In the space of four years, the Normandy Channel Race has become a classic in French offshore racing. Reserved for the Class 40, the fourth edition of the race is returning to its usual April slot, where it will open the Class’ racing season and serve as a qualifier for the Transat Jacques Vabre. There are currently a record 23 entries for this year’s race, including Sébastien Rogues, Thomas Ruyant, Bruno Jourdren, Ned Collier Wakefield, Armel Tripon, Fabrice Amedeo, Halvard Mabire, Jorg Riechers, Pierre Brasseur, Louis Duc, Nicolas Jossier, Boris Herrmann and Stéphanie Alran, for whom this will be an opportunity to hone their skills and warm up for November’s transatlantic race between Le Havre and Brazil.
The forty or so sailors, who will make up the 2013 vintage of the NCR, certainly won’t be disappointed as the course for the Normandy Channel Race contains a number of hidden obstacles created by the current and the wind, making for tough, intense conditions, where the scenario is seemingly rewritten every year.
It is Saturday 8 September 2012, at the tail end of the afternoon, the sun about to sink over the horizon in Ouistreham, and the winners of the Normandy Channel Race are expected in after a week’s sailing.
The two young Britons, Ned Collier-Wakefield and Sam Goodchild are leading the way. Over the closing miles, they’ve snatched the lead from the Franco-British pairing of Mabire / Merron. Thanks to a small option offshore of Raz Blanchard, the Class 40 “Concise 2” takes control of the fleet.
Manfred Ramspacher, race organiser, Sylvie Viant, race director, Jean-Marie Liot, the official photographer and a few journalists take to the sea to see in the sailors. The launch gathers speed so as not to miss the spectacle. A gentle breeze picks up on site. All of a sudden, a white boat embellished with a union jack comes into view. There are two young salts in the cockpit, barefoot, one at the helm the other on the spinnaker sheet. The boat is slicing through the water at quite a lick, giving it a powerful air. They’re fine looking boats these Class 40s. With apparent ease, despite the numerous miles covered in some tough weather conditions and light airs, Ned and Sam cross the finish line.
The crimson sun forms a backdrop as they raise their arms in triumph and set off their flares in celebration. The Normandy Channel Race, which already boasts a series of epics performed by pairings such as Thomas Ruyant / Tanguy Leglatin and Tanguy de Lamotte / Sébastien Audigane, seems to have well and truly entered the history books recounting major offshore racing events. Just ten minutes and twenty seconds later, the strong form of Halvard Mabire and the unforgettable smile of Miranda Merron, also cross the finish line. On the pontoon, the runners up congratulate the English pairing. “Campagne de France” has also sailed an elegant race from beginning to end. A long way behind them, the other competitors filter into port, their voyage coloured by a sequence of anchoring sessions in the Solent and hours becalmed off English shores and Wolf Rock…
Back on shore, talk is already turning to the fourth edition. A cluster of five boats cross the finish line in the early hours of the following day and there is a fantastic parade between Caen and Ouistreham to the delight of the spectators crammed along the quaysides of the Bassin Saint-Pierre… See you again on 11 April 2013 in Caen for this year’s festivities! The race village will be open from 11 to 14 April for the start and, for the first time, it will also reopen for the finish from 19 to 21 April.
>> Rights free photos and videos for the press and web by Jean-Marie Liot
The latest news about the Normandy Channel Race (entries, programme…): http://www.normandy-race.com/
The presentation of the skippers: http://www.normandy-race.com/index/presentationskip/annee/2013
The main partners to the Normandy Channel Race: the city of Caen, the regional council of Lower Normandy, the Calvados departmental council, the Caen La Mer conglomeration and the Caen Normandy Chamber of Commerce.