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Ovington Boats 2014

Normandy Channel Race Day 5: The god of the winds has made his big comeback

by Sirius Events 23 May 2019 22:04 BST 23 May 2019
Normandy Channel Race 2019 © Jean-Marie Liot

There is absolutely no comparison between today's conditions out on the racetrack in the Normandy Channel Race and those of yesterday. After more than 24 hours of racing where the skippers were still painstakingly clawing their way up to the summit represented by Tuskar Rock, the god of the winds Aeolus has made his big comeback this afternoon, dishing out a 6/8-knot W'ly wind across the northern sector of the Celtic Sea.

The Class40s have been propelled along at speeds we onlookers had almost forgotten about - 7 to 12 knots. This change of scene has had immediate effect, not only boosting the fleet's spirits, but also prompting third-placed Colombre XL to round the Irish lighthouse late afternoon at 17:21 hours French time. Hot on her heels is Yoda, tailed by SOS Méditerranée. Meantime, the leaders, Eärendil and Aïna Enfance et Avenir are expected to reach Longships lighthouse at the south-west tip of England at around midnight tonight, with some stalling likely due to the wind dropping to around 4 to 7 knots.

Up till now, the race has been more exhausting for the nerves than the physiques among the skippers in the 10th Normandy Channel Race. Many will have spent more than 24 hours pinned to the racetrack in a rather unusual 'Irish Doldrums', a windless zone parked over the centre of the Celtic Sea, which has really been setting the sailors' nerves on edge.

However, patience has won out in the end. For some hours now, we've been witnessing a drastic change of atmosphere due to the arrival of a W'ly wind of around 10 knots, which is set to accompany the fleet right the way to the finish. This breeze has logically benefited those crews to the West, namely Colombre XL and Yoda and, further South, Louis Duc and Aurélien Ducroz, whose persistence has finally paid off. Clearly, their Lift 40 supported by the Association Rêves, is much more at ease in the windier conditions and they have shot up from the very pit of the ranking to rack up speeds of between 10 and 12 knots.

Approaching Tuskar Rock, three crews have attempted an option to round to the East of the Smalls TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme). Edenred, Kerhis and Beijaflore are clearly hoping that they will be less influenced by the potential turning tide as they round the lighthouse to the south-east of Ireland.

To the south of the race zone, the battle between the leaders is still just as intense as ever, with a veritable game of cat and mouse playing out between the Italo-Hispanic sailors and the Frenchies from La Rochelle and Brittany respectively. Indeed, they're trading places at the front of the fleet with less than half a mile separating them, though they will likely have to brake a little as they approach Wolf Rock.

Up next, the windier conditions should hold out tonight and through to tomorrow. As hard as the climb up to the southern coast of Ireland has been, surely that'll make the quick descent all the sweeter. As such, it's game on once again in the chasing pack at Tuskar Rock, who are bunched up within a 2-mile sector of the ocean.

After an action-packed race so far, the suspense at every stage of the fleet is tangible. Indeed, it would be difficult to gamble on the complete podium for this 10th edition. Year on year, the reputation of the Normandy Channel Race cannot be denied to win you must never let up because right the way to the wire, it's all to play for.

www.normandy-race.com

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