2017 Channel Week
Light winds but a great week with a high speed blast home


Only 3 out of 6 races were completed in this years Channel Week in the Channel Islands and Brittany, but an excellent time was had by all. Plus we had a high speed sleigh ride home at the end of it!

6 yachts lined up in Lymington for the Race 1 start of the 2017 Channel Week, to be joined by a 7th leaving the UK a day later, a French boat joining in Guernsey, and a local Guernsey boat. The light wind forecast held true which resulted in the fleet motoring all the way from Lymington to Guernsey and the abandonment of Race 1.

The motor in company gave the fleets skippers an opportunity to catch up on their onboard jobs lists, and Series Director, Rob Craigie, took us on an interesting detour down through the Ortac Channel between the Casquets and Alderney which proved to be quite feisty despite zero wind!

Race 2 from Guernsey to St Quay was started after a short motor south to find the wind. Bellino, Fastrak, Agence Directe & Roxanne led the way South on a dead run. Agence Directe (JPK 1080, Francois-Rene Carleur) gybed first to get around Le Grande Lejon and on to the last turning point at Madeaux, closely followed by the chasing pack. Agence Directe and Bellino (Sun Fast 3600, Rob Craigie) were first to round Madeaux for a slow light airs 1.5 mile leg to the finish and just made it before the wind shut down and cruelly cut off Fastrak and Roxanne (both Sun Fast 3200’s) which then sailed very slowly against the tide with both being quickly caught up by Amylou (Maxi 1100, Gary Heward) who was came up from behind on a band of breeze. Francois-Rene Carluer took the win in his very smart looking brand new JPK1080, in which he will shortly be racing in the Transquadra Race, followed by Rob Craigie on Bellino.

An attempt was made to start Race 3 on an 18 mile race around the rocky outcrops outside St Quay, but was eventually abandoned with no wind. So the fleet retired back to St Quay where Jean-Michel, the Harbour Master, treated us to his speciality Rum Punch aperitifs on the dock. This was followed by a trek over the cliffs to a local restaurant for a very fine meal. As always, we were made to feel very welcome in St Quay and we look forward to returning in future years.

Sadly, Race 4 from St Quay to St Peter Port in Guernsey also had to be abandoned after a start when the wind completely shut off., so the fleet embarked on the customary motor convoy. The monotony was broken by a visit by French customs who proceeded to board all the boats one by one to check for migrants and ships papers (not had onboard by all James!!). They were not perturbed the fact we were solo racing when the boarding procedures commenced on Bellino. How would that have stacked up in the rules??

At last we had 10 to 15 knots of wind for a gloriously scenic Race 5 around the feudal Island of Sark in champagne sailing conditions. An entertaining tight reach from the start to Lower Heads bouy, some many minor broaches and a few boats having to drop their kites to make it around the mark. From Lower Heads it was downwind to leave Les Etacs, of Sark, to port and then out to Blanchard which entailed a carefully timed gybe in a strong adverse tide. Local boat, Nigel Loller’s Sun Fast 3200 “Ollie” sailed dead downwind to avoid putting his bow across the tide, whereas the leading pair of Bellino and Fastrak went for the faster angles and gybe. After Blanchard a close fetch to round the Northern tip of Sark, with its tricky tide and variable winds, entailed before a beat down the Big Russel to round Lower Heads before a sprint to the finish off St Peter Port. Rob Craigie’s Bellino won the race, closely followed just a minute and a half later by Nigel Colley and Fastrak in 2nd, Simon Mitchell on Roxanne in 3rd, and local boat Ollie coming in 4th in his first SORC race.

The final Race 6 from St Peter Port back to North Head started nervously at 4pm on Friday afternoon. Nervously because the forecast was for wind, and lots of it!! As it happened we had a very pleasant sail out of the Little Russell up to the Casquets. Donald Macdonalds Dehler 101 “Dehlerious” acted as Competitor Start Boat. The three Sun Fast 3200’s and Dehlerious jostled for position and traded places after the start. The 3200’s hoisted the Code Zeros and kept pace with the 3600 Bellino up to Casquets. Bellino the hoisted her heavy weather symmetric kite, closely followed by Fastrak, and both boats started to pull away from the pack, never losing sight of each other across the Channel. The wind built and built, to 25 knots gusting 30. Fastrak, an R2 version of the Sun Fast 3200 with a larger carbon rig, was surfing and popping up on to the plane with sustained speeds of 15 to 17 knots. About 10 miles out form the finish, when the wind and sea state built, both Bellino and Fastrak dropped their kites. Bellino because she snapped her pole in a broach, and Fastrak because broaches were coming thick and fast. Rob Craigie on Bellino took line honours in a very fast elapsed time of 9.5 hours with Fastrak coming in only 7 minutes later to take the handicap win. James Hardiman on the Sun Fast 3200 Fluke took the 3rd podium spot.

Rob Craigie on Sun Fast 3600 “Bellino” won the shortened Channel Week Series, closely followed by Nigel Colley on his Sun Fast 3200 R2 “Fastrak XI”. Simon Mitchell on Sun Fast 3200 “Roxanne” took the 3rd Overall slot.

A great week was had by all. The lack of wind at times was compensated by great comraderie. It was noticeable that the dinners got more and more expensive as the week progressed. Well done to Stephen Scolefield, competing in his first offshore solo racing in his J111, who enjoyed his baptism of fire.

Yet to be announced, but next year we will be proposing a SORC exodus to compete with our French friends in the Normandie Solo in lieu of Channel Week.


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Channel Week 2017