Firefly, 26 November: We started in a nailbiting melee of other (much larger) yachts, ten or twelve of us at the pin end of the line just inches apart. How there were no collisions I have no idea
At 1300 on Sunday 25 November, 225 yachts left Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, on the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, ARC, bound for St Lucia, 2,700 miles away. Amongst them was YW Editor sailing his YW H42, Firefly, with crew Stewart Whiting and Duncan Kent.
Just over a week ago Stewart and I had joined Firefly in Puerto Calero in Lanzarote and sailed the 100 miles across to Las Palmas, where most of the other ARC entrants had already arrived. Duncan joined us on Tuesday and the next days were spent frantically getting ready for the start on an island where, to put it mildly, the weather was unseasonable with heavy rain and winds not boding well for the start.
Our main jobs, apart from the logistics of provisioning for up to three weeks at sea, were to fit a new, high output alternator, persuade my Iridium phone that it did want to work with e-mail, have a watermaker installed and replace a defunct stereo.
None of these was without its problems. The alternator fitted with no problems, but the belts supplied for it were too small and it was not until the day before the start the spares were found. The watermaker sprung a leak and after many, many hours trying Duncan finally made the Iridium transmit data but to date only at an incredibly slow (i.e. expensive) rate.
The forecast for the start and for the next few days could not have been better: NE 4-5, giving a run down the east side of Gran Canaria and then a broad reach across towards St Lucia.
Of course it was not going to be like that. We started in a nailbiting melee of other (much larger) yachts, ten or twelve of us at the pin end of the line just inches apart. How there were no collisions I have no idea. Shot out of the trap we then found ourselves amongst the top dozen or so boats and were soon broad reaching at 8-9 knots. The wind, far from the 4-5 promised was gusting up to 35 knots with large, irregular and lumpy seas and Firefly surfing at up to 13 knots.
The breeze dropped off a little at the south of the island but we had already had our first gear failure. The first reef pennant broke as we reefed with the broken end disappearing irretrievably inside the boom. We plan to try to recover this when the weather eases but for the moment we have no second gear.
By late evening we were well ahead of our target of a 200-mile day but such is the Canarian weather that we were becalmed for a few hours between Gran Canaria and Tenerife. The wind is back now at around 20-25 knots and it still looks likely that we’ll top 170 miles on day one. Not bad for one of the smaller boats in the fleet.