We let the lines go in relatively warm sunshine and headed out from the now almost clear wall from which the race boats and large yachts had all left. The wall was packed with spectators and well wishers. We were in no particular hurry to mix it up at the front so we moved at our own pace. We fell in nose-to-tail as we were funnelled toward the marina exit, creeping along and often just holding position, the band played, the fuel pontoon rocked, and we held our place inthe procession. By the time we were through the emotionally charged gate, the ends of the harbour wall, we knew we were committed and that we wouldn’t be seeing land for about three weeks. It was a great feeling to be under way at last; no more checks, no more 4am parties, no more project lists with fast closing deadlines. If it hadn’t been done at this point it was now too late.
Moving down to the start line the skies darkened. It didn’t take long to drift downwind onto the start line so we did a u-turn and headed back upwind. Passing close to another ARC yacht looking at us heading the wrong way we just shouted across “We forgot the milk!”
The start gun sounded, we were under sail, a huge front moved across the start line and in came a squall. Visibility dropped and somewhere ahead were a couple of hundred yachts, at least they were there a minute ago! And so the ARC began in rain, wind, poor visibility and in fact relatively unfavourable passage weather for the days ahead.
We hit the wind acceleration zone toward the south of the island. It was bizarre with clusters of yachts often 50 metres apart. One would suddenly get hit with 25knots of wind whilst the one immediately head was motionless in a flat calm. We had a Pogo alongside, one minute not moving, then almost knocked down, suddenly flying from our starboard to port sides totally out of control. Then we got blasted by a gust while the guy immediately ahead moved across our bows at close quarters but barely moving. We elected to get some sea room and headed eastwards to avoid more of the acceleration zone and to get some clean air offshore.
Talking to others it was a quiet night within the main fleet to the south of the island. As darkness fell we started to pick up a steady Force 7 and reefed down to genoa only and started our run. At some time during that night food poisoning started to creep up on the crew. We initially confused it with seasickness but the latter isn’t something that we normally get troubled by. It took us the next few days as one crew member then the next went down with the affliction. It wasn’t pleasant. I missed one of my night shifts during the worst 12 hours.
Air has been very turbulent up to 200 miles south of Canaries so first we went east, then across the swell (yuk) to avoid shallows off Africa, then when clear of the coast turned south to run on the other tack at about 220 degs. Beautiful day today until about 4pm when our hydraulic h/sail furling packed up. Our initial reactions were to look at returning to Las Palmas, or going to Mindelo, and possibly to carry on. We consulted a number of boats on the ARC radio net and after an hour on course for Mindelo we switched back to a St Lucia heading.
Just been on deck for a 1am walk around and the emergency manual furling is totally smooth and easy so I again tried the hydraulics. Seems to be working but I can’t be sure it’s operating normally due to engine noise which prevents me from listening to the unit. Motoring as winds dropped to 4-8kn and the swell was bashing the rig.
ARC Nets proving to be fantastic on SSB and VHF. Starblazer’s evening virtual cocktail party on VHF was a great social occasion. Only issue we have is SSB voice turns off our autopilot computer. Boat still quiet due to reducing levels of seasickness and adjusting to watches of 3 hours on/3 off. Vital sadistics:
Miles sailed last 24 hours:130.1
Miles to go:2508.1
ETA: who knows! From the Galley Chinese noodles & Green Pepper Pate Spag Bol re-cooked 3 times Homemade guacamole with nachos Oranges: 2 down Apples: 2 down Avocados: 2 down