Juan Moreno sailing the Sigma 33 "Salamander" provides the Race Report. This was Juan's first offshore solo race!
What a thrilling weekend racing!
The forecast for the night race on Friday showed consistently 15 knots gusting 20 in the English Channel. And with that, and the boat full of provisions and great energy for the night sailing, we started the race at Cowes. With winds gusting 27 on the nose! The wind against tide made a very choppy and uncomfortable beating down the Solent, although the fast tide put us at The Needles in no time.
Before 8:30 pm the fleet had crossed the bar at the Needles, with big rolling waves coming right from the south. The fleet then settled in for the night and we all pressed hard battling winds around 25 knots steady most of the race, only abating when France was closing in. A wet and very fast crossing saw the first boats finishing in Cherbourg just before 4:30 am, with the slower boats arriving around 2 hours later.
This was my first offshore solo race, and although I thoroughly enjoyed the race, I have to say that would have preferred a gentler breeze for my first solo Channel race.
Saturday saw the fleet sleeping through the day, and getting together in the late afternoon for drinks and dinner at the sailing club in Cherbourg.
The race officer kindly arranged a starting time for the next race in a way that we could have plenty of sleep and recovery from the night race. And also that we'll arrive to our next destination, St Vaast, at the time the lock opens. Timed to perfection, we started at mid-day and had a blast downwind from Cherbourg to St Vaast, arriving at our destination as the locks were opening. The course for this second race planned us to go around 3 cardinals, leaving the last leg of the race open to the skipper's navigation and skills to plot the course. Salamander saw the opportunity and took the option of sailing very deep, surfing rolling waves at 12 knots, and with apparent wind between 180 and 190 degrees. And she surprised the fleet by sneaking inshore and winning the overall race. Sailing by the lee gave Salamander plenty of excitement and for sure some eerie moments. But fortunately, everything worked well and there were no issues onboard.
The fleet rested in St Vaast in the afternoon, and after the prize-giving onboard Nympheas, we all headed out for a nice French dinner at one of the local restaurants around the harbour.
The final race, the leg home, started on Monday bank holiday at 9 am, with the fleet being escorted by a big pod of dolphins during the pre-start procedure. It always exciting and thrilling seeing these creatures playing around and even showing off jumping out of the water. Rainy start with light winds that soon gave way to a sunny day, although the wind kept very light and most of the fleet opted for retiring and motoring home. And when saying most of the fleet, I mean all of us with the only exception of Pyxis, who kept fiercely racing until the wind finally filled in, and carried her to the finish line at Bembridge Ledge. Well done Pyxis, that was a great display of perseverance and sailing skills.