10th July – Classic Channel Regatta to Guernsey

  • Start position – Dartmouth
  • Start time – 13:05
  • Start engine hrs – 690.3
  • Towards – St. Peter Port
  • ETA – 07:00 11/7/17
  • Finish position –  St. Peter Port
  • Finish time – 09:30 11/7/17
  • Finish engine hrs – 691.9
  • Distance travelled – 93nm
  • Skipper – Richard
  • Crew – Louise, Sofie, Marion
  • Weather – SW3-5
  • Tide – HW Dover 01:00
  • New faults –

It’s the day of the main event and our first channel crossing! At the morning race briefing we are told that we can’t enter St. Peter Port until after 09:00 tomorrow, as there is a large race fleet coming out then. We also get confirmation that division 1 will be sailing a longer course. This rounds the Roches Douvres, before heading back to St. Peter Port and is over 40nm more than the more direct division 2 course. We’re in division 1 because the JCH handicap system has rated us strangely highly. We know from yesterday that we can’t keep up and it’s clear that this course is too much both for our crew and the 11:00 race time limit. We decide to sail the more direct division 2 course and retire from the race. Both courses start heading North across Tor Bay to the Ore Stone, before turning South.

We get a good start at the front of the fleet, for the downwind leg North. We’re against the tide and It soon becomes clear that the locals are tucking tight inshore. It takes us 2hrs to cover the 9nm to Ore Stone, where we’re just behind ‘Gwenili’, with ‘Mat Ali’ clear ahead. Most of the spinnaker boats are already passed us. We gybe around the rock and it’s a straight line, 70nm,  to the W. end of Guernsey!

The wind soon builds and we find we’re more comfortable without the topsail. It’s a simple beam reach, but the waves are building and it’s an uncomfortable ride. Everyone is at least queasy, with Sofie being closest to immune. By 20:00 we’re approaching the shipping lanes still in daylight. There are various fishing boats operating just North of the lanes. One of which stops to let a number of us cross in front of it. Sofie gets a good few hours asleep below and the rest of us run an informal 1-2hr watch system through the night, with 2 of us on deck at all times. The wind eases over night and it’s slow progress across the separation zone and Southern TSS channel. We see a steady flow of ships in both directions, but nothing to cause any concerns.

The lights of Guernsey appear on time, including the Les Hanois lighthouse. We set a course close inshore and let the tide carry us around as dawn breaks. Then it’s along the South coast of Guernsey, before turning North towards St. Peter Port. We cross just outside the finish line at 05:42 and join others anchoring in Havelet Bay (06:10). It’s not the most comfortable anchorage, but it will do for a couple of hours.

Around 08:30 we see the other fleet leaving. We give them time to get clear, then pull up 30m of chain and join others heading into St. Peter Port, as the first of the division 1 boats arrive. Everyone is glad to be in and others agree that it was not a comfortable night. It’s also clear that we made the right call on not sailing the long course.

After customs the first order of business is a cooked breakfast, then sleep. Then there’s planning to be done for tomorrow’s race and an evening reception at the Guernsey Yacht Club is followed by pizza with ‘Mat Ali’s’ crew. We do not return to the yacht club for the party!

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