As the second full week at sea begins for the ARC+ and ARC fleets, it’s a delight to read how crews are enjoying their time on the ocean in the logs sent in by email from onboard the boats.
The ARC+ fleet are now over half-way and on the home stretch on their passage from Mindelo to Grenada. They departed from Cape Verde on Friday 19 November. “We've had all sorts of weather and luckily only a few hours of motoring so far.” reported Joe & Jo Styles on Vagabond 47 Chula. “Our best day was flying the cruising chute in around 11-15knots of wind with Escapade of London in our sights, there's a nice camaraderie sailing alongside a boat you know is doing the same passage. Our worst day was with reefed down in 17-20knots and really confused seas, with our short waterline we seem to bob around a lot and it doesn't feel like we are getting anywhere, despite the log reading 5 knots.” They are keeping their children, Rowan aged 7 and Loweena aged 9 entertained with movies and audiobooks, and games of cards in the cockpit when conditions allow. There was also another big announcement, “The Tooth Fairy visited us a few days ago after Rowan lost his first tooth. We weren't sure if she would make it to such a remote location but apparently the flying fish guided her - we had a flying fish on deck in the morning!”
Some of the ARC+ fleet are also officially in ‘Squall Country’ as Morgane of Sark report. On board Walkabout, a Beneteau Oceanis 45, Andrew and Traci Roantree are sailing double-handed and prudently prepared for the sudden strong winds and rain associated with squall activity. “Following the forecast, the decision was made and we jumped into action. Swapping from the poled out Bluewater Runner, to main with 3 reefs and poled out Genoa. Set up for dead down wind, and able to control sail area of the Genoa easily from the cockpit. The job was done in about an hour. Foredeck cleared of the BWR and G1 which were flaked in their bags. Within the next half hour we experience our first squall. On the edge of it, but heavy rain and a big wind shift with sustained gusts of 22 knots. The new sail set up was perfect. Well balanced, and the Hydrovane handled it perfectly, through the shifts and gusts. We had acted just in time. What followed overnight and into this morning has painted a very different picture of Atlantic sailing to what we have experienced so far. Sleep has become very mixed up, as we decided we should both be on deck when any squalls hit. And hit us they have…
At about 0800 this morning we could see on the radar a huge squall heading straight for us (catching us up from behind). It hit us fair and square. Big shifts, 28knots sustained gusts, torrential rain, hand steering required to keep us on track. It lasted nearly half an hour. Traci steered through most of it, and was completely drenched (with the slight benefit that it is warm rain). At the end she poured about an inch of water out of her boots! But we came through it well. The new sail set up working brilliantly.
It was really good to have a call on the VHF from ExitOne just afterwards. They are a few miles away from us, and saw this monster engulf us on their radar, and they were calling to check that all was ok.” The camaraderie and friendships that have built up since the ARC+ programme began have been a great source of comfort on the vast ocean.
For the ARC fleet, there is less sporadic weather activity and after a quiet first week on the ocean for most, the butter has melted and they are in the trades. Simon and Michelle on the British Najad 511, Maalu IV are first time rally goers, sailing across with their two adult children, aged 23 and 26 “We have now entered the trade winds which are blowing moderately strongly straight up our stern. Having suffered from too little wind in the last week we have all been wishing for more wind and even offered incantations to Neptune as none of us can remember who is the god of wind and we hope that Neptune and he are on good enough terms to pass on the message. If anything, we now have a little too much wind but no one is complaining given that we are on a heading direct to St Lucia and making an average of at least 8 knots with wave surfing to 11.4 knots. There is a big swell running behind us so all in all it has been a boisterous ride for the last 24 hours but the sun is shining and we are finally heading west at a good speed, hence no complaints.”
There have also been numerous fishing triumphs and some serious sailing, and at the front of the fleet betting is hotting up for the big gamble of the northern or southern route. This year the ARC has welcomed back several previous Line Honours victors in both the Multihull and Racing Divisions, with a mid-Atlantic high pressure system along the rhumb line splitting the competitors. Headed north following last Sunday’s start from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria were Addictive Sailing, The Kid for Ville de Nice, Minimole and Diversion whilst opting for the southern route were Guyader Saveol, 12 Nacira 69, Banzai and Drifter Cube. On a straight distance to finish, 50nm separates the northern and southern rivals Addictive Sailing and Guyader Saveol as of today, and it’s in the hands of the wind gods and tacticians on board which one may reach the rum punch first! Current predictions have the first arrivals into IGY Rodney Bay Marina at the weekend. Keep an eye on the ARC Fleet Viewer to see how the battle plays out for the front runners.
Departing Mindelo two days ahead of the ARC fleet, the leaders sailing on the ARC+ route are due to reach their destination at Camper and Nicholsons Port Louis Marina on 2 December – with Piment Rouge currently holding a steady lead over closest rival Bigbird.