As we expected the wind has been too strong to even contemplate the crossing. We have taken advice from some of the countries top paddlers and they all say the same thing – Force 1 is OK, Force 2 will be challenging with a potential to fail.
This is a summary from a crossing that was attempted this Wednesday – it is of note that as we are attempting a southern crossing as opposed to a Northern one it makes life much more difficult. As the wind is generally a Southern wind, if you were heading from France area to England you would get a following sea which is easier than what we will probably get which will more than likely be a headwind…….
Here is their honest and detailed report to put things into perspective about what a true challenge this will be:
Below is a summary of the conditions we experienced during our first attempt. Some photos of the initial stages will be added soon.
During the morning of the 4th June, the team continued to prepare their canoes and the support boat for the crossing. During this time the weather conditions were of great concern, as they were forecast to be worsening, with winds of up to 25knots until 5pm, they were then due to improve during the subsequent 36hrs. Looking further ahead, the conditions during Friday and Saturday were forecast to deteriorate. Also of consideration were the tidal features around Portland at the different stages of the tide and the exclusion zone around Normandy on Friday, which was to be imposed from 0700 to 2100hrs.
It was decided to launch as planned and endure the poor conditions for the first 3-4 hours and then continue on, into improving conditions for the remainder of the crossing.
At 2pm sharp, we were seen off from Portland Marina by a crowd of supporters and well wishers. As could be seen from the Marina, the conditions across the harbour were quite choppy but quite easy to tolerate and once we exited the harbour they initially became a little easier.
The distance from the harbour gate out to Waypoint 1 was 10.2km, this leg was fine and although the wind was over 20 knots, we felt confident that the conditions were tolerable, with only a meter of swell.
As we approached Waypoint 1 the conditions were changeable, with rain and thunderstorms coming in from the west, but with clear skies elsewhere. We were now away from Waypoint 1 and heading towards Waypoint 2 which is just north of the shipping lanes.
It was during this leg that the wind, waves and swell all became more challenging and it was clear it was going to be difficult for the support boat to administer us when required, if the conditions didn’t improve.
After about 4 hours the conditions were not showing any signs of improving, indeed as we headed further out beyond the relative shelter of Portland Island the conditions became even more challenging. During the next hour we were dealing with over 6 meter waves coming in from our starboard side, with some of the tops breaking over the canoes. During this period it was decided to put at least one canoe on to the support boat. This proved to be extremely difficult because of the wind and height of the waves, so once the first canoe was secured on board it was decided to recover all crews on to the support boat; because if the conditions got any worse it would be even more difficult to affect a recovery.
It was during the recovery of the remaining 2 crews that we lost the two canoes. Although we recovered the first crew, their canoe was now upside down alongside the support boat. Many attempts were made to secure the canoe and get it on board the support boat, but with the third crew now capsized and in the water 100 meters away, the priority was to recover them.
Although the third crew were in the water they remained with their canoe, which having capsized was now full of water. The priority was to get the crew on board and in to some dry clothes, this was done relatively quickly but again the recovery of their canoe proved to be extremely difficult. After several attempts a line was attached to the towing point and it was hoped that the canoe would be recovered, but with the canoe full of water and conditions continuing to worsen the line eventually broke and any further attempts to recover the canoe were abandoned. Due to the relentless and worsening conditions the only solution at this stage was to head back to Portland.
Whilst we are extremely disappointed that we were not able get across to join in with the commemorations at Arromanches, we are planning to launch a further attempt before the end of this year; once we have determined the date, we will post it on our website.
I hope they get to finish their trip as it must be very disappointing – at least no-one was hurt.
It just goes to show that it takes a lot of courage to make the call not to go……