September 3 2016
The inaugural ARC Channel Islands rally, organised by World Cruising Club in association with RYA Active Marina, came to a close in Gosport on Sunday, 28th August, following a week long cruise exploring Cherbourg, Alderney and Guernsey.
The rally was planned as a way to encourage boat owners to sail beyond their normal cruising areas, and to gain confidence taking their boats to unfamiliar destinations or on longer passages. Sailing with the fleet was a lead boat with Hamble School of Yachting senior instructor Roger Seymour and a team from World Cruising Club team aboard, there to offer guidance and help with planning the passages, and to facilitate a social and sightseeing programme in each of the ports visited.
An unseasonal low pressure system postponed the planned departure from Haslar Marina, Gosport, originally scheduled for Saturday 20th August. Crews, several of whom were crossing the Channel for the first time, or sailing double-handed, used the extra time in port to check and revise their passage plans assisted by the rally team.
By the time lines were slipped on Monday crews conditions in the English Channel were much more favourable for the 70NM passage to Cherbourg in Normandy, although some crews did have to earn their sea legs riding through residual swell and a period of strong winds as they left the Solent. Further into the crossing, conditions moderated and sun-kissed faces with beaming smiles were welcomed in to Port Chantereyne that evening.
Crews swapped tales of their Channel crossings over drink and buffet supper before a leisurely departure to Guernsey the following day.
Fiona Franklin was sailing with her family on Hufflepuff described their day sail to St. Peter Port, "We woke up in Cherbourg to the most glorious weather - having moored up just before 10pm BST after a long sail from Gosport, we slept very well. We set off in light winds and prepared to motor much of the way. What we weren't prepared for was the fabulous sight of dolphins playing around the boats. Absolutely wonderful! We negotiated the Alderney Race at slack tide with no problems and negotiated the Little Russel. Stunning scenery and very enjoyable by day!"
A free day gave time to explore ashore and a coach tour of Guernsey took crews away from the marina to visit some of the island's highlights, including the Little Chapel and the German Underground Hospital, Plienmount Point with beautiful views over the west coast of the island, and a stop at the Guernsey Pearl for coffee and lunch overlooking the rocky bays.
Sailing in the English Channel (or Manche for French people) and therefore dependant on local weather, the rally programme needed to be flexible and was twice adapted for the prevailing conditions.
The prospect of stronger northerlies in the Channel meant the fleet sailed to Alderney earlier to avoid swells in the harbour, rather than Jersey further to the south.
An extra visit to Cherbourg then made for better routing on the final sail back to Gosport.