Chuting down La Manche

Rounding Ushant we raised the cruising chute in the steady waters of La Manche, the English Channel, as we ran downwind toward Guernsey. Making up to 9.5 knots we decided not to fly the kite at night so as dusk fell we drew down the sock and packed it away all relatively easily.

Now what did we learn on the ocean? Ah, yes, to reef down at night. But this is just the simple little old Channel, right? Home waters, only 65m deep, just coastal stuff. So we went into the night with a slight sea and full sail. The forecast; Force 6 and moderate to rough seas. On the deck there seemed to be no sign of such conditions so we made no changes.

Of course the wind gradually strengthened, the tide turned, the seas ramped up and by midnight we were running in short sharp and aggressive seas, 25 knots and under full main. It was a completely dark night, and cold, very much colder than anything we have experienced for a long time. Reefing down wasn’t fun, then we ran under reduced genoa, then reduced again as a 30kn squall hit. All the fun of a typical Caribbean night without the warmth! The easy downwind leg turned into a long night.

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