Sunshine and Smiles through the Swell

23 August 2016

After two days of waiting there was an air of excitement dockside at the Haslar Marina as crews prepared for their sunrise departure from Gosport for leg 1 of the ARC Channel Islands Rally yesterday, Monday 22 August. Tides and passage plans made for an early start, with boats setting off between 0400 and 0600 for the 70nm passage to Cherbourg.

There was a fair forecast of declining SW winds and the prospect of sunshine ahead, but the crews would need to “earn their spurs” fighting the sloppy seas off Bembridge Ledge early on. Leading the fleet out to sea was Ruby Star with veteran skipper Guy Warner, always keen to support and encourage his fellow ralliers. His radio calls reporting wind conditions and sea states were invaluable to the boats further back. The SW F5/6 off Bembridge did indeed give lumpy, sloppy seas and it was not long before the first reports were received of seasickness setting in.

Sadly the early mal-de-mer meant that Jessica, Jillian and Venturer II turned back to port and might not continue. However, for those that punched through the sea for the first two hours, they were rewarded by some exhilarating sailing as they pushed further into the Channel. Having sailed out from under the clouds, it was bright sunshine, SW F4 and “foot on the gas” as reefs were shaken out. As the sea state settled, the green faces disappeared and happiness was restored.

Towards the end of the afternoon, winds became much lighter in patches and some boats resorted to their engines to keep to their passage plans. Others managed to sail all the way.

Ruby Star was the first boat docked at around 1930 local time, quickly followed by a succession of smiling crews as other rally boats slipped into Port Chantereyne Marina.

Mary-Ann was last boat in at around 3am this morning, having been caught by the adverse tide after going back to standby Cloudy Bay who were unable to start their engine as the winds dropped off. Third Encounter also stood by, so that there was a small group of tail-enders able to assist each other through the darkness in the true rally spirit.

As they docked, in the early hours, met by the Rally Control team, the crew of Mary-Ann had biggest smiles after one of the toughest crossings. A tribute to their endurance and enjoyment of the passage. Amongst the rally crews there were first timers across the Channel, 8 double-handers and a range of crewing experience from complete novice to Atlantic veterans. However, for everyone it was smiles all around on the dockside, then showers and a beer were the priorities as crews headed to the shore side rendezvous at L’Equipage Restaurant ready to swap tales of their Channel crossings.

The Rally continues on to Guernsey today with a leisurely departure taking the tide to the first of our three Channel Islands ports.

Hufflepuff arriving at Cherbourg