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Normandy Channel Race Day 3: The Great Escape!

by Sirius Events 21 May 21:26 BST 21 May 2019
Normandy Channel Race 2019 © Jean-Marie Liot / NCR2019

The two leaders in the Normandy Channel Race, Eärendil and Aïna Enfance et Avenir, are continuing to go it alone at the head of the fleet.

Pietro Luciani and Aymeric Chappellier, respectively supported by Pablo Santurde del Arco and Pierre Brasseur, have rounded Land's End and passed the Wolf Rock mark this afternoon at around 14:00 hours French time. In their wake, the rest of the fleet, with SOS Méditerranée leading the chase, has effectively been barred access beyond the south-west tip of England for now by the turn of the tide. This may well cause them to fall even further behind whilst the first two boats make good their escape across the Celtic Sea towards Tuskar Rock.

Ultimately, the challenge of the Solent wasn't so much about making headway amidst the sandbanks and shipping, rather it was the battle to be first to the Needles and hence the first to hook onto a NNW'ly wind, which would transform a meagre lead of just half a mile into a bonus of a little over 30 miles in scenes reminiscent of the great escape. The skippers of the two Manuard sisterships, Class40 numbers 145 and 151, clearly understood that. Indeed, they were the first to hit a beam reach, whilst the rest of the fleet, albeit just a few boat lengths behind, suffered the effects of the wind shadow created by Start Point. The upshot of this was that the door slammed shut on them and it proved to be a long hard slog across Plymouth Sound in an easing to non-existent breeze.

Unhampered by any of this, Eärendil and Aïna Enfance et Avenir are just one mile apart, match-racing across the Celtic Sea having rounded Land's End and the course mark of Wolf Rock early this afternoon. Astern of them, SOS Méditerranée has seen its progress stall with the tide turning and light winds off Lizard Point. Subsequently, its lead of 10 nautical miles has shrunk away and the boats further back down the racetrack are dashing along to make up their deficit whilst they can.

The climb up to Tuskar Rock promises to be just as complicated. Whilst the top two boats punch their way forward in a NNW'ly breeze of 6 to 11 knots, the chasing pack will have to cope with a wind easing to around 4 to 5 knots. Tactics, patience and effort management will be called for to link together the numerous tack changes required in the light airs if they are to reach the southern coast of Ireland and its legendary lighthouse. As is often the case, it promises to feel like salvation as they can then finally unfurl their spinnakers and barrel along downwind...

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