The Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club’s offshore sailing season got under way recently, with the annual race from Jersey to St Malo for the Commodore’s Cup and Cook Salver trophies.
The forecast for cold and strong westerly winds, rain and rough seas, coupled with a spring tide throughout the weekend, had the 15 entries reduced to ten boats actually coming to the line in St Aubin’s Bay for the 8.30 am start.
Despite the forecast, there proved to be zero wind on the Vrachière buoy start line, leading to the race committee RIB attempting a start at the Grune du Port buoy to the south of the bay. This proved to be equally futile, with one boat deciding to call it a day and heading home.
Race control was transferred to Charles Blampied’s X4, Clara, and the fleet headed off southwards for the proposed start line at the Northwest Minquiers buoy. Happily, the breeze filled in on the way to the mark with boats sailing the last mile, or so. With all nine boats present, the race committee sent the fleet on its way at 11.30.
The steady, fresh westerly breeze and moderate seas provided boats with a fast reach as they sprinted to the finish line off the Grand Jardin lighthouse at the entrance to the St Malo roads, the fastest boats notching up in excess of 12 knots on occasion.
Jeff and Fiona Speller’s Dragonfly 32, Aquafly, took line honours in just under three hours, soon followed by Bob Milner’s Grand Soleil 46, Grace, the first of the cruiser/racers over the line.
Of the whole fleet, it was only Grace and Julian Barber’s Elan 410, Chez Moi, that flew spinnakers under pressure from Clara, who, having started two minutes after the fleet had gone, had made up ground to be neck-and-neck with the Elan just a few miles from the finish line.
However, the threat was constantly in view, astern, in the shape of Chris Fritot and Deborah Hutchings’ Dehler 39, Mystique, who finished after Clara to take the IRC1 class on corrected time, thereby clinching the Commodore’s Cup. Grace was second with Clara third.
French entrant, Jacques Minet’s Symphonie 29, Gwez Gwern, sailed a ‘lonely’ race in IRC2, the competition having stayed at home. Gwez Gwern took the Cook Salver but was also second overall, on corrected time, in the overall IRC rankings.
Three boats without IRC ratings raced under the National Handicap for Cruisers system, in Class 3.
Micheal and Carina Foreman’s Starlight 35, Wandering Star, finishing some six minutes behind Mystique, took top spot in the class, followed by The RCIYC-chartered Dufour 34, Venustus, skippered by past-Commodore James Wilding.
James Fullerton’s Cobra 750, Orca, by far the smallest boat in the fleet, sailing her first offshore race under his ownership was third.
Despite the very unsettled weather which wasthe major feature of the Easter weekend, the race went well and was greatly enjoyed by all.
Following the race, crews gathered in the SNBSM clubhouse for a traditional ‘pot d’accueil’ before launching themselves on the nearby restaurants.
RCIYC officials said they were grateful to the Bureau du Port at the Bas Sablons marina for their warm welcome and very well-organised allocation of berths.
Class 1 (IRC): 1 Mystique – Chris Fritot – 3.02.15; 2 Grace – Bob Milner – 3.05.28; 3 Clara – Charles Blampied – 3.06.47; 4 Chez Moi – Julian Barber – 3.06.55; 5 Aquafly – Jeff Speller – 3.12.17 (eight boats entered).
Class 2 (IRC): 1 Gwez Gwern – Jacques Minet – 3.05.12 (three boats entered).
Class 3 (NHC): 1 Wandering Star – Micheal Foreman – 3.02.57; 2 Venustus – RCIYC Team – 3.17.09; 3 Orca – James Fullerton – 3.31.56 (four boats entered).
Forthcoming events: 21 & 22 April – RCIYC Spring Regatta; 28 April – Ianthe Cup race to Granville; 14 – 16 September – UBS 20th Jersey Regatta and Spinlock IRC Channel Islands Championship.