky little section and is the first to have extracted itself from Great Roussel and latch onto a fresh NW’ly breeze of around ten knots. With their pursuers Crédit Mutuel (158) and Redman (161) still suffering the effects of the wind shadow created by the island and making a lowly one or two knots, the Axel Trehin / Frédéric Denis pairing is making the most of the situation to make good their escape at a much more vigorous 7 knots. We are likely witnessing ‘crunch time’ in the battle for outright victory but, lest we forget, the outcome is never ever a foregone conclusion in this great Norman classic.

 Over the years, the multiple twists and turns in this CIC Normandy Channel Race have earned it a reputation as an event where there is still absolutely everything to play for until the Raz Blanchard is in the skippers’ wake. Indeed, the passage offshore of the Cap de la Hague and the headland of Barfleur may well have some surprises in store yet. Ultimately, it’ll all be down to where the boats are positioned when the tide turns early this evening at 1700 UTC. If the leader manages to get through before the tide turns, the outcome of the 2021 edition will be pretty much a certainty. However, if Class40 number 162 has to punch into the current, there’s a chance that its hard-won, precious lead will melt away to nothing. If this is the case, we’re set to witness more bunching up of the fleet and a Dantean sprint finish. Light wind and strong current will doubtless spice up the last night of racing, but it remains to be seen in which direction the fleet will be swept up. Extreme nervous attention will likely be the order of the day aboard the Class40s right now. Once Barfleur is in their wake, around ten knots or so of breeze should accompany the head of the fleet in the Baie de Seine right the way to the scheduled early morning finish tomorrow.

This morning, as the leaders were making headway in the English Channel under spinnaker on flat seas, the group bringing up the rear, namely Gustave Roussy (133), Eärwen (88) and Sec Hayai (44) were scooped up by a S’ly breeze gusting to 35 knots as they rounded Fastnet Rock. What followed was a quick return trip across the Celtic Sea, which was swallowed up at quite a lick on a reach on starboard tack. In the middle of the pack, E. Leclerc Ville La Grand (160), Legallais Team Voile (145) and Le Choix Funéraire (139), decided to attempt an E’ly option via Mounts Bay with the aim of rounding the ridge of high pressure via its north face. Will this option pay off and enable the group to overtake La Manche #EvidenceNautique (154), currently fifteen miles in front?

Whatever happens, the end of this race promises to be as exciting for offshore racing enthusiasts as it is fraught for the competing sailors. Denouement tomorrow, Friday 4 June, in the early morning. Stay tuned!

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