Extended boat test can put more than the boat under the spotlight


Extended boat tests are always a ‘good idea’ but it is not always only the boat that gets tested.

I was invited to join the delivery crew taking an Ovni 435 back from the Southamtpon Boat Show to its home port in Guernsey. Excellent idea, I thought. The trip was twice postponed because of forecast gales (remember the tornados in Luton) but we finally departed three days after the show closed with a forecast of northwest veering north or northeast 5-7 perhaps 8 later. We passed the Needles at 1330 in perfect conditions (see above)bound for Cherbourg with no more than 13 to 18 knots from dead aft. We set full sail with the genny poled out wing and wing. By half way the wind was up to 22 to 26 knots and we had a reef in the main. Soon it was blowing over 28 knots and we had two reefs and a few rolls. Two hours out of Cherbourg we had a full gale and were running under deeply reefed genny only.

We passed the outer breakwater at 2115 and then had the problem of stopping. Even with all canvas off her we were doing 5.5 knots. The inner harbour lights passed in a blur with the engine ticking over astern. Then ahead was the entrance to the Chantereyne marina. In the pitch dark I felt I had limited control and there is very little room to turn a 43 footed inside trhe marina, especially as I was unsure of the handling of the Ovni with her lifting keel and three blade prop.

The 35 to 38 knots wind was at blowing 45 degrees across the pontoon we were aiming for. I aborted our first attempt. On the second Charlie got ashore but the bows were blow off before he could get a turn on – crew ashore, rope in the water, one man on board – not good. Third pass: got a rope to Charlie and scambled onto the pontoon with a stern line both secure no more problems – but… For some reason the bow line came free. I managed to get aboard but we were now streaming off the pontoon by the sternline. Fortunately a bit of judicious engine, a lot of prop-walk and some beefing hauling had us re-moored in the reverse direction – and the full benefit of forced ventilation down the main hatch for the night.

The next day the wind had subsided to Force 6 gusting 7 and we had a great close reach along the coast to Cap de la Hague where the seas were mountainous. But as we turned into the Alderney race the tide turned and we had a flat water romp down to the Little Russell.

It was a challenging examination of boat and crew. A full report on the results will apear in YM shortly.