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2015 Channel Week Race overall
Bellino, Exocet and Ding Dong pictured from Juliette during the race from Weymouth to Portland - 2015 Channel Week Race

Channel Week Race 2015 overall

SORC’s 2015 Channel Week race took a small but highly competitive fleet to the challenging cruising grounds of the Channel Islands and North Brittany.

Race one – Lymington to Alderney – After a pleasant evening socialising in Lymington, the 11 skippers had an early start in Christchurch Bay, where race officer Rob Craigie sailing Bellino acted as competitor committee boat for a gate start in a light SSWly wind. After crossing tacks a few times, the fleet settled onto the making starboard tack, with Deb Fish’s Exocet going 3/4 of a mile further West before joining the charge South. The two Sunfast 3600s, Fastrak (Nigel Colley) and Bellino soon pulled out a healthy lead.

Simon Mitchell on Roxanne opted to sail high, with fellow Sunfast 3200 Fluke (James Hardiman) trying to match him, and forcing Exocet to sail high to maintain her separation. As the race progressed, the wind gradually veered, with SimSail and Expedition advising the fleet to sail into the strong West-going tide off Cap de la Hague before tacking to lay Alderney. With Fastrak having to retire due to a family bereavement, Bellino was first to cross the finish line – a transit across the entrance to Braye harbour – closely followed by Exocet and Roxanne. Meanwhile, with light winds and the tide about to turn, the later arrivals were starting to worry about whether they would actually be able to finish, so fled from the Alderney race and headed into the island’s tide shadow.

The fleet then faced the challenge of picking up a mooring buoy solo before commandeering a water taxi to go ashore for a thai curry for some and a pint or three in The Divers for others. When the results were calculated, Exocet benefitted from her Western routing to take the handicap victory, with Roxanne a close second and Frederic Waniart on Maeva sailing well to finish third as the smallest boat despite having to battle against foul tide.

Race two – Alderney to Guernsey – After listening to the wind howl for much of the night, Tony Rowe spent the morning on Fantasea reading about the perils of the rock-strewn approach to St Peter Port via the Little Russell, and the narrow channel and overfalls of the Swinge, where passage is not recommended except in calm conditions, slack tide and good visibility. Naturally, the highly experienced SORC fleet thought nothing of starting just North of Braye Harbour and short tacking down the Swinge in a F5.

2015 Channel Week Race overall

The view on the walk to the restaurant in St Quai – 2015 Channel Week Race

After the windy night, many opted for small jibs and/or reefed mains at the start, but the wind eased a touch leaving some underpowered. With low visibility and the tide starting to run, it was atmospheric sailing through the gentle overfalls of the Swinge. Once safely clear of Burhou, Exocet, Zest (Rupert Holmes), Maeva, QII (Andrew Mills) and Bellino tacked onto port and set off towards the Casquets in anticipation of the forecast wind veer, while Roxanne, Fluke, Fantasea and Juliette (Jerry Freeman) opted to go further East, where the strong tide set more to the South. With the wind-up and down, many were kept busy taking reefs in only to shake them out again shortly after. As the leading boats entered the Little Russell the wind built to 25 knots, and the boats short tacked their way down the channel past some large working boats into the finish mark close by the shore.

Bellino took line honours, closely followed by Exocet, QII and Zest. This time the challenge was squeezing the boats in to berths in the crowded pontoons of St Peter Port, with boats filling the spaces between the five pontoons. Routing via the Casquets clearly paid, as Exocet took her second victory, with Maeva second and Bellino third. After a few sail repairs, the fleet adjourned to the local Italian for a very pleasant meal.

Race three – Guernsey to St Quai – With light headwinds, forecast to veer through the race, and a strong foul tide at the start, the 50M race was more like a game of snakes and ladders than a yacht race at times. The fleet split from the start, with Meava and Roxanne setting off on port tack towards the South tip of Guernsey, Bellino, Zest, Exocet and Juliette opting for an early tack East, and QII, Fluke and Fantasea in the middle. West looked best for a while as Bellino led the Eastern pack into light airs off the Jersey coast, the strong tides setting Rob North when he attempted to tack out. Zest continued into the shore, planning to either kedge or short tack down the shore and was rewarded by the wind slowly building and lifting.

It was then Roxanne and Maeva’s turn to be becalmed, and the Eastern pack pulled ahead at the massive speed of three knots. Meanwhile, Tony Rowe, sailing Fantasea, took advantage of the light winds to rustle up a four-course lunch, with grapefruit, Fay’s secret bolognaise recipe, sherry trifle, and coffee and chocolates all on the menu, accompanied by a glass of wine. Bellino, Exocet and Zest changed to their code zeros, with Jerry Freeman on Juliette rueing his lack of one as Exocet overtook and pulled away. The lead boats then faced the decision of whether to sail high for speed and be uptide of the finish, or low in order to have a hotter wind angle when the wind veered further. Bellino went low, peeling early to his reaching spinnaker while Zest opted for speed and height. As forecast, the wind built and veered, allowing the boats to finish under running spinnakers, making the inshore finish – a line off the Madeaux beacon, marking extensive submerged rocks – exciting in the 15 kt breeze. Rupert Homes sailing Zest was rewarded by his first solo victory and the chance to fly the massive yellow Winner flag, with Maeva slipping in to take second and Bellino third, the first four boats being within just eight minutes in a 12 hour race, again showing the closeness of the racing in this SORC fleet.

After three tiring races, and with more light airs forecast, the fleet opted for a day off in St Quai and helped each other with various minor repairs before enjoying rum punch on the pontoons, courtesy of marina manager Jean Michelle, then a scenic walk along the coast to a superb beach restaurant for dinner. With light airs also forecast for Thursday, race officer Rob suggested motoring to Guernsey, to start the return race from there, while Fluke set off home so that James could celebrate his son’s fourth birthday.

