A Brief Report on the 2011 Classic Channel Regatta

kelpie_2The 2011 Classic Channel Regatta, which was sailed in an interesting variety of weather, was acclaimed a hugely enjoyable success by all who took part. The first Dartmouth inshore race on the Saturday was sailed in a heavy SW’ly force 6, and the second race on Sunday was delayed by sea fog rolling into Start Bay, but this lifted for long enough to set a course sailed half in fog and half in bright sunlight with moderate winds, before the fog rolled in again just as the last boat had finished.

The Channel Race started on Monday in a flat calm with a number of boats kedging on the line before a light air soon picked up to lift the boats over the line and on their way to Paimpol. The breeze filled in from the south and steadily veered to the southwest as a shallow fog descended again for a couple of hours, after which the forecast north-westerly 5 started to fill in and blow the fog away. From then on it became a fast and memorable broad spinnaker reach on a clear night all the way to the landfall marks off Paimpol, before hardening up for the last few miles to the finish in the Anse de Paimpol, with the first boats getting in as dawn broke on Tuesday morning. All the boats had finished by mid-morning and the fleet anchored for a well earned rest in the lee of an island in the Anse de Paimpol while awaiting the tide to lock into Paimpol later that afternoon.

After a rest day in Paimpol on Wednesday, the fleet locked out early on Thursday morning for the start of the Round Ile de Brehat Race, which was in fact two races punctuated by a picnic lunch. The course around Ile de Brehat makes for a fascinating race working the tides and dodging the rocks around this lovely bit of Brittany coast, and we were blessed with perfect winds and sunny, if decidedly chilly, weather. The course took the fleet up the east side of the island carrying a strong fair tide, before rounding the windward mark at the north end of the island and reaching down the Trieux river against the ebb tide, with boats in the know keeping to the edges as much as their nerve would allow to dodge the tide. After the finish of this first part of the race in the Trieux river, the boats were guided to vacant moorings in the bay off the village of Loguivy where a pique-nique including fresh bread and wine was delivered to the boats by launch. After the pique-nique the second race of the day took the boats back to Paimpol.

brehat_1Friday saw the start of the passage race to Guernsey start off Paimpol in a light north-easterly. With this light headwind it was looking to be a very slow sail all the way to St Peter Port, so a gate was established between the committee boat and a navigation buoy near the Roche Douvre and this in fact became the finish line. A northwest going tide helped the fleet on their way up to this line, but when the tide turned and the wind went even lighter, those boats at the back of the fleet not already there were unable to make over the tide and had to retire. From this finish line the fleet motored the rest of the way to St Peter Port, getting in during the evening.

It was sun and light airs again on Saturday for the Round Sark Race. Unfortunately we were unable to start until 11am due to an earlier race start which meant we had only the last half-hour of the northeast going tide to lift the boats up to the north end of Sark before the southwesterly stream started to set in. The faster boats were able to make it round this tidal gate, but once again the slower boats were beaten by the tide and light airs.

A very important and enjoyable aspect of the regatta is the shoreside social activity after the racing. At Dartmouth the crews were able to enjoy the delightful setting and hospitality of the Royal Dart Yacht Club, and the crew supper party on the Saturday evening in the lovely Old Market Square, accompanied by a jazz band and some spirited singing from the crews when the band took a break, all helped along with free wine and beer, was a hugely enjoyable and memorable evening.

In Paimpol the fleet moored in the inner basin right in the centre of town, and once again the town threw open all its excellent facilities for the crews and the high point of our time ashore there was the crew supper, accompanied by more free wine and an eclectic (even eccentric!) mix of music from a singer with a barrel organ, all of which followed the prizegiving for the Channel Race in the quayside Salle des Fetes.

In St Peter Port, the final prizegiving was held in the spectacular setting of the grounds of Castle Cornet, high on the promontory as the south side of the harbour. Afterwards there was the closing party at the delightful Guernsey Yacht Club with a traditional fish & chips supper supplied by the local chippy, and music and singing by the local shanty band GU10. A great evening to round off a great week.

All in all, it was a very successful and enjoyable week with everyone saying they will be back again in 2013.


All photos taken at previous Classic Channel Regattas and reproduced by kind permission of Mike Wynne-Powell, Karine Gilles de Pelichy and waterlinemedia.com