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Bottleneck at Wolf Rock in the Normandy Channel Race

by Denis van den Brink 18 May 2017 09:09 BST 18 May 2017

Positioned off Land's End and to the North of Wolf Rock lighthouse, the Traffic Separation System (TSS) is uniquely reserved for shipping and is forbidden to those competing in the Normandy Channel Race, leaving our duos with quite a strategic conundrum.

Two schools of thought have delivered their verdicts this morning, the more numerous group that has opted to round to the East of the zone, hugging the Cornish coast, and those offshore. The Class40s, which have woven a course inshore appear to have come off a tad better, but with a little over 200 miles from the finish, there is a surprise regrouping of the troops at the head of the fleet.

Over 30 miles astern of the leader Imerys, which is seemingly more untouchable than ever, the battle is stepping up on this fourth day of racing. Jean Galfione, teamed up with Nicolas Troussel on Serenis Consulting, now have the pacy V and B skippered by Maxime Sorel and Antoine Carpentier breathing down their necks. These two boats are embroiled in a match race-style duel this morning, which certainly doesn't lack spice.

However, the real blinder of a move posted last night has to be that of the pairing Brieuc Maisonneuve - Eric Varin. Yesterday evening they were leading their Evernex - Delicecook on an option to the East of the fleet, treating themselves to a wondrous one-tack charge, which has seen them shoot up the rankings from 10th to 4th place, less than 2 miles shy of those sailors gunning for a podium place. Claire Pruvot and Louis Duc (Calvados) and the Dutch-speakers Michel Kleinjans and Roeland Franssens (Moonpalace), have got themselves right back into the game via the West of the TSS, as is the case for no fewer than 5 other boats, all in a position to make the most of the light westerly winds, which are set to sweep the English Channel pretty much right to the finish.

A fine downwind drag race lies ahead, which will crown the most inspired duos in the gybing game towards Guernsey. And we mustn't forget the last two boats in the fleet, Team SPM skippered by St├ęphane Bry and Simon Day, and the Finns on Fuji, Ari Kansakoski and Miko Makki, who are just approaching Fastnet.

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