Alderney Race

HappyHunter

Member
Joined
3 Mar 2002
Messages
58
Visit site
I'm planning a trip to Guernsey (once it warms up) with wife and 2 young kids in 30 foot bilge keeper. Pilot books etc give lots of warnings about roughness of the race, esp with wind over tide, but heading south into the prevailing wind it looks to me as though its inevitable.

There were some very helpful and informative posts in a thread about rounding Portland Bill a week or so ago , and I just wonder if anyone who's experienced the Alderney Race would be kind enough to give me some advice.
 

bedouin

Well-known member
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
32,212
Visit site
You never need to go through the race - going past Casquets is always an option - it doesn't add much to the journey (if anything) and is much easier to plan
 

tony_brighton

New member
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
804
Visit site
Going Southbound you could call in at Alderney and then go down the Swinge (or is it the Little Russel? - cant remember) at the right state of the tide. Might help to avoid the wind over tide situation.

The race can be genuine fun - its probably the fastest you will ever have sailed (10kts+ over the ground v.achievable)! If you can plan to be on neaps rather than springs it would help. The overfalls are marked on the chart - you can avoid most of the nastiest stuff. Even wind with tide can be lumpy, but it only lasts for an hour or so.

Pick the right day/forecast, do a proper passage plan and have fun.
 

Chris_Stannard

New member
Joined
11 Jan 2002
Messages
602
Location
Cowes. Isle of Wight
Visit site
Been through the race many times and do not remember ever having a particular problem, though it can be lumpy. My boat is a 36 footer so this might make a difference.
Don't know where you are starting from but if from the Solent I would suggest you stop over night at Yarmouth, and then at Alderney. In a 30 footer you will not average much more than 5 knots, and so Yarmouth or Poole to Alderney is 12 hours oy more, and that means you would almost certainly be trying to get into Guernsey in the dark. If it is your first time this is not to be recommended. I guess you do not want to put SWMBO off.
Going down the Swinge can be very exciting, a friend of mine came out backwards, and the Ortac channel can be very scary with whirlpools.
Best advice, if you stop at Alderney is to use the last of the flood to get out to the race,you will then have slack water off Alderney and then have the tide behind you to St Peter Port. You can also use the Swinge at this time, and that is shorter. This does mean that you will have to wait if you want to go into the inner harbour in St Peter Port but that is almost inevitable. Do not be frightened of the Little Russell, the channel and marks are very clear in good visibility.
Enjoy your trip

Chris Stannard
 
G

Guest

Guest
If you would like some practice before you explore the Alderney Race then come and join us in the Bristol Channel. 10 + Knots over the ground is the norm especially in the upper reaches around and above the islands of Steepholm and Flatholm.Think of the benifits in terms of distance you can cover as long as the tide is with you.It amazes me that sailors from outside our area are so in awe of fast moving waters and a high tidal range,although obviously you have to treat it with respect and be well prepared. Personally I have a high regard for the East Coast sailors who navigate the waters of the Thames Estuary and have to get their sums right because they are very often looking at just enough depth of water to cross the shallows.
 

LadyInBed

Well-known member
Joined
2 Sep 2001
Messages
15,227
Location
Me - Zumerzet Boat - Wareham
montymariner.co.uk
You don’t say where you are coming from
if it's the Solent area then I suggest you stop off at Cherbourg first as it makes timing the journey easier.
As with Portland Bill, Slack Water around Alderney coincides with HW/LW DOVER (HWD LWD)
If start is Poole or West there of, then go West of Casquets.
Aim to be at Casquets at HW Dover to get the start of the Southerly current. (12hrs to Casquets from Portland)

Unfortunately, if you want to do a leisurely day passage, it will have to be around Spring tides, as HW Dover is always around midday at Springs.
On Neaps you are in for a very early or late start.
Coming home Neaps give the most favourable start times in relation to current direction.

