By William Mills
Sussex Yacht Club’s July Pactolus Rally to Fecamp in France was a huge success for those taking part.
Several French yachts had sailed over mid week to Shoreham by Sea in order to join their SYC hosts for supper and then sail back together on Friday.
Friday 29th July started early for the crews taking part with a 7am lockout before a prompt 8am start.
David Skinner’s Moonlight Saunter, a 42 ft. Feeling 416, lead the eight Sussex yachts crossing together with a lively WSW F5 kicking up quite a swell.
Passing CS1, which marks the start of the shipping lanes, is always a thrill because we are leaving UK waters and have the ships to come.
Indeed, soon the horizon was full of tiny specks which rapidly turned into supertankers and the like. The first ones pass easily in front of us.
Then the next batch are the tummy turners! They look like there are going to be dreadfully close.
We resist the urge to turn downwind and go behind as there are no long gaps in the shipping lanes- they just keep coming and we must be resolute and cross at the regulation 90 degrees.
The next ship is close enough to see the writing on its stern! Then all of a sudden the next batch are falling well behind us! We are across! And feel good to be alive.
Our course is a steady 140 degrees which takes us past the Greenwich Lightship. Alas, we have no relief from the pounding seas that bearing off would bring as we must hold our course.
The waves are making us roll and the wind makes for a beam reach which gives us an excellent passage speed of around eight knots, although a little uncomfortable on delicate stomachs. Thank goodness I didn’t have that glass of wine last night, so kindly donated by club Admiral Anthony Boysons.
At last the cliffs of France come into sight, the sea finally dies, and fortunately the wind does not as we were in danger of being swept along the coast by the powerful tide just when in sight of our final goal!
At the finish line it is neck and neck. Brian Thomas’ X332 Tyke is very close having battled it out with Dehler 35, Plover all the way over. Steve Vyse’s Barda is not far behind either, leaving Laurence Woodhams’ Ocean Dream to lead in the rest of the fleet.
Fecamp harbour was a haven of tranquility with staff on the pontoon ready to guide us into our allotted berths.
A beer in Fecamp Yacht Club was most welcome whilst watching a fabulous sunset out to sea.
Organiser David Skinner treated us, his crew, to a wonderful candlelit dinner onboard. The candelabra was a first for me afloat.
Saturday passed, and so did the showers in quiet, make and mend for me, and sightseeing trips for the more active.
Towards evening as we prepared for our dinner with our French yacht club friends we spied the awesome sight of a group of armed soldiers standing around with local Police.
Can France truly be at war with itself and sending troops to every weekend function across their land?
Supper was finished by 9.30 as we were mindful of the return crossing on the morrow.
The weather on Sunday was perfect for sunbathing as unbroken sunshine greeting our 9am start.
We chugged ever northwards under engine until we reached the shipping lanes just after lunch. The wind returned at this point giving us the same beam reach and accompanying role but it was wonderful sailing weather!
Bearing off we skirted around the Rampion Wind Farm exclusion zone before hardening up for the final beat into Shoreham just in time for the 8.30pm lock.
We were all packed up and on our respective ways as darkness fell with me reflecting on a truly wonderful yachting weekend. A big thank you is due to all those who made it happen.