The fleet left St. Peter Port this morning, bound for Gosport. Dave Pugh interviews the crew of 'Picaro'.

The RYA fleet left St. Peter Port this morning in light westerly winds, bound for Gosport. Of the ten boats which originally formed the flotilla, six are making the return journey to England, while the others extend their holiday in Normandy and the Channel Islands. The voyage is expected to take about 18 hours, and all the crews are hoping for a freshening wind to give the fleet a long fetch back to the UK.

The cruise officially finished last night, with the a ‘vin d’honneur’ wine tasting held at the Guernsey Yacht Club. Guernsey Tourist Board’s Peter Perriot welcomed us to the islands, and the fleet were given an opportunity to extend their thanks to Carol and John for their hard work during the week. Just before leaving for the event, I carried out my last interview for the cruise, on board Chris and Cathy Rayner’s fin-keeled Hunter Pilot 27, ‘Picaro’.

‘Picaro’ is the smallest boat on the cruise, and is the third of a series of Hunters owned by the Rayners. Chris and Cathy, both 56, began their sailing thirty years ago in a hire dinghy on the Serpentine, buying their first yacht, a Hunter 490, in 1974 at the Southampton Boat Show. They sold the 490 when their children were growing up, sailing Mirror and Fireball dinghies before until entering the ‘yachtie’ world again in 1990, when Chris built a Hunter Sonata from a kit. They bought ‘Picaro’ in 2003, and the larger boat has opened the way to longer-distance cruising for the couple. This is their first Channel crossing, and they plan to stay in the area for a few more days, making the most of the weather and visiting the area more extensively.

On a final, happy note, ‘Suzie Too’ rejoined the fleet in port yesterday, owner David Chappell having successfully cleared the water from the engine’s cylinders and got her started again. They will not be returning with the fleet today, as they understandably feel that they have missed a day of their holiday! Log on tomorrow for a final report on the cruise, in which I hope to report the safe arrival of the fleet, combined with Carol and John’s reactions to the week’s events.