From Cherbourg - (Local High Water = HW Dover -3:17)
(it takes 45mins to get from visitors pontoon to Grand Rade W entrance)
Leave Visitors pontoon HWD -3:30 to arrive at Cap de la Hague HWD -0:30 (slack water)
to - Cap de la Hague 3hrs
to - Alderney 5hrs
to - St Peter Port 8hrs When you get South of Alderney, to get down the Little Russel, make as much West as possible, because by the time you get there the current will be going East like a train.

From Alderney - (Local High Water = HWD -4:10)
to - Guernsey (via Swinge) 3hrs 30mins Leave Visitors mooring HWD +5:00
to - Cherbourg 5hrs Leave Visitors mooring HWD +5:00

From St Peter Port - (Local High Water = HWD -4:50)
Sill - Opens HWD +5:00
Sill - Closes HWD -1:00
to - Alderney (via Swinge) 3hrs 30mins (Leave Marina HWD -4:00)
to - Weymouth W of Casquets 14hrs (Leave when sill opens HWD +5:00)
to - Cherbourg 8hrs (Leave when sill opens HWD +5:00)

Note: All passage times are of course approximate (based on 5 knots through the water).
 

Chris_Stannard

New member
Joined
11 Jan 2002
Messages
602
Location
Cowes. Isle of Wight
Visit site
Re: Alderney Race -

Although I do not disagree with going West of the Casquets if you are sailing from Poole, Poole to St Peter Port is around 80 miles or 14 hours, more with the wind against. If your wife is competent you may decide that this is feasible. I sail with my wife all of the time and our rules are:
1 Don't plan for more than 12 hours it can easily get stretched by adverse winds
2 Do not go if the forecast is more than 5
3 Don't plan for night arrivals.
An illustration of how things go wrong is last year I was in Alderney planning to stop overnight in Guernsey and then go on to Paimpol where I have been many times before. My wife and a grown up daughter, who does not sail and I therefore do not count as crew, were with me. We got down off Guernsey in the middle of a bright sunny day and I was persuaded to change my plan to go on to Paimpol without a stop, although this meant arriving about dusk.
The wind turned against us and got up to 6 with gusts of over 30 knots and it was raining hard. By the time we got to Paimpol it was dark, and the rain was in our faces. Being tired I made an error, I read the time of low water as the time of high water, and went aground trying to get into the harbour which is only open about three hours either side of high water. Luckily we got off and then anchored for the night. Silly me for ignoring my own rules in the face of feminine pressure.

If you start from the Solent then Cherbourg is a good stopping off point, as there are lots of berths and you can then work the tides to get all the way to St Peter Port on a favourable tide. This does mean going through the race when it is active.
When the wind is SW to W it gets lumpy off Cap de la Hogue so you should stand out a bit and not stay in to close too the beacons.
When planning your passage, whether you go to Cherbourg or Alderney it is important to remember the old racing rule, never arrive downtide of the mark. For Cherbourg this can mean a long flog against the tide, for Alderney you can miss it altogether at springs. The other tip I have is to work out the tides all of the way across and make one correction. Then monitor your progress at about two hour intervals and correct early if you need to. The tidal currents do not always run as shown in the almanack, they can be early or late, stronger or weaker so it is important to stay on top of it.
Apologies if this is teaching granny to suck eggs and once again enjoy your trip.

Chris Stannard
 

Robin

Well-known member
Joined
30 May 2001
Messages
18,062
Location
high and dry on north island
Visit site
Going south it is reasonably easy to time arrival at the race for slack water (about 40mins before HW Dover. If you leave from Cherbourg leave at local HW about 3hrs before HWD, there is an inshore eddy going west (stay quite close in) to Cap De La Hague, mostly the eddy seems to give little tide with or against (except when going the other way late on tide when the west going tide eddy can really get going! At slack water springs or neaps the race is no problem, there may be a short lumpy patch just before Cap De La Hague where the eddy meets the main tide. Do not turn south west for Guernsey too soon, better to go 2/3rds of the way to Alderney first, that will actually be quicker as the tide will now be directly with you and it avoids being taken too far east by the cross tide north of Little Russel entrance. Little Russel is very well marked and lit and is easy enough at night, set yourself some 'safe' waypoints with clear track lines between them and stay on the track line irrespective of the compass heading!

