Jörg Riechers and Pierre Brasseur, aboard the Class 40 "Mare", secure victory in the fourth edition of the Normandy Channel Race. From Germany and France's Picardy region, the duo crossed the finish line at 22 hours 57 minutes and 30 seconds UTC on Wednesday 17 April, in a time of three days, seven hours, 57 minutes and 30 seconds at an average speed of 8.08 knots. They were 56 minutes and 20 seconds ahead of "Made in Normandie", skippered by local sailors Nicolas Jossier from Granville and Alexandre Toulorge from Cherbourg. "Campagne de France" skippered by Briton Miranda Merron and local Halvard Mabire, bagged the third step of the podium, just one minute and three seconds behind second place! "Geodis" skippered by Fabrice Amedeo and Armel Tripon, finished fourth followed by "Al Bucq" skippered by Briton Ned Collier–Wakefield and Brieuc Maisonneuve, who made a great comeback, "Red" skippered by Mathias Blumencron and Boris Herrmann and "Groupe Picoty" helmed by Jean-Christophe Caso and Aymeric Chappellier, "Momentum Ocean Racing" and "Phoenix Europe – Carac". The finishers arrived in quick succession into Ouistreham, testament to the growing uniformity of the Class 40 line-up.
Jorg Riechers: "It's great to win the Normandy Channel Race after three participations and especially after dismasting just before the race. It's a really hard, technical race. Sailing in the Celtic Sea was chaotic. We never let up. Despite a tough passage at Barfleur on the outward leg, we gradually moved up through the fleet through our speed and sheer determination."
Pierre Brasseur: "What a race! It was intense from beginning to end. Jorg and I got on really well, him often carrying out the manoeuvres and focusing on the boat's performance and me doing the navigation".
Alexandre Toulorge: "We're happy with our performance in this Normandy Channel Race, which was a first for us. We've got the measure of the Class 40. Over a short course like this, we spend a great deal of time making sail changes so it's incredibly physical."
Nicolas Jossier: "Mare" was going faster on a reach and the crew made good their escape at Raz Blanchard. We were working on the weather for the first part of the race and that bore fruit."
Halvard Mabire: "We came back from nowhere. It's a fine third place. A few more miles and we'd have secured second place. We took a minute too long."
Fabrice Amedeo: "What fun! Geodis goes well. We checked her performance once again in the Normandy Channel Race. We made a few mistakes, but we caught up as we headed down the coast of Cornwall. "Campagne de France" extended its lead over us during the passage around Guernsey. At that point we were sure of fourth place but very soon it was our rivals behind who were breathing down our necks. We finished the race with a sprint. We're all-in."
The top four in the Normandy Channel Race in brief
A fantastic victory for 44-year old Jörg Riechers from Hamburg, the jovial 2012 Class 40 champion, German sailor of the year 2012, winner of last year's Solidaire du Chocolat and the Atlantic Cup and an outstanding Mini sailor; and also 33-year old Pierre Brasseur, from Amiens, a tall sailor with model looks, crew to Jimmy Pahun on "Ile-de-France" and second in the last Mini Transat in the series category. After shooting off the start line last Sunday, the two sailors on "Mare" were less successful in the middle section of the race before going on to put up a faultless performance for the rest of the race. Despite dismasting prior to taking the start of the Normandy Channel Race, they managed to get to the race start bang on time with a perfectly optimised Class 40, Mach 40. Congratulations!
It was a personal victory too for second placed Nicolas Jossier, 36, and Alexandre Toulorge, 34. The two Norman sailors, familiar faces in the Tour de France à la Voile and the Solitaire du Figaro (13 participations all together) had never raced together before and they were competing in their first NCR and their first Class 40 race. They were the driving forces in this edition, holding the reins from Sunday evening through until last night. Nicolas Jossier is sure to have a fine career ahead of him in Class 40, as is Alexandre.
A boisterous Normandy Channel Race
The 2013 edition of the event, organised by Sirius Evénements, was played out in medium to strong winds. Blowing in from the south-west for the bulk of the race, it never really eased, save for a few hours after the start as the fleet negotiated the Saint Marcouf islands.
