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Motoring Monday, Tradewind Tuesday and Westward Wednesday

Following 10 days of the ARC fleet tracker resembling a bowl of spaghetti, it’s now a little clearer that the Caribbean is firmly in the sights of the fleet. The effects of the low pressure system that formed along the rhumb line caused the fleet to weave their way through their first week at sea as the system continued to evolve, delivering head winds then no wind and a little bit of everything in-between.

Making the most of Motoring Monday
By Monday, the elusive tradewinds seem to be a somewhat of a myth for boats who opted to stay close to rhumbline, but many remained upbeat and took advantage of the quieter conditions. “First light saw the guys on watch having to remind themselves that they were, in fact, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as the conditions would sooner be related to a still, winters morning on the Langebaan lagoon.” Wrote the crew of Paul Anley’s Catana 62 Gust of Wind, “After a beautiful, all-be-it frustrating, morning switching between motor and sail, searching for that ever-elusive perfect angle we decided to make the most of what we were dealt. Six of the crew added their names to an extremely short (presumably) list of people who can say they’ve wakeboarded 1,300 nautical miles from the nearest land-mass (Photo evidence provided). However, a perfect afternoon of mid-Atlantic wakeboarding and swimming was only the start of what a couple of us deemed one of the best days of our lives. As soon as we got out of the water we were joined by a school of 50 plus dolphins who came to play on the bow and show off some of their acrobatic ability. Not 20 minutes after the dolphins’ disappearance we crossed paths with a pod of pilot whales who gave us a wave as they headed off in the opposite direction a hundred meters or so from us. In all it was a truly remarkable day none of us will soon forget, oh and we also managed to cover a few more miles of this race today.”

Tradewind Tuesday arrives!
Boats in the cruising fleet who honoured the old adage of “sailing south until the butter melts” and avoided the low pressure system as it tracked through were (finally) rewarded with E NE winds on what has now been dubbed ‘Tradewind Tuesday’. The 'jubilant mates' on board Jubilant Mare wrote, “We are now 'wing-on-wing' on a direct course to our destination. Average speed now in the high sixes and lots of sevens. After the initial excitement of our flying start, for the next ten days we were lucky to see threes! We even wondered if we might end up spending Christmas at sea! It has been (well, still is) an amazing adventure and I'm so pleased I have been lucky enough to be experiencing it. Quite something to have undertaken by someone who gets sea sick in the bath, and never thought they would be a sailor!" 
It really does feel like we are flying now.” echoed the crew of Nautitech Open 40 La Cigale. “With the gennaker out during the day we reached 8.5 knots at one point, and even at night with the jib we were cruising above six. Sitting at the helm, looking out across azure waters and a cloudless sky, citrus fruits gently swinging from the nets hung from our solar panels astern, I can just hear Dad say with relish "This is the life!"

West is best
Meanwhile, the many boats in the ARC+ fleet are now on their final approach to Saint Lucia with favourable winds and a dozen boats expected to be into Rodney Bay by the end of Wednesday – two weeks to the day after they set off from Mindelo. “We have 20-22 knots steady which means we are making good speed with genoa and a slightly reduced main.” Reported Peder on boat Lily, “So moods are up, and our Raymarine countdown to the St Lucia waypoint says 5 days, so we will soon be getting the fenders and mooring lines out ;)” Nearing land, talk on board turns to the lists of ‘firsts’ once ashore; first drink, first meal, first shower are all the topics of on deck conversations. On board Charm, they celebrated with a double digit party – as they hit the 99 miles to go mark – and they have now reached the rum in Rodney Bay.

For the smaller boats still counting down the miles, the mood on board has become rather more reflective and for those who haven’t experienced it, it’s hard to convey exactly how it feels to be sailing mid-Atlantic in the trade winds. The power underneath you, the force of the ocean, the shape of the sea, the sheer “feeling” of being over a thousand miles from land with just your boat as your life support system. “It's an odd feeling. On day eleven we crossed the half way mark.” wrote the crew of Haji, “We're half way between Cape Verde and St Lucia and there's nothing for a thousand miles in any direction. It's an isolation uncommon in today's world.” Although many boats keep in touch via the SBB net, they are rarely in sight of one another and as the days continue the fleet spreads out giving a unique feeling of being disconnected from the outside world out in the ocean. 

However, all too soon, the ARC+ programme will get underway and the isolation of the nights at sea will be replaced by a wealth of social activities as crews arrive to explore Saint Lucia. Daily familiarisation tours begin tomorrow, Thursday, for the first arrivals, and on Saturday there will be a chance to join the Rotary Tree Planting excursion to Dennery. Evening functions include the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority and WCC Welcome Cocktail for ARC+ on Saturday, a sundowner at the Buzz Seafood and Grill Restaurant, and a special celebration to round of the rally one week today with the ARC+ Prize Giving Ceremony.

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