By William Mills
Friday 22nd May saw the start of Sussex Yacht Club’s annual yacht race across the Channel to France.
Fifty three yachts started this annual epic to commemorate Charles II’s crossing in 1651 after the Royalists had lost the Battle of Worcester to Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads resulting in the young king fleeing for his life.
He is reputed to have hidden in an oak tree, crawled in and out of priest’s’ holes before seeking refuge in Brighton and finally finding a boat willing to take him across to Fecamp in Normandy.
The wind today is Force 3 to 4 blowing from the west. After passing a laid buoy the fleet heads off out to sea. The next mark is the Greenwich Median lightship approximately 25 miles south then the boats steer off to the left and next stop Fecamp harbour. 67 nautical miles in all as the crow flies or ‘rhumb line’ as the sailors call it.
Sussex Yacht Club race organisers are the unsung heros who labour tirelessly behind the scenes to get everyone away on time and carefully list out all the boats and their crews who are going, then count them in on the other side at the finish.
“I enjoy contributing to the running of the race.” Said Neil
The yachts have to cross the shipping lanes which are among the busiest in the world. It must be a shock for a huge container ship to suddenly find his radar screen filled with tiny dots as the yachts approach in an unending line, yet they all take it in their stride.
Back in times nearer Charles II’s epic crossing the English Channel was the haunt of pirates, with North African based Barbary Pirates roaming the seas looking for prey as late as the 1840’s.
Once the obstacles are all passed Fecamp’s harbour is waiting…..
and finally all’s a bed…