St Vaast-Cherbourg

Sponsored by The Grey Silkie

2015 Channel Series

2015-08 St Vaast-Cherbourg 06


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PYRA’s 4 day star event attracted an excellent 18 boat line up split equally between classes 1, 2 and the non-spinnaker class 4. The 0700 scheduled start in the Swash was briefly delayed while the fleet motored out a couple of miles to find some wind. With 8/9 knots from the SW, Solmate saw us off from a pot bouy  line. A couple of kites went up early to use the light breeze on a very shy reach making for some interesting sailing. After an hour the breeze picked up to c12 knots when the excitement didn’t really work any more whereupon the fleet settled down to their original nav plans for the 60miles. The faster boats went deeper anticipating arriving at Barfleur before the flood kicked in. The slower end of the fleet generally went high to come back into Barfleur with the first hour or so of east going tide. Good speeds were recorded by all boats in the sparkling breeze which we saw touching 21 knots true briefly.

The fastest boats were frustrated waiting for the southerly flow to kick in down to St Vaast whilst the tail enders shot towards the light house at a crazy scudding angle from 10 miles out in a dying breeze, now down to 8 knots. 4 knots of tide whooshed us silently southwards while we watched the wind dropping away. 1 mile to go and only 2-3 knots of wind. Half a mile from the line the tide fell way – up with the shy reacher and all weight to leeward. We crept painfully slowly southwards with the most beautiful crimson sunset reflected off the mirrored sea surface. Sounds of distant revelry from St Vaast’s waterside bars drifted across. No wind. No progress through the water. No tide except a hint that we might go backwards. 40m from the line stopped for almost an hour and finally the lure of the bars started the motor.

Bob Dyer, skipper of the Grey Silkie, generously hosted the Saturday RV with provisional prizes going to Destiny (class1), Solmate (class 2) and Ceres (class 4).

The Sunday race around to Cherbourg saw a heavy grey clag and an 8-12 knot breeze from the NNE. Blue Exstasy started us with a gate off Le Gavendest bouy, briefly postponed hoping the half dozen SORC boats starting from the south would be clear. They weren’t. Instead 2 of them went tight to Le Gavendest on starboard more or less simultaneous with Blue Extasy’s port tack starting charge. All survived unscathed and the SORC boats blended seamlessly into the PYRA fleet for a gentle beat up to the corner where the overfalls predictably killed the steerage. Through that awkwardness and the tide really took over as the wind fell away to 6-8 knots. The course sensibly took the fleet to the north of the 3 cardinal marks guarding the Barfleur shoals, but laying the first 2 required close hauled trim to claw up from the tide stream. From Basse du Renier kites were set for a slow multi gybed run into Cherbourg.  Blue Extasy won class 1, Mojito class 2 and Quadrophenia class 4.

Our early afternoon arrival left time for the annual PYRA International Boules Championship (Quadrophenia thrashed everyone) and then another impromptu RV on the YC terrace, beers kindly supplied by Rob Hescroff in memory of his father John who passed away last month. John was PYRA Captain 1980-2 and subsequently Commodore of Parkstone YC. St Vaast was his favourite PYRA weekend and yes, he would have loved this one!

Despite a cracking good thunder and lightning storm through Sunday night, Monday remained grey and humid with yet more light airs. Blue Extasy set the 0700 start line out of the Petite Rade with a mere 3.5 knot breeze from the NE to set us on our way. After 2 hours the breeze steadied at around 12-15 knots and gradually backed as forecast round to the NW making for some textbook navigation. The sailing was good but once again the slower boats were thwarted by the 2200 time limit begging the question of how a true beat across a 60 mile rhumb line can be achieved in 15 hours.

Blue Extasy and Mojito again won classes 1 and 2 respectively. In class 4 Quadrophenia finished at latitude 50 20.00N so won her class .

A classic PYRA weekend with hot competition in challenging conditions rounded off with excellent hospitality courtesy of Bob Dyer and Rob Hescroff.

Ken Morgan


75 Years of PYRA

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