Race four, Guernsey to Weymouth – With some weather forecasts predicting a deep low pressure passing through the channel, the pre-race talk was dominated by the weather. Steve Thomas on Truant set a start line off a beacon in the Little Russell, and the fleet set off North in a 12kt Easterly wind, which built to 20 knots by the time the fleet had reached the top of Guernsey. Deb realised that a smaller headsail was needed on Exocet, getting soaked on the foredeck in the process of changing sail.

With the Casquets TSS an obstruction for the race, Bellino led the fleet to the West of the Casquets, with Exocet opting to pass through the Ortac channel, and Juliette yet further East into the Alderney race. The fleet enjoyed a fast white sail reach across the channel and were kept busy putting reefs in, avoiding ships in the murky weather, and sheltering from the torrential rain. After passing the TSS, Bellino and Exocet opted for the most Easterly route, and Juliette returned from the Alderney race to join the fleet. Mid channel, the boats were hit by a squall. Roxanne and QII bore away, losing ground to the West while Deb did another wet headsail change to her number four and Rob dropped Bellino’s mainsail for a time.

Roxanne and QII were looking good, but as the fleet approached Portland Bill the wind backed as forecast, turning a fast reach into an unpleasant beat. Simon had an unpleasant shock when he realised that his bulkhead clock had stopped, and he faced a strong foul tide running down the Eastern side of Portland Bill, rather than the favourable tide he was expecting. Bellino and Exocet were able to harden up and reach into the finish from the East of the Shambles bank while Roxanne and QII made slow progress tacking against the foul tide. Conditions worsened for the later boats, with Fantasea retiring after breaking a reefing line and Maeva, by far the smallest boat in the fleet, finishing at 2230, some five hours after the leaders, after a torrid time. Fred hoisted his storm jib for the first time and sailed almost into Lulworth cove in search of flatter seas before his final tack West.

After arriving into Weymouth, the cold and wet sailors tipped the water out of their boots and sought out hot showers before retiring to the George for dinner and to monitor Maeva’s painful progress on AIS. Tony Rowe seems determined to retain the ‘Spirit of SORC’ award he won for a rescue last year and stayed up past midnight to guide a grateful Fred into an unfamiliar harbour, make him coffee, and allow him to warm up in the comfort of his well appointed Dehler 36 – Tony, you are a star. Exocet took a hard-earned victory by five minutes over Bellino, with Roxanne in the third.

Race five – Weymouth to Solent – Miraculously, the fleet awoke to bright sunshine and the prospect of a glorious spinnaker run back to Lymington. Rob ran the first offwind start of the week, and most were caught well behind the line at the five-minute gun, unable to catch Bellino despite Rob’s best efforts to sail slowly. With the wind gusting 22 knots, there was a brief hesitation before the first kite went up, quickly followed by the rest. Bellino led the fleet along the Jurassic coast, with Exocet keeping up under her symmetric spinnaker and Juliette just behind sailing hotter angles under her fractional kits. Meanwhile, Fred was having a much better day on Maeva, enjoying boats speeds of 10 knots under kite. QII started with two reefs in, due to a torn mainsail, but hoisted his kite regardless and Andrew too enjoyed some fantastic sailing. Once past Anvil point, the fleet hardened up, allowing the asymmetric boats to shine, with Juliette looking good behind Bellino as Exocet was forced offshore by a local wind shift, losing time changing from symmetric spinnaker to code zero before peeling back to her asymmetric. The fleet split with some opting for the Needles channel, while others cut North of the Shingles bank. Meanwhile Zest was slowly catching Exocet, and the two were mere boat lengths apart from SW Shingles to the finish at Dunsford. Disaster almost struck after the finish when Exocet gybed and attempted to drop her spinnaker, finding that it was stuck at the top of the mast. After much tugging to no avail, and visions of having to climb the mast whilst sailing at speed down a busy Solent, Deb realised that it was the luff-line that was caught, cut it at the tack and was able to retrieve the spinnaker. Maeva did well to recover from his ordeal the previous day to take a clear victory, with Juliette second and Bellino third.

Overall, in a very close fought series, Exocet took the overall channel week victory, with Maeva second, just one point ahead of Bellino in the third. Rupert Holmes sailed Zest well to take the Rookie prize, winning his first SORC race in the process, and the overall results are below. However, all deserve congratulations for finishing a challenging week’s racing!

Many thanks to Chris Rustom for planning the week, to Rob Craigie for doing a superb job setting courses, starting races, organising berthing and dinners, and generally looking after everyone, and to all competitors for making it such a fantastic week.

Results

Boat

Skipper

Rating

1

2

3

4

5

Overall

Exocet

Deb Fish

0.996

1

1

4

1

5

12

Maeva

Frederic Waniart

0.879

3

2

2

7

1

15

Bellino

Rob Craigie

1.039

5

3

3

2

3

16

Juliette

Jerry Freeman

1.004

4

5

6

4

2

21

Zest

Rupert Holmes

0.989

8

4

1

5

4

22

Roxanne

Simon Mitchell

0.998

2

8

5

3

6

24

QII

Andrew Mills

1.056

9

6

9

6

7

37

Fluke III

James Hardiman

1.001

6

7

7

12

12

44

Fantasea

Tony Rowe

0.986

7

9

8

12

8

44

Fastrak

Nigel Colley

1.043

12

12

12

12

12

60

Geofon

John Ford

0.947

12

12

12

12

12

60

by offshoresolo.com

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