Sharp’s six second victory

THE pulsating action of the previous six days – and 1,100 miles – in the 2018 Normandy Channel race was dwarfed by an astonishing victory for Jerseyman Phil Sharp in Imerys on Saturday.

2018 Normandy Channel race: Victory for Jerseyman Phil Sharp (right) who retained his title, along with co-skipper Julien Pulvé Picture: JEAN-MARIE LIOT
2018 Normandy Channel race: Victory for Jerseyman Phil Sharp (right) who retained his title, along with co-skipper Julien Pulvé Picture: JEAN-MARIE LIOT

In an incredible finale, Sharp and co-skipper Julien Pulvé came from behind to snatch a six-second – yes, seconds – victory over Carac as they headed for the finish line at Ouistreham-Caen.

It was a valiant effort from all involved in what was an intense battle from beginning to end. But Sharp’s success in retaining his title from a fleet including several newer, faster, Class 40 craft, is truly outstanding.

Carac, skippered by Louis Duc and Gwen Riou, looked certain winners as they approached the finish line, despite there having been three leaders on the final day.

‘Just before the final mark, I thought we were dead in the water,’ Sharp confirmed, ecstatic yet stupefied after such a finale. ‘There was one last gybe to put in and there was little chance it would work, but we managed to slip along like a dream to windward of Carac.’

The 2018 edition of the Normandy Channel Race proved to be a merciless elimination event, with the original 27 competitors gradually falling out of contention from one course mark to the next. Indeed, the leading group went from 14 in the Solent, to 11 at Wolf Rock, then around six at Tuskar and Fastnet and eventually just three for final victory, in a race punctuated by a series of dramatic turns of event.

The three-way finale that started north of the Channel Islands went right to the wire, each of the duos taking a turn in the hot seat on the last morning of the race. Sharp and Pulvé took the win with superb sailing – and sheer stubborn determination.

In so doing the Jerseyman joins Spaniard Pablo Santurde on the list of double consecutive champions of the event.

Despite the cruel end, runner-up Louis Duc applauded his adversary and only had good words to say about the excellent way his boat handled after being launched last year. ‘There were three leader changes during the last morning,’ said the Frenchman, emphasising the nature of this race, where not once did an advantage prove decisive.

Sharp concurred: ‘It’s all down to how the class has evolved with ever more high-performance boats and skilful skippers to drive them. Added to that, the way the Normandy Channel Race is configured constantly kick-starts this feature, making the event an absolute one-off.’

Though the final duel between Imerys Clean Energy and Carac will go down in the event’s annals, Friday’s leader, Aïna Enfance et Avenir, naturally warrants a mention after playing a key role in proceedings and finishing under five minutes shy of the winner.

‘We were jostling for first place from beginning to end with the other two,’ Aina skipper Aymeric Chappellier pointed out. ‘The three-way match was transformed into a duel as we approached Raz Blanchard and we thought Carac was cooked. But no. That’s how it goes! We made a few errors, but overall we sailed well.’

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