SORC Channel Week 2010

SORC Channel Week 2010 consisted of six legs over seven days, totalling 350nm of solo racing in a complete mix of conditions.

For various reasons the stopover in St Malo was moved to St Quay, so the actual route sailed looked like this below.

Leg 1:
The first leg, from Lymington to Alderney, began with a hectic hour of short tacking out of the Solent. Dinah rounded Needles Fairway Bouy in a decent position and headed off on the long leg towards Alderney. The hard part of this leg was always going to be judging the tide accurately so as to take best advantage of it on the crossing. As can be seen in the track below, we got it pretty much spot on. Dinah’s heading was constant for the whole crossing, with the tide producing a large S-shaped track, finally lifting us right up into the mouth of Braye Harbour.

One of the most memorable aspects of the race was the huge amounts of weed on the surface of the English Channel. Indeed we had to avoid “islands” of weed 30ft in diameter that had sea-birds walking on them! Unfortunately we picked up one clump of weed on the rudder and had to sail backwards to clear it.

Leg 2:
Leaving Alderney we were faced with a short drag race through the Swinge (the narrow channel between Alderney and Burhou) and across into The Russell (the channel between Guernsey and Herm) to finish just off St Peters Port in Guernsey. Dinah seemed to be intent on picking up every piece of weed nearby, and our speed suffered terribly as a result. After the finish, by motoring in reverse, we cleared an enormous clump of weed from the keel. The situation was so bad that I even swam under the boat in St Peters Port to ensure her bottom was clear. After picking up weed two days in a row, our luck simply had to turn for the next leg.

Leg 3:
On Monday morning leaving Guernsey there was not enough breeze to start the race. As a fleet we motored South hoping the breeze would fill in as the morning went on. The whole fleet motoring together made for some interesting photo opprtunities.

The race eventually got under way due West of Jersey, and was a simple broad reaching drag race. We managed to not pick up any weed this time and posted our first decent result of the week despite the wind angle favouring the dedicated assymetric boats.

St Quay was a fantastic stopover. The locals could not have been more accomodating, the facilities were superb, the town itself was a beautiful place to wander through, and I think St Quay will become a regular in the SORC calendar in future years!

Leg 4:
St Quay to Brixham was to be the longest leg of the week. It was also the leg with the toughest forecast. The leg itself was uneventful, being a simple fetch just West of North, with 25knts wind hitting the port bow the whole way. On the last section of the leg there were big gains to be had by approaching Berry Head from the Western side, but sadly we only discovered this when it was too late. Still though, Dinah posted a solid result, and suffered none of the difficulties faced by other competitors in dealing with the overnight leg through decent breeze and big seas.

Leg 5:
Brixham to Portland was a highlight of the week. Assymetric kite up, 20knts breeze at 90deg apparent, big waves. It took a while to get the boat balanced, spinning out and broaching regularly in the early stages. Once we settled into a groove the boat just screamed towards Portland Bill. Walls of spray either side. Top speed 16.3knts. Surfing past the tourists on Portland Bill only 50m away. An amazing morning on the water. I made a mess of the gybe in the big seas off portland, and ended up having to drop the spinnaker, but as it turned out most boats had already dropped theirs much much earlier so we didn’t lose out too much. Second in that leg, continuing the trend of better and better results all week. It’s worth mentioning that the facilities in Portland are the best I’ve ever experienced. We were lucky to be berthed in what will be the Olympic venue for 2012, and the purpose built facilities are simply superb.

Leg 6:
The final morning of the event dawned with the prospect of a windy dead run all the way back to the Solent. After Dinah’s usual aggressive start, we chose to run deep towards the shore to avoid the worst of the adverse tide.

Hugging the cliffs as close as we dared provided some spectacular scenes. Running at over 10knts, at times just 25m from sheer cliffs, exchanging greetings with the climbers on the cliffs, who were just as surprised as we were to be face to face! Being so close to shore paid handsomely, being able to stay out of the worst of the tidal races off the headland.

This windy running leg really suited Dinah, and we posted our best result of the week, first in class, and second overall. This was a great end to the event, and made up for some of the frustration in earlier legs.

Overall Channel Week again lived up to its name for providing superb close solo racing, in nice locations, against some really good competition. Added to that the social aspect was second to none, and as usual after this event we all come away having made some great new friends. This is one event that I would recommend to anybody, and I’m looking forward to coming back next year!