After setting out on Sunday at 1700 hours local time the competition, based in France's Calvados region, lived up to expectations from the outset, and it was a sight to behold on the water. In glorious sunshine, the 20 Class 40s powered across the start line. Since the Route du Rhum 2010, never have so many Class 40s taken the start of an offshore yacht race.
The pacy "Mare", Jorg Riechers' Class 40, immediately created a stir, taking control of the fleet at the first windward mark of the initial coastal course. The other Mach 40, "GDF SUEZ" also put up an impressive performance, despite the attack from "Campagne de France" skippered by Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron and the skill of the German sailors on "Red", Boris Herrmann and Mathias Blumencron, the former editor of "Der Spiegel".
Close-hauled in around 15 knots of breeze, the NCR fleet made for the Saint Marcouf islands. Some opted for an offshore option prior to this compulsory passage, whilst others took their chances with a coastal option. Early that night, "Phoenix Europe – Carac" skippered by Louis Duc from Cherbourg and Stéphanie Alran from La Rochelle, were the first to link onto the Channel crossing thanks to a cunning option hugging the coast where it was sheltered from the current. "Made in Normandie" was in hot pursuit whilst the stars seemed to get bogged down. Making headway downwind, the wind picked up. Remaining slightly to the West of the great circle route, Alexandre Toulorge, also from Cherbourg, and Nicolas Jossier from nearby Granville, took the lead. Aboard their Kiwi 40, the duo were really packing a punch in this their first Class 40 race and first Normandy Channel Race.
In the early hours of Monday, "Made In Normandie" negotiated the Solent with ease and, close-hauled, soon had it in its wake. Behind them, "GDF SUEZ" skippered by Sébastien Rogues and Ludovic Aglaor, "Groupe Picoty" helmed by Jean-Christophe Caso and Aymeric Chappellier, slowly made up ground on the leaders thanks to a rather dangerous option flirting with the sand banks around the Needles. "Norma Concept – Le Pal" skippered by Bruno Jourdren and Thomas Ruyant, always among the winning options since Sunday's start, climbed into second place. On the nose, the winds were becoming increasingly strong as the fleet headed down the South coast of England.
In a biting cold the fleet made good speed off Poole and offshore of Start Point, whilst overnight on Monday, several competitors suffered from technical issues. On Tuesday morning, eight competitors had retired from the NCR, "GDF SUEZ" and "Norma Concept – Le Pal" opting to make for Plymouth so as not to damage their brand new Class 40s. A front situated above Ireland was causing the racers some concern and the Race Committee and Race Management took the tough decision not to send the sailors into the difficult seas off Ireland. In this way, a virtual waypoint had to be rounded some 50 miles North of Land's End. "Made in Normandie" was first to link onto the return leg, with some surfing on the programme!
On Tuesday evening, the top four, "Made In Normandie", "Mare", "Campagne de France" and "Geodis" were already on the homeward leg. On a reach they were able to glide across the English Channel, "Mare" really smoking as she made gains on the Normans. With 35 knots of breeze in the area, coloured by great fatigue for the majority of the sailors, the Normandy Channel Race was really living up to form...
By Wednesday afternoon they were on the home straight, upwind and then downwind, the two major protagonists in the Normandy Channel Race devoured the Raz Blanchard with gusto. It was at Barfleur that they began punching tide, with "Mare" extending away from the fleet and taking the win in style!
Entertainment as scheduled
Back on shore, there is no change to the great programme of entertainment lined up for the Normandy Channel Race. The race village will open on Friday at 1400 hours local time and spectators will be able to appreciate the Class 40s on the pontoon in Caen and enjoy the numerous festivities planned.
Since 2010, the Normandy Channel Race has been followed by an increasing number of enthusiasts and they were out in force for the start of this fourth edition, particularly as the fleet left Caen and paraded down the canal between Lower Normandy's capital and Ouistreham. They're sure to be back this weekend. The Normandy Channel Race 2014 is scheduled for May and in the meantime the Class 40 will participate in the Transat Jacques Vabre, which will set off from Le Havre on 3 November, bound for Brazil.
The overall standing can be viewed at www.normandy-race.com from tomorrow's arrival of the last boat, skippered by the valiant amateur duo on "Obportus 3".