Coming back north is more of a problem, with a bilge keeler leave St Peter Port marina as soon as you can get out over the sill, this gives you 6 hours of favourable tide, enough to make Cherbourg as long as you stay offshore going due east along the top (to avoid the back eddy inshore), do not head for Cherbourg entrance until past Basse Brefort buoy off Omonville, you will probably then need to point well west of the entance to compensate for the tide. You will probably go through the race at its strongest, pointing straight at Cap De La Hague whilst actually going NE and very fast over the ground (our record is 18kts whilst doing 6 ourselves, biggest tide of the year!). With wind and tide together the race will be spookily flat with loads of swirls, NE winds are definitely unpleasant and if possible avoid above F4, if not when you get to the lumpy bits let the tide do most of the work and go just fast enough to keep steerage, you will probably do this anyway as the slop shakes all the wind out of the sails!

Alderney is a possible stopover going north especially, (not recommended in a NE wind) you can use the Swinge or the race, the Swinge can also be very lumpy and watch the track again as there are fast cross tides.

From the Solent or Poole (we are Poole based) going outside the Casquets is not a favourable option in my opinion although we have used the Swinge route south once when we arrived west of our ideal spot (pre Decca/GPS!), from Weymouth or west the outside route would be preferred. It is quite feasible to do St Peter Port or back without stoppovers (we often do) but just a tad more difficult to get the timing spot on.

This all sounds a lot worse than it is usually in practice, get the timings right and avoid wind against tide and you will wonder what all the fuss is about!
 

vyv_cox

Well-known member
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
25,309
Location
France, sailing Aegean Sea.
coxeng.co.uk
There are anchorages to north and south of Cap de la Hague. I have not used the northern one but we anchored in the southern one for a few hours two years ago, waiting for the flood. Good holding and sheltered from about NW to S through E.
 
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
4,187
Visit site
This is the best advice....

and that given by others equally useful. Chris has obviously (like me) done it more times than he cares to remember!

If sailing, Braye Harbour Alderney will look too tempting to ignore AND unless you have motorsailed from dawn, carrying on past ALD will have you arriving at night in the Little Russel which can be scarry twentieth time let alone first!

No, stop off at Alderney and leave at slack low water next day down the Swinge. You will be overflown by Puffins from Burhou and have a pleasant run. The only waves of any significance will be at the bottom of the Swinge as the flood builds but with good timing this will be of only a half hour's duration under sail or ten minutes if motoring - couild even be just two four foot waves then comparative calm. Watch out for an isolated danger called Pierre Au Vraic. It can be dangerous at LWS. Sometimes you can see it if you pass close in calm weather just below the surface although in 30 years I have only seen it twice!

Platte Fougere to the north of GU can be a bit rough and going through that at the end of an sixteen hour crossing can put you off your pint in the RCIYC bar - yet another reason for breaking the trip in Ald. When you get to St Peter Port be sure (if you like Italian) to try Da Nello's.

Steve CRonin
 

Paulka

New member
Joined
13 Sep 2002
Messages
325
Location
Palma de Mallorca
Visit site
You have got many many good advices, I have no more to add to them. I just want to note that I passed the race the first time in very similar conditions as yours are right now, .... and had a lot of fun! And reoffended as often as I could. My boat was then moored at le Havre, and I used to stop either at Cherbourg, or Omonville, or Alderney. The nicest place to my taste being then (1975 - 1982) Alderney.
I am now based in the Med, and miss places like the races of the channel.

Go ahead, and enjoy.

Paul
 

Grehan

Well-known member
Joined
11 Jun 2001
Messages
3,731
Location
Inland France + Oxon.
www.french-waterways.com
Brilliant!!

Possibly even more than the Portland Bill thread that sparked it, this one about Alderney etc is a fine example of how yotties can help one another, generously, and with clear good advice.

It's also a fine example of forums at their best.

