Skippering Imerys Clean Energy, Sharp crossed the finish line after four days, two hours and 49 minutes, just 43 minutes behind winner Veedol and 13 minutes ahead of third-placed Lamotte, both French boats. Such an effort, coming from fourth to second against the new and faster models has certainly put him in good shape for November’s trans-Atlantic Route du Rhum – a race he has, of course, won before.
The Drheam certainly was a race of extremes. From light to strong winds the fleet were tested on most sailing angles, endurance and patience both pushed to the limit through a series of frustrating windless zones.
What started out as a level playing field for Sharp, racing a 2013 Manuard Mach2 design, soon changed after rounding Fastnet Rock and the mode of sail altered to a reaching angle, better suited to both the new Mach3s and Lombard Lift designs.
As the fleet sailed further into the Channel the wind angle changed and the drag race turned into a game of tactics. Racing neck-and-neck the former Victoria College pupil went from fourth to second, gaining four miles on the leader in a matter of hours
Of his experience of racing the latest generation Class 40s, he said: ‘I couldn’t believe the speeds of the Lombard. I was literally just a few hundred metres behind Yoann [Richomme] as we rounded the Fastnet, and then he was gone. The conditions were reaching, which are hugely advantageous to the newer boats, so I knew it would be a hard fight, but I didn’t expect his rocket speeds. That boat is an absolute weapon!
‘Overall it was an incredibly tough race. The racing was insanely close, and I’ve probably never been pushed quite that hard in solo mode before. The last morning was the hardest, there were four of us tussling it out for second place across the Alderney race, and it was only really an hour before the finish when battling upwind and against the tide that I managed to overtake Luke [Berry].
‘The last morning I was fourth, so finishing in second is the best result I could have hoped for, so I’m really happy and it will be a finish I will remember for a long time.’
As the final test in race mode before November’s big Atlantic crossing, the race has enabled skippers to identify areas of improvement in both themselves and their boat.
Said Sharp: ‘This has been the first real test we have had in solo mode and there are a few areas I would like to work on improving. Over the next few months I am going to try and develop my sleep management skills as I found this quite hard to control with the pressure of such close competition.
‘In terms of the boat, I am pretty happy, but there a few tweaks I’d like to make ahead of the Route du Rhum, so all in all the race was a fantastic learning opportunity and I think it has given the skippers a lot of confidence in what to expect for the big one in November.’
Next up for Sharp will be the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland crewed race starting 12 August. He will be joined by both previous Normandy Channel Race co-skippers Pablo Santurde and Julien Pulve for the race.