A local skipper has shared the secrets behind his six-time success in a race that sees participants get drunk, answer cryptic questions and sail across the Channel in a bid to win an engraved toilet seat.
Julian Barber is aiming for a record seventh win in ‘Rallye Hubert’ - an event that will put the members of St. Helier Yacht Club and their sailing, rowing, drinking and general knowledge skills to the test this Saturday.
Devised as a fun end-of-season event celebrating the club’s long-standing association with Granville, the pursuit race requires the crews to demonstrate their rowing prowess, to determine the answers to cryptic quiz questions, to have a good knowledge of the French port and, unusually for a yacht race, to be able to hold their drink.
‘Rallye Hubert’ starts from La Collette, with yachts setting off at different times according to their speed and the prevailing weather conditions to ensure they all arrive in Granville at the same time.
Pictured: 'Rallye Hubert' starts at La Collette.
Before setting sail, each yacht has to pick a crew member to down a tot of Calvados and then row a dinghy out to the waiting yacht. Only then can they set off for Granville, using the journey to work out the answers to a set of cryptic questions.
Once at the French port, the crews will be given details for a scavenger hunt that will take them from one bar to another, where they will have to answer yet more questions to receive a proof of their passage.
The first crew to reach the finish at Granville Yacht Club will be the winner of the “impressive” Rallye Hubert Trophy, an engraved toilet seat.
On the Sunday, hangovers permitting, the yachts race back to Jersey for the second part of the weekend’s events, a booze-free traditional race.
Pictured: The race finishes at Granville Yacht Club after a pub crawl through the town's pubs.
‘Rallye Hubert’ is named after the late Hubert Pichard - a member of a well-established Granville family, who ran a nautical bookshop – who partnered with the yacht club’s then Head of Sailing, Nobby Clarke, to set up the first event in 1980. The pair worked out the questions and arranged for various bars in the town to take part.
In the early days of the race, the ‘pub crawl’ would eventually lead to Hubert himself sitting snugly at the back of a bar.
Every year, he would arrange for local businesses to donate prizes with some interesting offerings. Over the years, whole chickens, a metre of sausages and, on one particularly memorable occasion, two pig ears and a tail have been given out.
The event is always a popular fixture for the members of St. Helier Yacht Club and has seen some regular winners, such as six-time winners Nobby Clarke and Julian Barber and four-time winner Kenny Renouard, since its inception.
Pictured: For the first part of 'Rallye Hubert', a crew member has to row out of the port after downing a tot of calvados.
After a few years of straying away from the original concept of Rallye Hubert, at the risk of it becoming a “normal race,” Julian Barber convinced the yacht club to bring the event back to its roots.
“We had a lot of normal races on the racing calendar,” Mr Barber explained. "We needed to do something different to attract different people, who might want to do a more enjoyable race instead of a more competitive entry.”
While the six-time winner refuses to give away all the secrets of his success, he confessed one of the essentials is having a crew that “enjoys calvados for breakfast” and at least one individual that can “row out to the boat outside the port".
Pictured: On the Sunday, the participants sail back to Jersey.
Being able to handle your drink is a major advantage in the Rallye as, once the crews reach Granville, they will be required to go around bars and have a drink in each of them, following the directed route. “It can be all sorts,” Mr Barber said. “There is generally a lot of surprises on the day.”
“You need a good knowledge of Granville… and a crew that can sail back to Jersey with a hangover on the Sunday!” Mr Barber said.
Despite the seemingly laid-back nature of the event, Mr Barber assured it is one that all participants take “very seriously”.
Around 50 people take part every year, with 15 boats racing across the Channel. “If the weather is nice, it’s a really nice day,” Mr Barber said.
This year, the skipper will be going to break records with his seventh win. “Sailing is always fun,” Mr Barber said. “But [Rallye Hubert] adds an extra fun bit on top of that.”
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