Dieppe Dash 2017 – summary

The seventh Dieppe Dash was the one most lacking in wind since the start of the event. Although 36 boats entered, six dropped out prior to the event, mainly due to lack of progress in getting the boat ready in time.

On the day, 30 boats set off from Brighton – 7 in the IRC race, 13 in the SCCH race and 10 cruising boats. The cruising boats chose their own start time, but the race started at 06:00 BST. The forecast was for a light north, north westerly wind to start with – downwind sailing. As the day progressed, the wind speed fell-off the bottom of the scale and many boats (both rally and racing) reported being becalmed mid-channel. 4 racing and 2 rally boats had a variety of problems and decided to turn back.

The first boat to arrive in Dieppe was Windsong who had set off around 20:40 hrs on the Thursday evening after listening to the weather briefing. The next boat to arrive in Dieppe was another cruising boat, Blue Heaven at around 12:15 BST having set-off at 04:00 hrs BST.

The race officer for the finish line found the harbour arm closed off with fencing since January due to the winter storms and it took time to negotiate access. The line was manned from about 12:30 hrs BST.

There was a lot of tide – wow! At high water the sea was licking under the wooden boards of the harbour arm. As the tidal height reduced, it was like watching a lift! …it seemed only a matter of minutes passing by as each successive level of holes in the structure of the harbour arm were revealed.

In the racing, line honours went to Tanga Langa, coming in nearly 7 hours later.

Well into darkness, boats were calling to retire; it seemed that as one boat retired, that encouraged two more to do the same. Nearer to the shore the approach to the finish was like a minefield of flags in the water, far more than previously, adding to challenge of crossing the finish in light winds and a strong incoming tide.

Temptation arrived at the finish area passing close to the pin-end. As fate would have it, they passed the wrong side of the mark – Oops..! By now it was low water; correction, Very Low water. In their attempts to get their spinnaker down they took their eye-off-the-ball and hit the beach! The beach is very steep at that point so they ‘bounced-off’ and managed to turn the boat returning for a second attempt at finishing. This involved going offshore outside the pin end then coming back in again; instead, Temptation went out between the pin and harbour arm. As they sailed around in the strong tide with little or no wind for the next 20mins or so, steadily making way north eastwards, they must have realised their fate was sealed – so close and yet so far away – they retired in sight of their goal.

A short while later Kokomo approached the line from the north and being carried easterly by the tide as they approached. Unfortunately, their calculations were slightly off it appeared their projected rhumb-line was pointing straight at the harbour arm rather than the finish. The race officer had a grandstand view looking down on Kokomo as they struggled to clear of the end of the arm and point in the correct direction, with the amazing view of them pointing forwards but travelling in reverse. Frustrated, they also retired and then as they passed by the ferry terminal the wind started to fill-in…

A few minutes later, boats that were visible on the horizon and had previously appeared stationary, were now some distance apart and moving in differing directions. Some wind had arrived and the game was on.

Silver Fox came in to the finish, following a path so close to the shore that she was parallel to and on the shore-side of the finish line and had to change course to seaward to be able to cross the line.

A few minutes earlier Kereru came up to the line square-on and crossed at the mid-point, a perfect finish. Those who know the skipper, Peter Whittle, will know that he is the person most likely to achieve this impressive feat.

In the end only 3 IRC and 4 SCCH boats managed to complete the race, with 24 arriving safely in Dieppe. The IRC race was won for the 3rd time by Matador skippered by Herve Barrat. Tanga Langa, skippered by Paul Tullett won the SCCH trophy and line honours.

What had earlier appeared to be an all-night vigil for the race officers quickly dissolved as the last few racing boats notified they were retiring from the race.

But the silver lining was the weather was good for the rest of the weekend and an excellent party was enjoyed on Saturday as usual. Our hosts as always made us feel welcome.