Paul Frew reports from the ARC yacht Crackerjack

We have now had north easterly winds of between 15 and 20 knots for four consecutive days and we have been running downwind flying our bright blue and white cruising chute and making between 7 and 9 knots of boat speed.

We have held onto our southerly route tracking west at 14 degrees north where we believe the trade winds are at their most consistent and so far this has served us well.

A consequence of being so far south is that we will have travelled around 3,000 miles by the time we reach St Lucia; much further than following the rhumb line. The other fact about being so far south is that it is very hot. The sea temperature is 31 degrees, about the temperature of a heated outdoor pool in the UK, and the air temperature is up in the nineties. The sea is a beautiful vivid translucent blue, with white crests that dazzle your eyes.

We move our watches back by one hour every 15 degrees of longitude that we travel west, so as I write this log it is 4.30 pm Crackerjack local time and 6.30 pm in London. We are currently at around 42 degrees west so we will move our watches back another hour tomorrow when we cross 45 degrees.

Crackerjack byelaws allow each crew member one unit of alcohol per day. Some elect to have a beer while others prefer a glass of wine with supper. Sitting in the cockpit at 6pm last night, each savouring our small can of beer and watching the sunset, we estimated that we are over a thousand miles from land in every direction. We havn’t seen another vessel for four days and sailing through this remote wilderness it is hard to reconcile this enormous void with the heavily populated world that we left only two weeks ago.

John caught a 20 lb Dorado yesterday, and another smaller one today. Half of yesterday’s fish ended up in Will’s red Thai curry and the other half has gone into the freezer for another day. Tonight we have steaks on the menu, followed by large apples from the Canaries which are sweet and crisp. We are surprised at how well our provisions are lasting. After two weeks we still have fresh tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, lemons and apples – the last banana mysteriously disappeared after lunch today.

The fridge is stocked with cold meats and cheeses and the freezer has a seemingly endless supply of steaks, chicken, lamb cutlets and pork. Every day at midday GMT (or UTC as it is now known), the ARC roll call begins on the short wave radio, known as the SSB.

The fleet is split into three groups, Alpha starts at 12, Bravo at 1pm and Charlie at 2pm. Crackerjack is in Charlie and we all listen as the Net controller for Charlie begins by reading the weather forecast and then asks each boat in turn to report its position at 1200 UTC together with the wind conditions. We mentally plot each boat’s position, working out which are ahead, which have stayed north and which, like us have elected to go south and seek the wind.

A few days out of Las Palmas, one of the ARC yachts developed a leak and was taking in water at an alarming rate. We were impressed by how quickly our Net controller, Julian, took control and coordinated a rescue by redirecting nearby yachts while reassuring the anxious skipper that help was at hand.

As we move further west we have to keep a careful watch for rain squalls which bring violent burst of high velocity wind under menacing black clouds. At night these are hard to spot, but with our weather being blown in from the north-east by the trade winds, we watch the horizon and quickly reef our sails when we see the black clouds approaching and feel the first drops of rain.

We occasionally ring home using precious minutes from our satellite phones and messages trickle through to John’s e-mail bringing news from home and the all important daily weather reports. We heard today that Leopard has crossed the finishing line. As I sign off, it is Sunday evening and we now have just over 1,000 miles to run with our expected arrival date in St Lucia to be next Saturday or early Sunday.