Rope steering poses a daily problem for the crew of a Beneteau First 40.7

After 19 days, over 50 ARC boats have arrived in St Lucia – but that’s still less than a quarter of the fleet. Fresh north-easterly tradewinds are predicted to arrive, finally, on Monday, but that will be a late consolation for most of the fleet.

Aine, Noel O’Sullivan’s new Beneteau First 40.7, was one of this morning’s arrivals, after a crossing with intermittent dramas. He and crew John Highcock, Richard Fearon and James Eyre weren’t aware that the boat’s wheel was linked to the quadrant not with the conventional chain or wire, but with Vectran rope.

It just needed a sheave out of alignment for the rope to be stripped – which is what happened in the early hours one night, while they were running downwind under spinnaker in 20 knots of breeze.

They re-rigged it with a 12mm Dyneema spinnaker sheet, which chafed through three more times. Rigging or tightening the rope gear became a daily task. John Highcock admits that, if the rope system is a concession to weight, it’s extraordinary and not an innovation for which they are thanking Beneteau. He also faults the wheel spindle, which is prone to trap the rope in a groove at the forward end or to chafe it against screws at the aft end.

The steering failures were also when they discovered the limitations of the handlebar-type emergency steering tiller, which was virtually impossible to move in quartering seas. Thankfully, their autopilot, the linear drive of which is linked direct to the quadrant, came to the rescue.

Otherwise, they had an enjoyable crossing. So, too, did Alan and Lindsay Berry from Poole, sailing their new Oyster 56,Zuleika, also launched in May. Their biggest drama was coming to the aid of a 72ft French ketch on passage to Martinique, which had run critically low on engine oil.Zuleikadid an immediate oil change and sent her second-hand oil over to the ketch. In exchange, champagne was put at the end of the transfer line.

Among their high points was swimming in the middle of the Atlantic and the daily soap opera unfolding on the SSB radio. “We looked forward to it every day,” says Lindsay. “People without a radio really do miss out.”

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