Apologies for very tardy blogging, it has been quite an eventful race so far!
Best start with a quick summery of our race so far I suppose.
The start was keenly contested, the inshore end of the line was advantageous, especially as the big boys picked the outer end. We had the two X yachts GodSpeed and Optim’x for company. Peter who owns Godspeed has been a friend since last ARC and I was surprised but quietly impressed that he engaged us pre start stopping us gybing back to the line (totally within the rules) to time his start very well leaving us to follow him, to a 20 second deficit, not much in ocean racing, but certainly put us in our place!
The x 40 Optim’x had a nice looking full size jib, we had opted to reduce our rating and go with a smaller heavy weather jib as our biggest headsail, and it showed in speed in the light jib reaching. Fortunately we had brought the code 0 (very tight reaching spinnaker) so were able to deploy that, and stop them disappearing, but it was clear they were fast. Optim'x competed in the ARC 2011 and were runners up to us on Scarlet Oyster in class, so we knew they would be a boat to reckon on.
As we bore away round the island spinnakers started to appear, the first being Godspeed, they sailed tight along the shore, shortest route and as the wind tends to bend around the island they were tactically protecting the making side of the course, we were a little more conservative, opting to ensure we had some run off to drop the kite if conditions changed. As we only had 12kn or so wind the acceleration zone was likely to be a bonus, Godspeed again taking advantage.
Soon it was just the two of us with a fair lead of 2 miles to the rest. Having a boat inside you as you approach the wind shadow is a good thing, and Godspeed did us a great service in demonstrating where it started, enabling us to gybe out before we parked up too. Our plan was to stay out the worst of the Gran Canaria shadow, and try and sail as clear as possible of Tenerife, so we were very pleased to stay clear. The wind bend made the port gybe a nice fast angle so happy days.
As it got dark, we crossed paths with the Southern Star, a 78’ racer from div A so clearly the plan was working! Lady luck was looking after us as we sailed through the various islands without any significant go slows (that may be a first for me!)
The next hurdle was the 1st of two low pressures, we picked a conservative approach to the first and were pleased to have a nice quick wind shift (albeit with some rather impressive rain and lightning). The second much larger low had gale force winds promised further N, which were to be on the nose for anyone in that region, so again we sailed in from quite a Southerly position, enabling us to stay in wind, but hopefully stay in sub 30knots of wind. a quick escape to the South should things deteriorate looked an option too.
As the low approached the wind went into the SSW, this locks you in to a port tack approach as tacking would sail you back to the E of South, the wind was slightly more than expected, but the cloud had a big impact on this, they front as it approached was very active with biblical rain and serious amounts of the flashy stuff, it was with some relief when it passed, leaving for a time clearer skies and only 10knots of wind. Round 2 came with a vengence tho… A second reef was taken but still we felt pretty pressed, just thankful that we had not ventured more to the North. Daylight was very welcome, but still the wind persisted in the 30’s gusting as high as early 40’s, we noticed some of the batten cars had come adrift from the mast so decided to lower the main to sort them out, the small jib by itself seemed fine. As the wind dropped a bit it was rehoused again to second reef. The forecast was now suggesting more wind to come, and with heavy slamming and wanting to ensure no sail damage to our only jib for the race, we elected to hoist the storm jib. Normally this results in an immediate drop in wind forcing another hasty change up, but this time it was the right call as the wind and sea stayed pretty big for the night. The less powered up approach seemed appropriate for what is a long race, mid atlantic is no place to be testing boats and crew to their utter limit.
The tracker revealed that the effects of the gale had been very much felt by the rest of the fleet with yachts trying to escape the punishment at all sorts of angles, our conservative approach gave us more than we bargained for windwise so I can imagine those to the North were really taking a battering.
I am pleased to report we managed to get through this testing 36hrs with only a broken reefing line and no injuries at all. We still have yet to hear from other boats, but so far no news is perhaps good news. The crew on Optim’x decided to head back to the canaries, I hope all is well with them, they were putting on a great race, and very sorry we will not see them in St Lucia.
The next phase of the race was to regroup and rest while close reaching to the S, with a slowly but surely a-baiting wind and sea, I felt we had seen enough upwind sailing so we opted to go for the sun instead. This was slightly complicated by the presence of a big wind hole stretching almost to the Cape Verdes, instead of putting full trust in the forecast we aimed to sail through the eastern end, knowing that the forecast may change, giving away distance to the finish unless you have too is a bitter pill to swallow.
As it turns out we have been cutting it a bit fine, and have had to sail a bit East of South to stay in any wind, 1200 yesterday to 1200 today we made only 1 mile towards the finish line! We have got a fair bit South now and are hopeful we will sail on to trade winds soon!
It will be interesting to see if the Pogo 36 Shah, who sailed more to the East and are now further S will be able to close up the distance they sacrificed, as I type our nice 5-6knots of wind has vanished, not a good sign! Best help out on deck with keeping the boat moving… Fingers crossed the wind reestablishes soon. Will be an interesting race now, in hopefully proper ARC conditions!
Best go now, I’ll get someone else to write a more interesting blog next!