… for the Max from your sailing!

Cherbourg rally report

The bank holiday weekend of May 27th saw the inaugural Maxi cross channel rally to Cherbourg. Unfortunately, bad weather, home issues and thunderstorms Friday night reduced the fleet from 7 confirmed to 3 arriving on in Cherbourg on Saturday afternoon.


Lookin Foor Kloos, Suive, Neroli and True Blue were starting from the western Solent planning to leave early to get the tide through Hurst with Sunfish and Moonshine Blues leaving from Chichester. Unfortunately, we had not counted on a thunderstorm with great pyrotechnics at 3am.  Poor visibility and the storm deterred True Blue (it would have been their first channel crossing) and Neroli, without AIS was put off by the visibility while in Chichester, Moonshine Blues encountered strong southerly winds at the bar and engine problems and called it a day.


Suive & Lookin Foor Kloos cleared the needles just after 4:30am and the weather settled for a good sail across the channel, initially motor sailing and then a good beat across with in force 3-5 south westerly.


Richard Sams takes over the story:


It started at 0335hrs with thunder, lightning & heavy rain on a buoy off Yarmouth. Having cleared a twisted reserve mooring line, we began our trip. An impromptu risk analysis reckoned that we could be hit by lightning as easily on a buoy as on passage! So we set off, reassuringly we saw Julian’s nav lights coming out of Lymington. The voyage to Cherbourg was hard work as it was both windy and rough but the boat went well, rarely below 7kts through the water and starboard tack virtually all the way. We were the first Rally boat into Cherbourg & there was plenty of room on the Rally pontoon, close to the facilities.


Three yachts made it to Cherbourg – ourselves, Sunfish (Jeremy & Gill) & Julian and Flint on Lookin Foor Kloos. So the pontoon party on the Sunday was a select gathering followed by lunch in the Marina restaurant. Including my daughter & her partner eight of us enjoyed a pleasant lunch. By now the weather had improved significantly and life was returning to normal.


At the pontoon party, it was interesting to discuss the various tactics employed in the crossing. With a strong tide carrying us eastwards and a south-westerly wind, all 3 boats had let the forces play their part and sail as much south as possible.  When 25 miles “off course” and getting no closer to Cherbourg as the phot of the plot shows, both Suive and Lookin Foor Kloos tries a tack to the west but making little over the ground against the tide, reverted to plan A and headed south until the tide changed.  A good shift in the wind to westwards then carried us very fast in the right direction all on starboard tack.


After the rally, the three boats had different plans. Suive was setting off for St. Vast on the Monday, the Thallon’s on Sunfish were leaving the boat in Cherbourg, coming back to cruise the Channel Islands the following week while Lookin Foor Kloos headed straight back on the Monday.  It appears as though Lookin Foor Kloos drew the short straw.  We left Cherbourg around 7:30am and one hour later hit fog which stayed with us all the wat across the channel with visibility down to 200 meters at times.  The forecast SW3 did not appear so we motored the whole way across with AIS transceiver and radar keeping us safe from the big stuff and a tiring 9-hour horizon scanning watch looking out for yachts and fishing vessels before the fog cleared off the Needles.


Richard recounts Suive’s tour below:


We had a crew change as my daughter & her partner had to return home by ferry because of work. We were joined by an old French friend of ours & when Julian left for the UK we set sail for St Vaast. A very pleasant sail followed and we arrived early afternoon in St Vaast.  


A bit of sightseeing followed before we returned to Cherbourg on the Tues. The weather forecast indicated a good weather window for an easier return trip on the Thursday so we decided to have a rest day on the Wed to prepare for an early start on the Thurs to catch the Needles tidal gate. We originally had planned to leave Cherbourg at 0500hrs French time (0400hrs BST) but fate intervened when Lorraine woke me up at about 0130hrs (BST or French time – not sure!!) to say that somebody was walking about on our boat!! I dashed out of my warm bed to repel intruders to find a French yacht rafting alongside. I’m not sure who was most surprised, me half dressed or a very tired French man. It quickly became evident that, to avoid complications the best option was for us to depart asap, which we duly did.


Thank God for GPS, leaving Cherbourg in the dark with lots of multi-coloured lights around was ok but needed a bit of care. Not a whisper of wind so hoisted the main and motor sailed until north (and clear) of the shipping lanes when the wind had freshened enough for “George” to take us to the Needles clear way buoy. George is our auto pilot, invaluable when on long passages. The trip back was calm and pleasant with no sea mist and a clear sunrise.


All sorts of strange winds in the Solent, but warm sun & safely home. “Suive” did us proud.


If you are interested I can show you our actual track for the outbound & return legs of the journey. The tide effect is very evident.


We plan to be at the Lymington Rally; we will head west after the Rally for our annual western approaches voyage.