And I mean that literally. Some boats have motored solidly for over a week


Another day in paradise, suffering for the company. I’m in St Lucia, covering the finish of the ARC.

Which is more than you can say for most of the crews taking part: it’s day 17 today and there are still over 150 yachts still out there, some with 1,000 miles or more left to run.

This must be the slowest ARC ever. And yet despite day after day of winds sub 10 knots from directly astern there are a dozen or so yachts tucked up in Rodney Bay that managed to keep up an average of 6 or 7 knots.

Hard work, talent and persistence? Not exactly.

Most of the early arrivals are big, heavy bluewater cruisers with enormous turbodiesels and even larger tanks. I spoke to the paid hand on a new Oyster 82 yesterday. They were one of the first boats in, and had motored for 226 hours – that’s nearly nine-and-a-half days solid.

They might have motored all the way if they’d had more fuel, but when they arrived they were down to their last 100 litres. When I asked if the crew hadn’t been a bit bored, the guy just shrugged. They’d spent a lot of time in the comfort of the air conditioned saloon watching DVDs.

The marathon motoring wasn’t confined to the luxury cruisers. The charter crew of Big Spirit (formerly Global Challenge yacht BG Spirit) declared 161 engine hours, well over six days. They were on a deadline, skipper Kurt Lilywhite told me. He laughed when he said that they’d added 10% to the boat’s total engine hours – this is a yacht that has been round the world twice and done at least a dozen transatlantics.

Never mind the compromise to an Atlantic crossing of just donking across, think of the cost. Lilywhite tells me they burned 1,080 litres of diesel. What – at about 70p a litre from Don Pedro’s Texaco dock in Las Palmas? That’s over £750.

A few weeks like that and you could soon afford a nice big downwind sail.