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Aurai's Summer Cruise and Classic Regatta 2009 Part 2

Aurai and her crew head west
Click on image for more pictures - photo by Charles Hessey

After a very successful if uninvolving trip to Dartmouth it was all change and systems –GO from the Friday evening, July 3rd.  Skippers’ briefing, then crew welcome drinks, find something to eat, realise that Dartmouth is very pretty but also on two sides of the river and I had two crews to contend with, one finishing delivery and one arriving for the Regatta, one staying on the boat one not, and then an engagement to celebrate, wow!  09:30 on the 4th, crew one said their goodbyes and crew two said their hello’s.  Only now we were less than an hour from our first race start, 40 minutes from the start line and about to discover that Hoo Ness YC races with pre-planned routes are a doddle compared to IRC ones, that keep everything secret until the last minute!  The course is set as you count down to the start and the direction for crossing the line is advised at this point but we missed it.

At least we are in Class 4 and start last - so eventually, we realise that only us 9 boats are left and we follow, hoping front boat is not as lost as us.  After two laps the race was reduced and though we were improving and would have done better (of course) 5th (last) [less retirements – the conditions were “bouncy”] was amazing and we got a celebratory hoot from the committee boat.  They had a turgid day and were all sea sick and very glad to go home once we crossed the line.

Everything was upside down and wet down below and we had raced with our gunwale, very much submerged for the windward leg.  Back to our mooring, rush to get ready for next party, remember this is essentially, 5 drinking contests linked with some sailing.  Now realise that our pontoon is not actually connected to the shore, while I have to go off to Skipper briefing and catch up with crew at party venue.  I will not bore on every party, but each one was well planned and set in an historic setting, long trestle tables, amazing menus and authentic, “folk” bands entertaining us.  The finishing touch in Guernsey being held in a castle and us all (bag) piped in through the gate, very grand.

We party and then remember our pontoon is not connected to the shore, just wondering which dinghy might be borrowed, when two chaps hove to and offer to ferry us home.  This leads to invite aboard their boat, an early 70’s Princess, motor boat, newly refitted inside and out.  Which all meant the strategy planning for the next day’s race went by the by.

Less of a crisis for this next race, we now know to follow our own race pennant.  Only in waiting we realise we are sitting in the final approach to the line for the Class 1 IRC yachts who really do speed along, so in getting out of the way we lose position and any hope of glory.  Sheer doggedness gets us 3rd place and 3rd overall in the two races, everyone else went home early or did not start as weather was so “fresh”.  We are getting the hang of this and pace ourselves for the party, we were supposed to get an early night ahead of the X channel race the next day.  Luck arrives in form of a weather delay, so we get some sleep, but watch F8 type breeze reports prevail.  Race is Off/On/Off and finally on, with a midday 7th start. [Should have been 15:00 6th].

DARTMOUTH TO PAIMPOL

We play follow my leader again, only everyone else raises spinnaker and disappears over the horizon.  However, with F6/7 on starboard quarter, Aurai, romps along very keenly at over 6.5 knots most of the time.  Hard work on the helm and a bit roll and roll.  Crew a bit green, nobody able to go below and getting tired at the same rate, so I went to bed.  Suspecting I would be left to do the final approach in the small hours.  One adventure with a cargo ship refusing to adjust its course and then we catch up with our “fleet” unable to use their spinnakers anymore we were making better time than them now!

Paimpol is best approached in day light, we tried it in the dark after a 14 hour rough channel crossing, the marks are unlit and you are expected to navigate in channels between rocks at some points only 20 m apart.  This did freak us a bit but we got in and finished in an highly creditable time.  About 16 hours for 110 Nm.  To put that in perspective yachts like Lutine crossed in 12 hours.  As dawn broke we took the rising tide into Paimpol, through the lock and moored up in the town centre.  The authorities reserved pontoon positions lining the quay walls and leaving us all on view to the passersby.  We were also greeted by a band and local country dancing display.  Highly recommended place to visit.  We had to pay homage as well as my Father and Mother in-law had sailed here in 1956!  Fresh coffee and croissants as well to make it all worthwhile.

We are now back, and part three will tell of the trip from Paimpol to Guernsey and thence home.

All photos on Facebook here

Cheers

Charles

Date Published 22nd Jul 2009