Leaders in an international fleet of two–handed Class 40 racing yachts are approaching the Irish coast this morning to round the Tuskar Rock off Wexford before sailing along the south coast to the Fastnet Rock. It's part of a course spanning 1,000 miles and integrating the English Channel, the Celtic Sea and the Irish Sea, that sets off from and returns to the city of Caen in Normandy; a double-handed race which enables the Class 40 skippers to really show off their potential; a varied course, half of which entails a coastal course skirting France and the UK, the other half an offshore course in the English Channel and the Irish Sea.
The fleet was tightly bunched yesterday afternoon during the tough rounding of Land’s End and its wind shadows, the head of the fleet in the Normandy Channel Race witnessed a new selection process in operation once they launched into the beat across the Celtic Sea. This explains how Phil Sharp-Julien Pulvé (Imerys), Aina Enfance et Avenir (Chappellier-Delahaye) and then Louis Duc-Gwen Riou (Carac), with the skipper’s familiar impulsive common sense, secured the ‘golden ticket’ for the express elevator ride up to Ireland, whilst just a few boat lengths back, the other protagonists were stuck fast to the water. Ultimately, six boats, including the astonishing duo Gerckens-Duthil (Volvo), Lamotte Module Créations (Berry-Le Vaillant) and V & B (Sorel- Carpentier) have a chance to round Tuskar lighthouse to the South of Ireland this morning, with a substantial lead over the rest of the fleet. In so doing, they’ll bring to an end the long beat they’ve been embroiled in since Wolf Rock. These duos will then be able to get out their big headsails and slip along, still in light airs, towards Fastnet, some 130 miles to their West.
Astern of them, the battle is continuing to rage at every stage of the game. The club of 6 has managed to open up a lead of around twenty miles or so in relation to the chasing group led by Campagne de France (Mabire-Merron), neck and neck with the formidable Talés II (Féquet - Champannhac). Also up in the Top 10 now is the Grizzly Barber Shop (Cedric De Kervenoael – Robin Marais) and Fondation DigestScience skippered by Romain Rossi and Sylvain Pontu, both crews posting a blinder of a performance.
Yesterday was punctuated by the first two retirements from the race. The Japanese crew of Kitada and Tomouchi (Kiho) were keen to make for Lorient as quickly as possible for personal reasons, whilst the unfortunate Sébastien Marsset and Jean-Luc Nélias couldn’t see the appeal of continuing after breaking their bowsprit, preventing them from hoisting the essential headsails. Also heading back the way they came, Serenis Consulting skippered by Jean Galfione and Alain Pennaneach officially retired earlier this morning due to alternator problems.
The whole fleet is now making headway in the Celtic Sea after Morgane Poupon and Arnaud Dhallenne (Up sailing) rounded Land’s End overnight, with a deficit of just a hundred miles or so in relation to the leader.