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Cherbourg Crew | 3 - 6 May 2024

This early season trip was specifically aimed at new crew, with the goal of giving the Newbies a simple French cross channel cruising experience, which required a passport!

4 boats (Boni, Seraphim,Pecadillo & Edelweiss) left Weymouth-Portland just after sunrise on the Friday bound for France, with 15 people spread across the boats, including the 7 Newbies on a cruising trip to remember

Weather conditions on the passage over were excellent, with consistent and manageable winds from a favourable direction, enabling the boats to sail a fast and fun beam reach all the way across. Some reefing was required for a while to keep the helming manageable and it was a really great sailing day, with real hands on the helm for a lot of the time, rather than the dependable but dull autohelms.

The Newbies got a real taste of helming in ideal conditions, and there were lots of grins on faces when the boats arrived in Cherbourg Marina a few hours apart. The marina gave us great berths together on the closest pontoon, making it really easy to socialise between the boats for the whole of the weekend.

During the days in Cherbourg, the weather was better than expected, so many went exploring or walking around the old town, the coastal region to the West and the compulsory visit to Carrefour, as well as sampling French food and enjoying the cafe culture! Some of the Newbies also visited the popular tour sites of the Aquarium, Nuclear sub and the Titanic museum - for those who didn't know, the ill fated ship stopped at Cherbourg to pick up passengers after departing Southampton.

During the weekend, there were 3 big social get togethers; two impromptu gatherings on the back of crowded boats involving nibbles and drinks and a cruise meal out.

Sat evening was the big cruising meal, booked at the Marina restaurant on a long table for 15.. It was a great meal, with truly fine cooked French food and great drinks in the presence of other sailors.

The return journey proved to be a bigger challenge than getting there, with light winds and a complex but weak spiral low pressure system centred over the channel. Skippers were busy discussing and planning their passage plans options whilst constantly checking and re-checking the wind models to see if conditions would improve. The crew on Edelweiss elected to set out early before dawn on the Monday to maximise the opportunity to sail back, whilst Boni, Seraphim and Pecadillo accepted the need to motor most of the way and chased Edelweiss down later, 2/3rd of the way across the channel. The boats were heading back to different Weymouth-Portland locations, so it was a race for all to get back in time for bridge lifts, CCSC ferry times and unloading plans in Portland. Pecadillo race for the 6pm bridge lift was particularly close, with the boat entering the Weymouth harbour estuary at 17.55pm and just making the arrival time cut-off of 17.57 for the bridge opening sequence with only seconds to spare a tight margin of error after a 12 hour 70 Nm gruelling crossing!

The cruise generally went down well with the Newbie cruisers, and many confirmed their intentions to sail again on boats in the future. Thanks to Mike and Monica for doing loads of organising and communications in the background to make the first Newbie cruise of the year a great success all-round.

Penmanship & Pics: Shaun Gold

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