NEWS 27th Jun 2011

Cowes to Cherbourg - an 85 Mile Challenge - Weather Permitting

Jon Burgess & Crew - flying the flag!
Jon Burgess & Crew - flying the flag!
Cruel blow, but little wind

Saturday the 3rd September was scheduled for the latest attempt to take on the challenge of sailing a 22' dinghy from Cowes to Cherbourg to raise money for the Sail 4 Cancer charity. The team consisting of 12 members had rescheduled their weekend to support one another and the charity. The first problem was to locate another vehicle as the one previously put forward from the organisation itself, was being used that weekend, but that's a mere drop in the Ocean for this team and an alternative was sourced and green for go.

The team leader Jon Burgess, who's idea this has been throughout, constantly looked at different weather models, having to postpone the challenge in June was so disappointing. Lows appeared in the Atlantic but they soon filled and collapsed, then highs replaced them, meaning more stable weather but at what cost? Now, would there be enough wind?

Cowes to Cherbourg, taking into account boat manoeuvres, is around 85nm. A 22' dinghy is mere driftwood as far as the shipping in the Channel is concerned; shipping may not spot the boat until it is too late. Radar would go over the top of the little boat in a big sea, and the boat a sitting duck if unable to move.

0700 was the due start time Saturday morning - not enough time to find out from colleagues who were racing the night before as to how the breeze fared in the channel. However none of this mattered. Each member of this team is crucial to the success of the challenge and the worsening of an illness of a family member for the driver of the land team meant that he could not be expected to assist and a new challenge was bestowed. Despite contacting as many people as possible, towing is not for the faint hearted and towing Jon's boat is something completely different! Jon had entrusted this task to his good friend whose job it is to move the nation's national treasures around Europe in his lorry. So if boots were to be filled, they had to match Jim's - not an easy task.

No decision is taken lightly and to postpone the event yet again is never an easy call to make. The weather still was still a concern as it was difficult to see where the wind was going to come from. On Thursday, with two issues still unresolved, Jon put the challenge on hold. That painful e-mail went out to all concerned: the team members, the Maritime Coast Guard Agency and the Queens Assistant Harbour Master at Southampton.

Jon says, "We are a team and as such we will rally behind Jim if required, but we're there for him. With the weather likely to worsen the challenge will be rescheduled for next year, so do please keep an eye on this page. We now have 6 months in which to go national with coverage & sponsorship so may be out of the fire a phoenix will rise."

Jon's racing buddies having set off at 1900 on Friday night got to with 25 nm of Cherbourg before the wind failed on them, they decided after searching for any available breeze, to turn on the engine and head back to England.

Jon hopes that over the Christmas period, his team doesn't put on weight as he's told them he's not ordering any more team shirts!

Jon Burgess confesses to be a man who likes a challenge! Having spent 15 years in a rally car - and having built 3 of them himself - he took up sailing in 2004. He has already achieved the qualification of Commercially Endorsed Offshore Yachtmaster and completed the Fastnet Race in 2009. Plus he's notched up an impressive 3,600nm sailing, mostly in the English Channel, though he does admit to enjoying some more relaxed (and probably warmer) sailing abroad with his sons and with friends.

Crew List
  • Jon Burgess
  • Barry Atkinson
  • Sam Burgess

Jon bought SB3 'Serene Affair' with a view to doing some racing, but found other things got in the way. However as he is shortly to turn 50, Jon feels it is now high time to push the both of them, so he dreamed up a new challenge for himself and his SB3. The plan was that on 18th June 2011 he and Serene Affair, plus crew, would set sail from Cowes to Cherbourg, a journey of 85 nautical miles and in doing so, raise funds for Sail 4 Cancer as an added impetus to achieve their goal. See the box above for the revised date for the challenge.

Serene Affair with Jon & Sam
Weather conditions, strong tides and heavy sea traffic are some of the factors that Jon will have to contend with. He will have a support vessel skippered by friend and colleague Martin Hills, and has already submitted a proposal/risk assessment document to the relevant authorities, but on the day itself the success of the challenge will be down to the skill and judgement of Jon and his crew.

Special thanks to:


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Read Jon's blog on the challenge here

To sponsor Jon and his crew and give them your message of support and encouragement, please complete the online donation form below.

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Sorry this campaign (CowestoCherbourg) is now closed
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Donors & messages of support


+ £2.50
Gift Aid
Good Luck Barry :)
From Mrs R Halliday

Well, what can I say, try not to be overboard too much..:)
From Mr T Balazs

Good Luck to you all!
From Mrs K Bruce

Good luck Jon==hope to see you in Cherbourg Fastnet Team
From PJackson

Hope "the high seas" aren't quite as high this time! Best of luck. Janet
From Janet Tomlinson

Good Luck guys - Hope all goes well.
From R J Franks


+ £5.00
Gift Aid
I'd check the weather forcast b4 heading out guys, it could be a wet one. Good luck and best wishes.
From Victor Johnson

Wishing you every success in this venture. Angela King
From Anon

To wish you the very best of luck in your quest. Christine Scaife
From Anon

Go Jon - see you in Cherbourg! In memory of Don, who wouldn't sail if you paid him. Damian
From Damian Clarke

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