And it is also the positive mirror image of the petty, negative, small-minded, patronising, vindictive and wholly suburban attitude shown by Crest Nicholson at Penarth, towards that liveaboard family . . . [see Humperdinck's thread "Next time it could be your boat!" from a few days ago]
 

HappyHunter

Member
Joined
3 Mar 2002
Messages
58
Visit site
Thanks to all

A warm thank you to all contributors. I shall print out the thread and keep it in the chart table in case of the unexpected.

I had rather written off the Swinge idea as the things I'd read (probably incompletely) seemed to suggest a nest of vipers even worse than the Alderney Race.

I'm based in Portsmouth, so will probably take the Portsmouth -Cherbourg then Cherbourg - Guernsey option, but its nice to know what options are open for the return journey if something nasty happens.

I share the view of the last contributor as to how helpful yotties can be - I had a nasty experience with a fouled prop last weekend, and within 48 hours had had half a dozen replies with real practical advice and reassurance in answer to my plea for help on the PBO forum (now page 2 of that forum if you're interested, such is the incidence of new posts) I shall certainly offer any practical help that I can to future threads.
 
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
4,187
Visit site
reprint.....

If sailing, Braye Harbour Alderney will look too tempting to ignore AND unless you have motorsailed from dawn, carrying on past ALD will have you arriving at night in the Little Russel which can be scarry twentieth time let alone first!

No, stop off at Alderney and leave at slack high water next day down the Swinge. You will be overflown by Puffins from Burhou and have a pleasant run. The only waves of any significance will be at the bottom of the Swinge as the ebb builds but with good timing this will be of only a half hour's duration under sail or ten minutes if motoring - couild even be just two four foot waves then comparative calm. Watch out for an isolated danger called Pierre Au Vraic. It can be dangerous at LWS. Sometimes you can see it if you pass close in calm weather just below the surface although in 30 years I have only seen it twice!

Platte Fougere to the north of GU can be a bit rough and going through that at the end of an sixteen hour crossing can put you off your pint in the RCIYC bar - yet another reason for breaking the trip in Ald. When you get to St Peter Port be sure (if you like Italian) to try Da Nello's.

Steve CRonin
 

johndf

New member
Joined
16 May 2001
Messages
162
Visit site
Flat race

I've made three trips through the race, as it happens all in light winds. I've taken the advice to enter the race on the first of the favourable tide and on each occasion the sea has been flat.

My most recent passage last summer was from Cherbourg on a day with a very long and large swell and a force 3 (just)varying from NW to NE. The race was like a millpond, with hardly any sign of the swell. However, before reaching the race, there was a very unpleasant sea in the race along the coast East of Cap de la Hague. The tide was ripping along at 4 knots into this swell and the light NW wind. This was enough to kick up some surprisingly lively overfalls. I'd not like to try it in a force 6! Once through the race, we kept well clear of Banc de la Schole, where some very large breakers could be seen from a couple of miles away, caused by the swell on the shallows.
 
Joined
27 May 2002
Messages
11,174
Visit site
Re: Thanks to all

Point 1

You have indeed received lots of good advice in this thread but I think the issue of visibility should be higher up the skipper's planning agenda. Hurtling blind through the Channel Islands on a spring tide current in light winds is not nice. (I speak from sailing in pre SatNav/GPS days.)

Point 2

If you lack confidence in your engine it is easy to get swept past Bray when the harbour is your southbound destination. This happened to me once when single handing from Poole without a proper engine, I was sucked SW through the Race but then took advantage of an early NE counter current that starts along the south shore of Alderney. I just made it before dark into an idyllic anchorage called Longy (sp?) Bay in the NE corner of Alderney.

Point 3

Returning home from the Channel Islands is simpler, with correct timing of the tide at St Peter Port it should be a pleasant 18 hour yomp back to England in average westerly winds.
 
G

Guest

Guest
Re: This is the best advice....

...but book Da Nello's in advance. Even on a Monday night in March, they have been full. It is worth it.

Richard.
 
Top