Cherbourg Rally, 15th - 18th June - A personal perspective

Cherbourg BoundGlad he changed courseOur tracks

When the programme was published the event that went onto my calendar immediately was the Cherbourg Rally - I enjoy the planning, the passage & especially the rendezvous at the destination.

I’d done Day Skipper in December ‘16 in Gibraltar. Myself & the 2 other guys on the course “clicked” - it turned out to be a memorable week and we decided to get together for some sailing when back in the UK. So it was that Steve & Noel traveled to Weymouth on Thursday afternoon from Kent & Poole respectively for our Gibraltar reunion.

Isabella was moved up to the Cove & rafted outside a Coribee bound for Lowestoft for a night basking in the luxury of shore power & showers - ready for a 5AM departure. Knowing that Steve Dadd was keen for an early departure we slipped at 04:50 just as Nick, Steve & Steve were emerging from their slumbers aboard Kolibri.

Our lead was short lived as we passed about ¼ of a mile inside the Shambles east cardinal (which was relatively tame). Kolibri started with an easterly leg before heading south. As the day progressed winds became variable. Having crew (a rarity on Isabella) gave me the opportunity to hoist the kite for the first time. Imagine my surprise & embarrassment when it came up sideways!

This was my fifth crossing, & the shipping lanes have never been too much of a problem. However traffic peeling off the lanes headed towards Caen & Le Havre always seems more unpredictable. AIS proved useful as ever when the alarm went off for a container ship with a CPA of less than 100m. The ship changed course by 2 degrees and missed us by ¼ mile. Very comforting to watch it happen on the screen.

Isabella is blessed with a Yanmar 1GM10 with no sound insulation. That’s probably my main reason for avoiding motoring at all costs. But winds were variable and dropping - as our SOG dropped we carried on sailing. In hindsight this was a mistake. I’d made plenty of allowance for the prolonged ebb tide we’d encountered close to the peninsula by being late, but we missed out on valuable socialising time in Cherbourg. The crew started to get demoralised when we got the first phone call from the bar asking what we wanted – there was no choice, the engine had to be pressed into service.

The welcome from our resident WSC ambassador to Cherbourg was excellent, we caught up with familiar faces and met some new ones. A meal in the club followed by a few beers and a tired crew were ready for bed. Sleep guaranteed by the rum ration saved for our nightcap. I remember 6 WSC boats on Friday evening. Aliya, Isabella, Kolibri, Sapphire Star, Saskia and Sirius, joined by Jura on Saturday.

Saturday was a glorious day, although probably a couple of degrees cooler than home. We joined the Kolibri Krew and headed into town for breakfast. The cafe we picked had no food but were very relaxed about sending us to the bakery to get our breakfast. A quick tour of the market then we split to each do our own thing, meeting up again later in the afternoon. I took the opportunity to get some free advice from our Rear Commodore in the dark art of rig tuning & flying the kite the right way up!

Then it was beer time. Another great evening where the stories improved with every glass consumed, although by the time we got to the microbrewery were too tired to do it justice. It was good to see some of our committee members relaxing unburdened of their duties at home. You know who you are!

Sunday morning and we slipped at 09:00, unfortunately heading for home! Cherbourg harbour was glassy smooth but about a mile out we got some breeze. Not enough to sail unaided but enough to make 6 - 7 knots over the ground motorsailing. The engine was only off for about two hours at lunchtime, but we made reasonable progress. About 7 miles south of the Shambles the wind died completely and the channel turned almost eerily smooth and silent, the silence penetrated only by the thud thud of my agricultural engine. We passed hundreds of jellyfish clearly visible through the clear water.

It had clearly been a beautiful day at home – Solent Coastguard were busy with various Pan Pans & requests for assistance. We finally pulled into Weymouth happy but tired at 21:00. A great weekend & one I’ll look forwards to next year, hopefully able to spend a bit longer and enjoy more of Cherbourg.

Many thanks to Nick Munson & Steve Fraser for organising the weekend. Now I can look forward to the new members reception!

Andy Heyting

Submitted on 20th June 2017