Many boats are kept in the Solent and rarely leave this sheltered cruising area. The RYA Sail Cruise is designed to help people who have undertaken a few coastal passages but are nervous about going out of sight of land and crossing the channel for the first time. The RYA plans the route, books the berthing and puts together social activities along the way allowing the participants to focus on the navigation and the sailing. Each year the RYA takes 19 boats across the channel and helps 19 skippers and many more crew extend their cruising ground and increase their confidence.
The route is Gosport, Cherbourg, Guernsey, Alderney and home. The aim is to help first timers across, and it is designed as a formal cruise in company. In the planning stage feasible dates are considered to take into account tides, passage times and any restrictions. The date is set, and it is usual to get everyone across in daylight so a 4am start in June is the usual option. Reservations for both berthing and functions are made and the RYA advertise, send out fliers, manage expectations and collect booking forms with essential info.
They assess the applications for suitability, as there may be boats that are too small or too large, send out newsletters and cruise notes for those who are accepted and booked on.
On the cruise, marginal weather decisions can be the hardest. The RYA stick to the route and itinerary if it is safe to do so but always consider people’s time constraints as most have to get home on the stated day.
It is important to create a fleet that can cruise in company and a fleet of manageable size. Cruising speed should be discussed, and different speeds can be catered for, but the slower boats may need to leave early or arrive late. There are no reasons why there are not a mix of motor and sail, you just need to plan accordingly – agreed groups & departure times.