Portishead to Jersey and back

From novice to competent crew, by Jo Sutton

When I set off from Portishead on 18th May on Molia with my husband Mark and our friend Tim, I was feeling distinctly nervous. We were heading to Jersey, to visit our daughter, a junior doctor in St Helier, a round trip of 1070 NM.

We had agreed our strategy in advance to address my principal concerns: a wardrobe full of warm clothes, a good supply of anti-seasickness remedies, and plenty of leeway in the schedule.

It was a phenomenal start. The sun came out as the tide and wind swept us past the Holms Islands. We tied up for our first night away in Penarth Marina, had a celebratory beer in the evening sunshine and dinner at The Deck. The sun continued to shine every day for the next 6 weeks!

Tim, left the boat at Padstow. Over the next two weeks, with just the two of us on board, (having already done Nash Point and Hartland Point) we rounded the various other ‘legendary’ headlands: Cape Cornwall, Land’s End, The Lizard, Rame Head, Bolt Head, Start Point, Portland Bill. While I excitedly took photographs of my favourite West Country holiday resorts – unrecognisably small in the distance.

The channel crossing, from Portland to Guernsey, was the leg I had been most nervous about, and in the end proved to be one of the easiest – both because of the lack of wind and our guest crew, an extremely experienced nephew. We motored the last outward stage from St Peter Port to St Helier in a fog, which lifted only as we rounded La Corbiere and we were met on the pontoon outside the harbour by our daughter, thrilled to bits that we had come to visit her by boat.

The combination of good weather, careful planning, guest crew members and a very patient husband meant that I was more relaxed for the return trip. We retraced our route, stopping overnight in Dartmouth, Plymouth and Falmouth and we were comfortably tied up in Pendennis Marina inner basin, as the Fastnet race started from Cowes in winds gusting 40+ knots.

With our final guests joining us at Newlyn, we were ready for the homeward stretch – Newlyn to Padstow and then Padstow to Penarth. The first day was idyllic – dolphins off Land’s End, sunshine all day and the wind behind us. The second day proved more challenging, with the southerly wind eventually reaching 20 knots apparent, and increasingly heavy rain from the early afternoon. We approached the locks at Penarth as the light finally disappeared, two hours ahead of schedule, drenched and glowing with an immense sense of achievement. And as a measure of how comfortable with sailing I had become the final hours to Portishead the next day were a breeze!

See the full voyage on molia.org/v40-jersey

2024 Racing Calendar

It’s time to lock in the dates for the 2024 season! You can find all the details over on the club racing page. The schedule includes all the key dates you need to plan your 2024 season and to assist, we’ve also added the dates for the Shanghai Cup and the Holms Race.

New for 2024, and in response to member requests, we’ve included a number of dates where there are no races but the tides are favourable for crews to go out for a practice, training or just a fun sail. You’ll see these dates on the calendar as Sail Training.

The 2024 Notice of Race, Sailing Instructions and other key documents will be added to the racing page in time for the start of the new season.

If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact Nick Duppa-Miller.

Festive Music Night

As the festive season rapidly approaches, the club will be hosting one of its traditional evenings at the clubhouse. Come and hear the Pill Owls and the Mudlarks while munching on a mince pie and enjoying a glass of mulled wine.

Providing a great opportunity to kick off the festive season in style, why not come down to the clubhouse and listen to carols from the Mudlarks and then the Pill Owls bedecked in their Dickensian garb of top hats, fancy weskits and flowing cloaks!

The fun will start at 20h00 on Wednesday 13th December at the clubhouse.

If you can’t make it, check out our other social events for the rest of 2023. Alternatively, if you’re considering joining the club, there’s no time like the present! Check out our membership page or contact our membership secretary, Dave Martin to learn more.

2024 Holms Race

The 2024 edition of the Holms Race will be on Saturday 28th September.

This annual race is for many a highlight of the Bristol Channel sailing calendar. The course leaves Portishead, rounds Flat Holm to port, Steep Holm to port and then returns to Portishead. Featuring a choose your own start time, it pits skippers and crews against the wind and tides of the Bristol Channel with the aim of being between the islands at slack water ready to race back on the new flood tide.

To encourage participation from all Bristol Channel Yacht Clubs, once again in 2024 will be the special prize for the ‘Top Club’. 

Currently held by PCC, the amazing rose-bowl trophy will be awarded to the top club in the Holms Race. The top three results from each club will be amalgamated and the best placed club will be pronounced as the ‘Top Club’. As the BCYA said themselves, ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it!

The Notice of Race, Entry Form and Sailing Instructions will be available closer to the event. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact us.

