Virtually all the CIC Normandy Channel Race fleet has now reached Land’s End. After a tactical passage along the south coast of England, Groupe SNEF’s strategic decision to hunt down more breeze offshore before heading back to the coast to benefit from a favourable current has paid dividends. Xavier Macaire and Pierre Leboucher were the first to round the westernmost tip of England at 14:25 UTC and launch onto the climb up the Celtic Sea.
Had it been a cruise, it’s fair to say that this passage along England’s south coast today would have been an absolute ball. With around ten knots of NE’ly breeze, downwind sailing under spinnaker, slipping along at around 15 knots in glorious sunshine, overlooked by the glorious landscapes of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall rolling down to the sea… conditions were idyllic! However, the duos competing in this 14th edition of the CIC Normandy Channel Race have other things on their mind. Indeed, even though the Class40s have been posting great speeds, the skippers have spent the day trying to resolve the conundrum offered up at the exit from the Solent: toying between the stronger wind offshore and the reduced current along the coast. In this particular exercise, the trio made up of Crédit Mutuel, Alla Grande Pirelli and Groupe SNEF came off best and were first to make the majestic Mount’s Bay. The duo of Xavier Macaire / Pierre Leboucher was also the first to pass the Wolf Rock course mark and begin the climb up the Celtic Sea with a slight lead of 2 nautical miles. Based in Vendée Globe territory, Les Sables d’Olonne, the skipper was rather pleased with his lot, as evidenced by the noon radio link-up: “It was important to decide where our loyalties lie. One group of boats opted to head inshore to make the most of the turning tide. We decided that we had time to head offshore for a few hours to benefit from more breeze and hence make much faster progress, and then head inland early enough to make the most of a favourable tide. Our strategy paid off and we managed to cross in front of our playmates who we’ve been with since yesterday.” It’s important to commend the tactics of the second peloton too though, led by La Manche Évidence Nautique, which made a fantastic comeback thanks to a great course choice hugging the coast at Start Point, enabling the crew to make up their deficit and even be in on the mix during a general squeezing together of the fleet at Lizard Point. A blindingly good option, alas it was not enough to earn them the top spot.
Making for Tuskar
Tonight, those competing in this 2023 edition will have another sizeable chunk of racetrack to negotiate in their climb up to Tuskar Rock. Depending on their strategies, it could be a pretty much direct course on a reach with shifty breeze in terms of intensity, but the crews will have to constantly adapt their trim. The first half of the night is set to involve light airs and around 6-7 knots of boat speed until 01:00 UTC on Tuesday morning, before the pace picks up considerably with the arrival of a meatier NE’ly wind from Saint George’s Channel. And so begins another life-size chess game in the Celtic Sea…