First WSC/Cherbourg combined entry for the Round the Island race 2019

All smiles after lunch on the way back home on Sunday...

Having entered Thierry's Sigma 33 'Oirrior' for this year's Round the Island seemed an increasingly ambitious idea as the week of strong easterlies progressed, and we spent most of Friday debating whether to go or not, but finally decided at 1700, over coffee at the Yacht Club, to leave - even though the forecast still gave E 25 knots for the night to come, though the wind was supposed to ease later - how many times have I heard that one! Outside the breakwater 20 knots and a big sea suggested this was not going to be easy, and the evening merely proved the point as the wind rose to 26 knots and stayed there for most of the crossing.

Apart from illness among the crew, highlights of the evening included dealing with shipping at close quarters in a big sea at dusk, and then making visual landfall a bit early towards the end of the ebb off the Fairway buoy west of the Needles at about 3am; we had crossed the Channel at 7 knots average, which meant that we had to motor up towards Cowes before the beginning of the flood in a dying breeze, arriving at Cowes at 0400 local time.

We parked on the pontoon off the Squadron to grab an hour or two of sleep, though the early Red Funnel ferry soon put paid to that idea; and it was with some relief that we eventually cast off and joined the start for IRC3C without having to do more than hoist the main and set the pole to join the throng at the Island end of the line, which gave us a good start for the long spinnaker leg to Hurst, in sunshine which made the idea of sleep very attractive, had it not been for the hundreds of boats all around us.

A lack of wind meant we were a bit outside the queue to take the passage over the wreck, though we had clear air for the beat against the tide down towards the headland at St Catherine; during which we managed to bring our main target, the Sigma 33 Workout, under control. At the headland the wind rose to 20 knots for a time, though at Bembridge, as is often the case, a lengthy lull tempted the unwary into an early retirement, leaving the hardcore to wait for the forecast westerly to arrive – which it duly did for once, giving us a pleasant evening beat inside the fort up to Cowes in time to finish some 40 minutes before the line closed at 2230, and with only one Sigma still in front of us, as we eventually found out from the results. In fact the results, inasmuch as they can be trusted, suggest that we were first French boat, as well as first Weymouth boat, in IRC! Not a bad showing for a boatload of sleep-deprived Normans, we decided - Guillaume le Bâtard would have been proud of us!

The music ashore did not tempt us; a meal and a glass or two of wine, and we were dead men, after some 24 hours of sailing, waking only to confront the need to get going, after a brief wander ashore, so that the crew could be back for work on Monday. In fact the return trip was great – close-hauled but in 12-15 knots SW with a flat sea, and the overarching clear blue sky promising great weather to follow - for the beginning of the Tour des Ports next weekend!

The Horatian platitude one finds on the side of boats everywhere - Carpe diem, or grab the moment – is nonetheless nowhere better illustrated than during such a weekend. Had we known the challenge beforehand; we would probably not have have left, but we still had a weekend which will linger in the memory as something very special, even if the price was a measure of discomfort mid-Channel in order to get there, and a certain feeling of fatigue on arriving back here at 1am! I offer my thanks to Thierry, Bernard and Benoit for their companionship and good cheer in yet another slightly improbable adventure at sea together...

Steve Fraser

Submitted on 2nd July 2019