Severn Bridge Race
The Severn Bridge race is a staggered start so plan your start time to be at the turning mark as the tide changes. Except it is not that easy!
This race is the most exposed race we have in our calendar, so plan your sail before you leave the shore. Check the weather in the coming days as well as on the day itself. If the weather is good it is a great sail in waters we don’t usually sail in. Rain and wind can make the sail more difficult for all sailors. Ensure you are prepared regarding equipment and clothing. Protect yourself if the weather changes.
It is advisable to take flares and VHF radio with you in case you need to make contact or issue a signal.
Always be aware of other boats around you for safety, and so you can note the conditions they are sailing in. They might be better or worse in terms of wind and tide.
It is often advisable to stick close to other boats, whilst keeping an eye out for others.
To make the best of the incoming tide, position your boat in the fastest tidal flow with the best wind, approximately on a transit from Avonmouth Docks to the centre of the Severn Bridge. This is the deep water channel and where you want to be when sailing in the same direction of the tidal flow.
Keep an eye on the wind. Is it increasing, decreasing or remaining the same?
Be aware that you may not be able to sail a straight line to the mark and what may start off as one sailing angle may change considerably the closer you get to the mark.
Keep an eye on the time; a Fireball will take at least 50 minutes to reach the bridge in a Force 3.
The ‘what if’s’ - Too late
If the tide changes before you reach the turning mark, you’re late but all is not lost – you will not be the only one! Position yourself towards the east (English) shore, working your way up this side and past where you would head out for the mark to gain relief from the tide. Don’t be too eager, stay in the slack tide for as much as possible.
The ‘what if’s’ - Too early
If you get to the turning mark more than 20 minutes early then head for tide relief on the west (Welsh) shore – the relief area is larger, you will need it as you will be in it for longer.
If you get to the turning mark within 20 minutes head for tide relief on the east (English) shore as when the tide turns it will be easier to position yourself for the return leg.
When the tide floods then position your boat on the same transit from the bridge centre and Avonmouth Docks again staying in the deeper water channel.
When close to Avonmouth and Portbury Docks, be aware of shipping movements out of the Port.
Make sure the tide does not sweep you past the finish mark! There’s no easy way back if you do! Sail into the bay before mark 4 to give you the best chance of avoiding this calamity.
(Updated on 31/05/2018)