March 7 2017
It thrills spectators, who can’t get enough of its epic human adventures, and gives sailors a real sense of pride as they flock to the start line from one edition to the next.
This year, from 11 to 21 May 2017, no fewer than 7 Norman crews (out of 21 entries) have signed up for what is already the 8th edition. From Rouen, Granville, Cherbourg, Dieppe and Ouistreham, the whole of Normandy will be represented. We get the low-down on the “Viking armada”.
Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron
What better crew to embody the spirit of the Normandy Channel Race than the duo sailing the Class40 Campagne de France? For his sixth participation, Halvard is once again setting sail with his partner Miranda, a highly resourceful Briton, aboard a boat that is 100% made in Normandy, supported by their sponsor Campagne de France, a dairy production facility on the Cotentin Peninsula. This couple make no secret of the fact that this race is a particular favourite of theirs and their studious winter, devoted to racing around the West Indies, was initially intended to benefit the optimisation of their new boat and hopefully fast-track them to victory. “Every year, the Normandy Channel Race is increasingly competitive, notably thanks to the contribution from a series of formidable overseas duos,” explains Mabire. “The English have already made their mark on this race and, more recently, the Spanish have followed suit (Talès 2 was last year’s winner). Perhaps it’s time for the Normans to take a win on home waters…”
Manuel Cousin’s fresh new look for the oldest Class40 in the fleet
Manu Cousin is representing Normandy on the right bank of the River Seine. Since 2014, he too has been accompanied on his offshore racing adventure by a Norman partner in the form of Groupe Setin, a company whose headquarters are located near Rouen. His Class40 sports the number 30, which is indicative of a boat of a respectable age, which Manu continues to revamp with minor yet intelligent touches season after season. “I’m not in it to win it, but knowing the boat inside out enables us to progress a little more with certain elements of the game every year,” he explains. “The Normandy Channel Race offers so many different configurations that there are inevitably points where we can raise our game, especially in the light airs. This race is important for us because we are competing on home waters after all. The Grand Prix Guyader will mark the start of our season and for me it’s sure to be the opportunity to name my co-skipper for the Normandy Channel Race…”
Bertrand Lemée, the fresh attack of an enthusiastic amateur
Each year the Normandy Channel Race welcomes its fair share of enlightened amateurs, enthusiasts able to sacrifice their personal time (and also their money) to sailing, in competition mode, in friendly proximity to the professionals they so admire and are often keen to emulate. This is the case for pharmacist Bertrand Lemée, who’s made Ouistreham his home. “The Normandy Channel Race has enabled me to rub shoulders with my idols, Alain Gautier, Halvard Mabire... All of them have been very modest. I learned a great deal last year and I’m delighted and eager to be back again, accompanied by Philippe Magliolo, a highly-experienced sailor. We’re doing the race within our personal budget, without looking for sponsors. The immaculate white boat, the Simple V, that’s us! (Laughs).”
Brieuc Maisonneuve, fun and glory
A sailor and company director, Brieuc Maisonneuve from Granville doesn’t prioritise his two passions. Indeed, he powers through life at a rate of knots punctuated by challenges, preferably of a physical nature, so hard is it to channel his abiding energy. From the Mini to the Class40, he’s covered some miles in his time. His Tizh 40 Cap des Palmes launched last year is expected to reach her prime this year, reinforcing the skipper-come-manufacturer in his choices. “I’m still in search of budgetary supplements to round off my season,” he states. “Together with the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Normandy Channel Race is the high point of our year. The race is wide open, which means that play could vary massively, with a vast array of options and lots of jockeying for position. It’s not a linear race. We’re relaunching the boat in mid-March at which point we’ll be devoting all our energy to being in tip-top condition when we enter the Bassin Saint Pierre in Caen…”
Debut performance for Fabrice Troprès
A member of the SRCO, the Ouistreham club so cherished by the organisation of the Normandy Channel Race, the English Channel is Fabrice Troprès’ home territory. A real fan of RORC races, he has sailed the Normandy Channel Race course in every direction, particularly during his participation in the Fastnet Race. Teaming up with Christophe Coatnan from Dieppe at the controls of a rather honed Class40, the Pogo S2, formerly known as Groupe Partouche and now called Bateaux Diffusion, the duo appears to be very well matched. A solid crew, a reliable, optimised boat… the perfect combination for a good crack at the great Norman classic.
Marc Lepesqueux, a loyal protagonist from day one
Like Halvard Mabire, Marc Lepesqueux is one of the mainstays of the Normandy Channel Race, setting sail on 14 May 2017 on what will be his 6th participation. His Sabrosa 40 Mk2 Sensation launched in 2014 treated him to a fine 5th place last year and posting another stellar performance is just one of the goals this sailor from the Calvados has set himself. A winter spent sailing in the trade wind of the Caribbean means that he can get straight down to business in the spring races without having to find his sea legs. Though his co-skipper has not yet been named as we go to press, the current boat-skipper duo is clearly very focused.
The Normandy Region in selective mode
The Région Normandie (Normandy Region) is continuing to commit to offshore monohull racing. Indeed, in addition to its support of young rookies on the Figaro circuit, it is also accompanying the Class40 skippers. One or more sailors are currently undergoing a selection process to compete in the 2017 season aboard the Class 40 Région Normandie (Pogo S3 from 2014).