RORC St Malo Race - a big disappointment

St Malo

Juno was entered in the RORC/JOG race to St Malo over the weekend of the 2nd to 4th July but the race turned out to be very disappointing.

Our start time for Class 2 was at 15:20 on Friday 2nd July and the course took us westwards out of the Solent then to the Casquets, leaving them to port, Guensey and the Miniquies to port and then to the finish line at La Banchenou buoy near the entrance to St Malo.  The weather forecast was for light winds, around 10 to 15 knots to start but then falling away to about 5 knots near to St Malo.  The forecast direction was originally SW but then veering to W and then to NW overnight.

Our class was the largest with 43 boats on the RYS start line.  We started in around 12 -15 knots on a beat towards the Needles.  As we appoached the Needles we were overtaken by the Class Super Zero yachts, including the giant ICAP Leopard, that had started 40 minutes after us. (ICAP Leopard's rating is 1.869, nearly twice as fast as Juno's rating)

After the Needles Fairway buoy we settled down onto the cross Channel leg and a supper of chilli con carne was eaten on the side deck.  The expected wind shift never materialised which meant that it was a beat all the way to Casquets.  Even so we made good time across the Channel and around 02:30 hours we picked up the 4 flashes every 15s of Quernard Point and then about 30 minutes later the 5 flashes every 30s of the Casquets lighthouse.

Casquets LighthouseWe rounded Casquets on a watch change at 06:00 but shortly after this the wind died away completely and we were drifting with the tide.  At least the tide was taking us south but as we approached the northern tip of Guernsey it became obvious that we were too far to the east and were being swept into the Little Russel rather than down the west side of the island. 

At this point we considered kedging but with the echo sounder showing 60 metres of water this was not a very attactive option.  A very light breeze had now picked up and so we started sailing NW in an attempt to pass the right side of Guernsey.  The tide had now turned which helped us achieve this objective.

Now we were being swept too far north and the decision was made to anchor.  We recovered the kedge anchor from the depths of the cockpit locker and began to tie spinnaker sheets and guys together to give us the required scope for kedging in 60 metres. Just the threat of anchoring was enough for the wind to pick up and finally at about 15:00 the breeze was strong enough to sail. With yet another turn of tide we could at last set off towards Hanois point on the SW corner of Guernsey on a close reach.

We rounded Hanois at around 17:00 and at last we were able to hoist the spinnaker for the leg to the Miniquies and the finish line 50 miles away at St Malo.  Shortly after this the wind began to fade again and the boat speed started to drop. 

During the spinnaker leg we managed to have a supper of lasagne and garlic bread but by 21:00 the wind had died away completely and the boom was banging from side to side in the swell with the spinnaker draped lifeless around the forestay.  After 3 hours of this, and with the tide setting northwards at midnight we all decided that we had had enough.  The finish line was still 35 miles to the south but St Peter Port was about 15 miles away to the north.  We turned the boat around, started the engine and arrived in St Peter Port at 03:00 on Sunday morning.  Later we learnt that yachts that were close to us finished the race at about 10:00 to 11:00 but by then we were in Victoria marina and showering ready for lunch in a a pub with a view of the marina.  A most relaxing time was had on Sunday in St Peter Port. Some of the younger crew members even found a night club open on a Sunday night, even though the bike hire wasn't during the day.

Unfortunatey, they crashed in through the forehatch at 02:30 in the morning at such a speed that one would think they were running away from something.

Our original plan for the return trip was to leave St Malo at midnight so that we could catch the midday northbound tide through the Alderney race.  Now we were 60 or so miles further north we could have a lie in and so we sailed as soon as there was enough water over the marina cill at 11:20 on Monday morning.  Monday was a glorious day, bright sunshine and a reaching wind of 12 - 15 knots.  We sailed through the Alderney race doing 7 knots through the water and 10 or 11 knots over the ground (it was only neaps) with the Rolling Stones at full volume on the cockpit speakers.  After leaving St Peter Port at 11:20 we passed Bridge buoy at 23:10; a passage of less than 12 hours and were tied up in Port Hamble by 02:30 on Tuesday morning although dawn was breaking before we made it to our bunks.  The return sail was much more enjoyable than the race.  Next up is the race to La Trinité (only 340 miles!) on the 17th July.


Graham Broadway, 07.07.2010 | More from Graham Broadway’s blog