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Scarlet Island Girl - Island Girl Blog

Hi and welcome to this electronic message-in-a-bottle cast into ether by the Island Girl. Not a real girl you understand, but the Dufour 45 sailing yacht 'Scarlet Island Girl’.

We're into day 11 of The ARC, a transatlantic race for cruising yachts and it seems like a good time to check-in.

It’s been a fascinating race, like a game of chess, where all the pieces need wind to move them, played out in flat calms and howling gales.

Early in the race the weather went downhill-in-a-handcart, and the racing fleet scattered to find their best options. While the majority of the boats ran South and East, Island Girl decided she would make best passage by taking some short-term pain and punching thorough to better conditions as quickly as possible. The ensuing adventure saw us creep under progressively darker and darker skies and then dealing with choppy seas, winds of 48 knots and torrential rain for a day and two nights. Storm Jib raised and main lowered, we pressed on. Surely this was not the downwind-spinnaker-run-to-the-sun we’d all signed up for? Granted, it hadn’t started well, when I lost my sunglasses overboard before we’d even crossed the start line, but this was now bad on completely different scale. Island Girl stuck to the task and after hours of slamming pitching and rolling, saw us through into calmer waters. Much calmer. Much, much calmer. Totally becalmed. The wind stopped, and we sat. And sat. And checked Met. And sat. It got dark and we sat. Cam at the helm went round in circles, with little steerage, as a container vessel steamed by in the murk. Close. A bit too close. And we sat.

But the wind did re-appear, conjured up by the dark rituals skipper Ross Appleby performed at the plotting table, while consulting the runes of Adrena for countless hours. He’s continued to re-visit this sanctuary on an hourly basis to receive divine-wisdom on weather and our competition and as a result, we find ourselves leading the race to St Lucia at the half way point.

It’s actually a surprise that Ross can find the plotting table, as most of the time the saloon looks like a chandler’s Jumble Sale on steroids, with sails, foul-weather gear, kit-bags, foods and water stuffed into every possible space. All well-and-good in a downwind-spinnaker-run, but an obstacle course punctuated by flying peppers and onion shrapnel in a squall. Still, it keeps things interesting. And every night we can play ‘where's my kit-bag ended up today’ in the hunt for toothbrushes.

Night watches and light wind sailing have given us plenty of opportunity for banter, stories and outright silliness. Who knew, for example, that TV’s Countdown programme had a Pharoah’s curse on it? Actually nobody outside of this boat, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be true.

Our crew is a great mix of characters and personalities. Peter, our man-with-a-plan, can always be relied upon for an analytical response to any question - even if its only what’s for breakfast. Al, by contrast, can’t be relied upon to give a sensible answer to any question, his random ramblings a constant source of amusement, bemusement and not a little fear. Jane is running a tight ship and has re-written the watch system almost nightly to cope with our inability to stick to even the most rudimentary of plans. Steph is our youngest member and documentary-maker extraordinary, filming the unfolding events on her smartphone. I’m pretty sure the content will need a Parental Advisory warning. Cam’s play-list is legend and his appetite is infinite. He appears to believe he is invisible during his regular illicit scavenging trips to steal from the Jambon leg hanging in the saloon (yep, that is also a bit surreal actually). He’s also a fine First Mate and Circus entertainer, with a show that includes high-wire and trapeze performed on all parts of the boat’s higher structures. Then there’s me, Rob. The least experienced crew member and voted most likely to say ‘how does that work then?’ in a recent survey.

And Finally Ross. What can you say about Ross that he hasn’t already said about himself? Brilliant, witty, debonair and stylish, Freddie Flintoff's stunt-double in his spare time (remember the infamous ocean-going Lilo incident?) and the thinking-woman’s Captain Jack Sparrow. His leadership has been exceptional and his skill as a tactician fascinating to watch.

But, you can’t plan for everything it seems. So far we’ve had a suspected water-maker failure, a suspected fridge failure, and an actual battery failure. This far from a Curry’s superstore, they all really get your attention I can confirm.It seems that if anything can go wrong offshore, it almost certainly will, even if the probabilities are millions to one.

We had a close call with the Spinnaker almost getting wrapped round the forestay last night, (one of the downsides of having to push the boat, day and night), so Ross and the guys are up on the coach-roof fashioning an anti-wrap net from bits of rope and webbing, to a cunning plan (complete with all the lengths and angles required) drawn my the master on the back of a post-it note. It’s a bit like Blue Peter meets the Science Museum curated by Heath Robinson up there at the moment.

So, here we are, 1500 miles to run to St Lucia. We have a stiff competition from Shah as we enter the last run for home. It’s a great race and we’re having great fun.

No, its not all been the the downwind spinnaker-run we expected. It’s been a whole lot more.

We’re all looking forward to the next week and the 'Dark and Stormy' Rum’s at our destination.

Good luck and godspeed to all the other competitors.

Scarlet Island Girl

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