A 0330 start was required to maximise the tidal currents around the Isle of Wight and to give us the best chance of making Ouistreham, 104 nautical miles distant, in time for dinner. For this first cross Channel trip on Spellbinder I was joined by Crispin, Adam and Charles, the latter two having driven all the way down from Catterick to help out.
And what a sail we had, with the wind ‘just behind the ear’ (broad reaching) for most of it with the furling gennaker, a big downwind sail, flying most of the time and giving us the necessary power. The sails went up just outside Portsmouth harbour and down again just outside the destination – very economical on fuel! We tried the towed generator (a torpedo-type device thrown over the stern, which is connected to a rope which in turn is connected to a generator to charge up the batteries). The skipper cooked a big cooked breakfast for all and we enjoyed Spellbinder’s power and stability in some ideal conditions, while breaking down into informal watches and catching up with sleep, as well as some dozing in the sun.
We finished by ‘goose-winging’ – the main sail on one side and the furling genoa poled out on the other – with the wind dead behind us. With luck on our side, we entered Ouistreham as the lock was opening, allowing us to go in and attach ourselves to the side wall of the lock as it filled up, then opened up to let us in. We celebrated with a glass of champagne and after finding ourselves a berth in the port de plaisance we wandered into town and had a fine meal in a nearby restaurant. The following morning the crew departed on the Brittany Ferries sailing to Portsmouth while I chatted to the Hallberg Rassy Owners’ Club, who coincidentally were passing through on a rally.
In sum, I’m hugely pleased to have taken Spellbinder across and she proved her worth. We sailed 110 miles in 14 hours 30 minutes, averaging 7.5 knots. All systems appear to be working and I look forward to the return journey in a few days.
Adam and Charles enjoying the ride, mid English Channel
Spellbinder in Ouistreham