Marina Locks Open

As boats start to come out of the water for the winter, the marina have been busy completing their lock maintenance program. This is now completed and the locks are once again operational. The marina have also advised that a further maintenance period will be scheduled in February 2024.

With the locks now fully operational, Autumn 6, scheduled for the 19th November will be run for any boats who’d like to compete. Interested boats should check the PCC Racing WhatsApp group for details regarding lock times and forecast weather.

For those club members looking to come out for the winter, the Parish Wharf is filling up so if you’re planning to come out for maintenance etc. over the winter, please book your dates as soon as possible!

Laying Up Supper

As the temperature starts to drop and the days shorten, many club members are starting the process of lift out and wintering on the hard. As the Parish Wharf starts to fill-up and to celebrate the end of another busy sailing season, the club will be hosting its annual laying up supper at the clubhouse on 11th November 2023, starting at 20h00.

New this year will be an appearance from the Port of Bristol Shanty Crew for which there will be a collection in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. For food, the club is taking an ‘American Supper’ style approach – i.e. bring your own dish. However, to make sure we don’t end up with 20 plates of sausage rolls etc., please liaise with our Social Secretary’s Owen and Sushi Boyle who will co-ordinate everyone’s contribution.

Why not take this occasion to come to the clubhouse, discuss your wintering plans with fellow members and celebrate another fantastic season on the water? With club members cruising over to Ireland, sailing round Scotland, attempting the FastNet, the Round the Island race, the Shanghai Cup and our own racing series here in Portishead, there’s much to discuss over a drink or two from the well-stocked clubhouse bar.

If you can’t make the laying up supper, check out our other social events for the rest of 2023. Alternatively, if you’re considering joining the club, there’s no time like the present! Check out our membership page or contact our membership secretary, Dave Martin to learn more.

2023 Holms Race

This year’s Holms Race made for a spectacular sight as 40 boats from across the Bristol Channel took part in PCC’s annual flagship race. With the first leg being a downwind spinnaker run, some boats got caught out on timing as they made ground faster than usual meaning an arrival at Flat Holm before slack water.

Early arrivals at the Holms were greeted with wind and tide carrying them further down channel as they sought to round Steep Holm. Thanks to confused seas, this created some challenging moments for crews during the spinnaker drop.

The beat back heralded classic Bristol Channel conditions of wind over tide which created a lumpy sea. The calmer conditions that awaited after the finish line at Portishead Point provided some welcome respite as boats waited to lock back into Portishead Marina.

Congratulations to Barefoot from Cardiff Bay Yacht Club which took first overall.

With a second, fourth and ninth place, the Top Club trophy, the magnificent rose bowl, was won by Portishead Cruising Club. Full results can be found on the race page.

A huge thanks to everyone involved with making this years race a success. From our sponsors Advance Marine and Boatfolk to the entire PCC organising team. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year!

Lance Hemming Memorial

As Storm Antoni rolled out of town, club members set off up the river via sail, paddle, scull and any other means for a river cruise up the Avon in memory of former Commodore Lance Hemmings. After sailing up to the suspension bridge and back, the fleet went ashore to Pump Square for drinks and dancing to toast Lance’s memory.

2023 Fastnet Race

Billed as one of the the world’s toughest yacht races, the 50th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race stood up to its reputation. With forecast strong winds, competitors were tested before they’d got out of the Solent! Matt Bundell and crew aboard Assassin took on the conditions and after seeing 44 knots of apparent and 38 knots of true alongside 5m high waves, took the sensible option of seeking shelter in Portland at midnight on Saturday. By Sunday morning over 25% of the fleet had retired (a number that increased during the day), one boat had sunk in the Needles channel and several others suffered rigging failures or injuries.

On shore, the PCC members watching the fleet as it made its way through Hurst Narrows were treated to a spectacle of the leading trimaran (at that point Banque Populaire), the IMOCA fleet and then the various IRC classes, all battling to tame the conditions described by professional sailors as ‘brutal’.

If you missed the start, catch-up with the video below – and while in Portland, the local ITV news crew turned up giving Assassin and PCC crew member Ian Bloxham their five minutes of fame!

Planetsail reports on all the action from the start with a mix of on-water footage and interviews with the Pros. (YouTube)

Round the Island 2023

Testing conditions were faced by all boats competing in this year’s round the island race. A number of club members took part and experienced the thrill of a busy start-line and iconic dash down to The Needles on the first leg. Relive all the action with this video shot from Ventor spotted by Huw Gibby on YouTube.

Round the Island Yacht Race 2023 video (YouTube)