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Class40 and the Normandy Channel Race: The 2019 challenges

by Normandy Channel Race 3 Feb 2019 11:08 GMT 16-26 May 2019
2018 Normandy Channel Race © Jean-Marie LIOT / NCR 2018

With 53 competitors on the start line, the Route du Rhum unquestionably marked a turning point in the development of the Class40. Along with the sheer number of entries, the technological prowess of the 'state-of-the-art' Class40 and the very high standard of competition throughout the series all helped to change how the media and partners view the class.

Indeed, once considered to be a nice class albeit a touch marginal, the Class40 has become an essential part of French offshore racing and consequently graces major events for multiple series.

The way the event played out echoes this assessment. Indeed, even though there was an appreciable number of retirements due to the violence of the weather conditions across all the classes, major damage was rare and it shouldn't be forgotten that the Class40 winner Yoann Richomme finished in the wake of the 8th 60-foot Imoca from the Vendée Globe series. Added to this, victory went to a new Lift 40 Lombard design, once again opening up the playing field and the architectural appeal of the series, which had hitherto been dominated by the Mach40 Manuard design.

On top of this, the Class40's unique ability to combine the professional and amateur world worked to full effect in this race, offering all those involved an emotional journey that they will remember for a lifetime.

The fleet enjoys a new cycle of renewal

As is the case every four years, 2019 is the fleet's first year in the traditional cycle of renewal between two Route du Rhum races. Halvard Mabire, President of the Class40 comments on this phase and its impact on the Normandy Channel Race:

"The post Route du Rhum years are generally transition years for the Class40 with a lot of boats changing hands, the Route du Rhum heralding the end of one cycle and a possible period of branching off towards other projects like the Vendée Globe for sponsors and skippers. With the NCR being one of the first events of the season, it may well suffer from this situation, though equally the sporting quality of this event is now so well renowned that it's also a good opportunity for new arrivals in the Class to get to grips with their boat and size up the rest of the fleet. The high standard of competition and the race format are both a big draw not only for the usual Class40 racers, but also the skippers of other craft.

It is reassuring for the Class40 to witness the series of structured projects coming up this year with long-term goals like the Route du Rhum 2022. Though these projects with new boats are unlikely to be ready for this year's edition of the NCR, we are sure to see them in future editions and one can reasonably feel confident about the future of the Class40."

The Normandy: the comings and goings...

The competitive reputation of the Normandy Channel Race makes it an unmissable annual meeting point within the Class40 be it for new entries (45% of skippers in the last 3 editions were first-time participants), professionals in recognition of a hard-fought victory or amateurs in search of a strong dose of competition and adventure.

In this way, this year's race will see the return of the winner of the 2013 edition, the effervescent German skipper Jörg Riechers teamed up with Frenchman Cédric Chateau:

"To my mind, the Class 40 is very interesting on a competitive front. There are a lot of very good sailors in this class with Mini6.50, Figaro and IMOCA skippers racing on this circuit. I'm really pleased to be back in the NCR again this year because it's a very demanding race, both technically and tactically, so it's very hard to win but I love a challenge!!! It's an offshore sprint and I'm not sure I'll be able to secure the same result as in 2013, but I promise I'll do my best!! I intend to remain loyal to the Class 40. I'm already considering doing the Route du Rhum 2022 in the Class 40 and why not with a Cape Racing Yachts' scow version Class 40..."

Meantime, Charles-Louis Mourruau, skipper of LOST BOYS, will be teamed up with the English sailor Gery Atkins:

"This will be our second participation in this illustrious race. The previous year we successfully negotiated the English Channel and the Solent passage. This year should be all the more competitive as there are a number of new boats on the circuit. However, we're gunning for the top 10 in the hope that the wind will play ball this year!"

Finally, those who are leaving the Class40 for now, bound for other offshore realms, also pay tribute to how much the class and the NCR has helped them build their career. This is the case for Maxime Sorel, the happy new skipper preparing for the Vendée Globe in the wake of Tanguy de Lamotte, Thomas Ruyant and Manu Cousin:

"The NCR was an important meeting for our team. Boasting an incredibly technical course, the bulk of which is very intense, the race served as the perfect platform for optimisations and sail choices. In four participations, in the Vintage class and then on my latest generation Manuard design, we've secured two podium places. Every year saw the standard go up and up, which is testament to what great shape the Class40 is in. We're certainly going to miss the friendly atmosphere of the Bassin St Pierre in Caen. I'd have liked to have won the NCR with my own boat, but perhaps I'll be back to have another crack at it one day as co-skipper. After a programme spanning more than four years in Class40, today I'm preparing a Vendée Globe project in Imoca. However, I wish all those competing in the race a great NCR 2019!"

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