Sailing: St Malo


Cowes - Dinard - St. Malo

Cowes - Dinard - St. Malo route Yet another variable race. The forecast was for SW F3-4, rain and fog, possibly strengthening and veering westerly later. The route required us to go West of Casquests and Les Hanois before St. Malo, so we took a tactical decision to go West down the English coast on a point, rather than going South on the rhumb line. The logic behind this was that with a 24 hour race, we would get two tides that would roughly cancel, but if the wind veered to the West, then we would be able to finish faster.

The start at 12:10 went well and we crossed the line at pace, but not in a particularly good position. The maxi "Leopard" was on the same start but rapidly disappeared from sight (they finished 6 hours ahead of us). We beat towards the Needles, searching for clean air, and tried various options such as going North, going South and even staying in the centre of the channel. None of this seemed to make much difference - Incisor is not a great upwind boat, and in the fairly light airs we were experiencing, Independent Bear and others were fairing somewhat better. Rats.

It was because the race conditions didn't favour us that we took the "go West" punt, whilst the remaining 85% of the fleet took the rhumb line. There were really only two tacks - port as we went West, then starboard as we eventually turned South and the wind slowly veered. The night was quiet, with the number 1 genoa and a single tack, not much was happening.

Towards dawn, the wind freshened and filled from the West and at last we started to pick up some real speed, creeping up to first 8, then 9 and 10 knots. At this stage we were bouncing along nicely, occasionally surfing at 14 knots off waves in a F6, with the wind averaging 26 and gusting 30 knots. With us all on the rail it was a great way to start the day, and for the last 60 miles or so we had a terrific sail. Due to the unusual course we took, we saw very few other boats and therefore had little idea how we were doing overall, but knew that even if we were not going to do well on handicap (I think we ended up about 20th), we were having a damn good time in the interim. The finishing line crept up, and we crossed after 23 hours and 23 minutes of good fun.

St. Malo is a great place, but a bugger to get into if you arrive on a falling tide. The sill into the marina was too low for us (we draw about 2.5m), so we had to moor on one of the big ferry buoys and wait to be locked in which would have entailed hanging around for 5 hours. Now, for various reasons I had to be back in Kent by Saturday night, so I had to get the train from St. Malo to Paris by 16:00 at the latest. Luckily, I managed to hail a very nice local who took me ashore for a small donation to the lifeboats, whence I sprinted to the station, took the local train to Rennes, then the TGV to Paris and finally the Eurostar back to Ashford, to be home by 23:00.

Another fine trip, all round!


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