A 50-knot gale gives the ARC Europe fleet a tough time on their approach to the Azores 7/6/07

Judging by the weather of the past few days, the Azores high would appear to be a myth. The ARC Europe fleet, undertaking the longest leg of their west-east Atlantic crossing from Bermuda, last night experienced winds up to 50 knots as they battle to windward to the safe haven of Horta on the Azorean island of Faial. Among them isCochise, a Swan 46 limping home at three to four knots under jury rig after losing her mast a week ago. It’s not clear what caused the breakage as the wind was only gusting to around 20 knots on the beam at the time, but the boats have been through some tough weather on the way and the damage must have occurred beforehand. Congratulations are due to George Gamble and the crew of his IY60Belle, who turned back to transfer nearly 300 litres of fuel toCochiseto assist her passage.Cochiseis expected to arrive in Horta late today.

It hasn’t been much fun for the boats already in the harbour. Eight boats are currently in the packed marina at Horta, and for some it has been a sleepless night. Michael Innis in his St. Francis 50 catamaran had a particularly rough time as his yacht’s high windage and the added weight of two smaller boats on the outside of the raft caused significant damage to the lightweight hammerhead pontoon to which he was moored. A Luca Brenta designed 44ft one-off and her Slovenian crew were forced to move during the night, and for the many boats at anchor in the bay it must have been a worrying few hours. The wind has abated a little, but it is still raining hard. The locals call the first few days in June ‘the mists’, but judging by the persistent rain and gales Azorean mist is in a different league to the rest of Europe.

Also worth mentioning is Austrian sailor Peter Atzenhofer and his Sunbeam 44Onyx. Peter sailedOnyxdouble-handed from Bermuda with his friend and fellow Sunbeam owner Gerhard Bengesser, beating a lot of larger yachts and multihulls to come in first. Asked what his secret is, the experienced regatta sailor simply said: “I enjoy using the spinnaker.” He enjoys using it so much that his wife Annemarie has refused to allow its use when she is on board!

The poor weather conditions are due to a very tight depression located over the Azores at present, but it is forecast to move off fairly quickly, leaving a healthy north-westerly for the fleet’s next start on Sunday. From Horta ARC Europe undertakes a short cruise around the islands before congregating at Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel for the final leg to Lagos. Many boats will leave the main fleet at this point, making their own way home, but World Cruising continues to support them with weather reports until they reach their destination. A total of 22 boats are taking part in this year’s ARC Europe.