Starting the season in Cherbourg

The Ile Pelee forms the background for the championship which bears its nameAll that's left of the Hotel MarineThe Sigma is launched ready for racing this week.

Waking in a chilly dawn on board with the promise of N 5-6 to blow me on my way was not a hugely motivating start to the season, though the prospect of ending the day abroad for a change got me up and going, leaving the bay for the first time this year as the sun rose south of St Alban's, and the wind gradually filled in, from the NW then the true wind from the north, giving a pleasant if chilly broad reach down to the traffic in mid-Channel.

As it happened, the wind never got above 4-5, and then died in the afternoon sunshine, leaving me to motor in by the eastern entrance in good time to meet up with everyone in the bar. There are always things to do to pass the time at sea, especially the first sail of the season; following Euan's admonitions, I took a moment mid-Channel to rig up my new ensign, which is a bit big, and so has to be on a halyard on the backstay, and now makes something of a classic yacht statement! In these uncertain times it's a good idea to have everything as it should be on board on this side of the Channel.

Part of the reason for being here was the Trophee de l'Ile Pelee, the university national and European championship which I'd volunteered to help with on the press boat. Three sunny but chilly days on the water provided some excellent sailing, with the Swiss team showing everyone the way in an almost unbeaten run.

The biggest change here is that finally the Hotel Marine is being demolished, by a digger with jaws like a dinosaur, though there is still a bit left for next week; the view of the Gare Maritime will be restored, and once landscaping is finished the area will look splendid, hopefully in time for our Solstice rally in June - not to mention the Transmanche on 8-10 June.

The sunny weather has brought everyone out of hibernation, and Thierry's Sigma was launched on Saturday ready for racing on Tuesday evening. In the afternoon the rade was full of sails as people got their shakedown sail in, the sailing school was out in force, and the final races of the Trophee de l'Ile Pelee added to the large number of sails of all sizes to be seen in the sunshine. Such a bright start promises well for the 2019 season afloat!

Steve Fraser

Submitted on 31st March 2019