"We have made new friends and all come away better sailors. What more can you ask for?"

The second edition of ARC Channel Islands, organised by World Cruising Club in association with RYA Active Marina, came to a close at the weekend following a week-long cruise exploring Cherbourg, Guernsey and Alderney from the rally’s start port of Gosport.

The aim of the rally was encourage boat owners to sail beyond their normal cruising areas, and to gain confidence taking their yachts to unfamiliar destinations or on longer passages.

Sailing with the fleet was a lead boat with Hamble School of Yachting senior instructor Roger Seymour and a team from World Cruising Club team aboard, there to offer guidance and help with planning the passages, and to facilitate a social and sightseeing programme in each of the ports visited.

Honey of Embleton prepare their Cherbourg to Guernsey passage plan with Roger. Credit: WCC/Clare Pengelly

Honey of Embleton prepare their Cherbourg to Guernsey passage plan with Roger. Credit: WCC/Clare Pengelly

Following two days of preparations at Haslar Marina, Gosport, giving crews the opportunity to get to know one another, review passage plans, and discuss safety best practice for a cross channel passage, the fleet set off for the 70nm passage to Cherbourg in the early morning of Saturday 12 August.

With bows pointing toward France, crews picked up the rally spirit with friendly radio chatter about dolphin-spotting and general progress reports, reinforcing the ethos of cruising in company.

Ashore, family and friends were able to track the boats across the Channel via the YB satellite trackers provided by the rally.

The yachts steadily arrived in the ‘unexpectedly beautiful’ French town during the evening.

‘We all arrived at Port Chantereyne at near enough the same time to be greeted by the sunny smiles and yellow shirts of the WCC team, ready to take lines and point us towards the bar.’ Pete Leggett of Southerly 42 Legato on arrival, ‘I’m happy to say that the YB tracker proved our passage plan to be the right one and that we managed to stick to it. After so much preparation, it was a massive confidence boost.’

Cherbourg proved to be a popular stopover for family boat Matakana Blue, ‘We could have spent all day at the fabulous La Cite de la Mer maritime museum; the tour of the nuclear submarine Redoubtable being a notable highlight for me and the children really enjoyed the ‘Journey to the Deep’, it was as good as anything Disney can put on!

‘A late lunch or early dinner preceded the drinks reception and a visit to the bowling alley at the back of the marina office!’

On Monday 14 August, the fleet awoke to light winds and calm seas for the passage to St Peter Port, Guernsey. The sail through the Alderney Race was helped somewhat by the sedate conditions, making for a different experience of the Alderney Race than some had imagined, as Steve from Omnishambles said, ‘the race was cancelled’.

The rest of the day involved sunbathing, dolphin spotting, gannet watching and a lot more motoring watching the beauty of the Channel Islands go by. Arrival into Guernsey was a quick and efficient experience with the berthing masters approaching each yacht to provide them with berthing instructions and customs forms.

Dolphins between Guernsey and Alderney. Credit: WCC/Clare Pengelly

Dolphins between Guernsey and Alderney. Credit: WCC/Clare Pengelly

Rafted up on the walk-ashore pontoons, it was standing room only in St Peter Port, but the close proximity provided an ideal opportunity for social gatherings on the yachts to enjoy a sundowner at the end of the day.

A ‘free day’ gave time for crews to explore Guernsey at their own pace on Tuesday, ‘I loved the diversity of the island,’ said Geoff Higginbottom from Tessa Jane, ‘and the fact there was so much to do.’

Then an organised coach tour on Wednesday took crews to the WW2 Underground Hospital, Little Chapel and on to Plienmont point where blue skies and sunshine were met with beautiful views over the west coast of the island. Many of the crews promised to return to Guernsey with more time to explore the island.

The third leg of the rally took crews to Alderney, providing more navigational challenges to catch the tides correctly. As the wind dropped whilst they were underway, the majority of the fleet motor-sailed to reach the Alderney Race with a following tide, all the while keeping in radio contact to relay information on the sea state and tide as they passed through.

Steve Halfacre from Omnishambles commented on the passage: ‘The rally support from both staff and other boats has enabled me to feel more confident in navigating areas with challenging tides.

‘It was so useful to talk about the passage with other participants, and lead skipper Roger reassured you that you were making the right decisions.’

On arrival, each boat picked up a mooring buoy in Braye Habour, and headed ashore by water taxi to explore and compare passages over a drink at the Alderney Sailing Club.

Alderney train trip. Credit: WCC/Clare Pengelly

Alderney train trip. Credit: WCC/Clare Pengelly

An island walking tour and sunny pub lunch were highlights of the fleet’s time on Alderney on Friday, although the breezy conditions did make for an uncomfortable night on the swinging moorings, which lived up to their name!

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World Cruising Club (WCC) had also organised a special trip on the Alderney Railway for crews, with friendly volunteer staff sharing lots of stories and anecdotes on the history of the railway and allowing the children to play with the engines whistle. Crews were given a tour of the sheds and took a walk to the headland to view the Lighthouse and some of the World War II fortifications.

The final rally social evening was held in Alderney, celebrating a successful week sailing together before crews headed off for their next adventures.

Some of the fleet then joined the Hamble School of Yachting lead boat for a supported night passage back to Gosport, whilst others stayed to further explore Alderney and return to their home ports at a later date. There were plenty of promises to keep in touch and sail together again as the crews of ARC Channel Islands 2017 had so enjoyed their time together.

Alderney train trip. Credit: WCC/Clare Pengelly

Alderney train trip. Credit: WCC/Clare Pengelly

‘I have done a few rallies and the big difference with the ARC Channel Islands cruise was that everyone had the same common goal: To get experience as a skipper of managing the boat on an extended cruise in challenging waters.’ said Pete from Legato, summing up his time with the rally. ‘These were some of the nicest people I have ever met on a rally. We all got on so well. We have made new friends and all come away better sailors. What more can you ask for?’

Details for the 2018 edition of ARC Channel Islands will be available in September.