ARC competitor Julian Sincock with the latest log from the British Swan 51 Northern Child 27/11/07

Date Monday 27 November

Position 26.35N 17.09W

Last night Poseidon decided to punish us for a great start, but let’s start where all good stories start, at the beginning.

Following the calm of the early morning, the Marina came alive just after 1000 as crews started preparing their boats to depart the marina. Sail covers off, flags down, mooring lines dropped and we were out of there, quickly followed by the Swan 46s Milanto and Monomotapa, both under the Northern Child ‘umbrella’ – we have guests aboard both, and coincidentally they will be the hardest to beat – excellent boats with great skippers, and we owe them both time on handicap. Hmmmm.

The start was just as forecasted – very light north-easterly winds with clear blue skies and a little bit of sea running. Most of the fleet went left and massed in a huge huddle beside the committee boat, with Northern Child staying at the right-hand end of line, in nice clear air. As the start gun went we were just shy of the line, popped our asymmetric spinnaker and sailed sweetly off under the bows of the fleet. Maintaining our distance on some of the bigger boats in the division, we managed to pull out a nice lead over the rest – thank you very much, whoever is in charge.

A collective sigh of relief – we’re finally off, a trip of some two and a half weeks that the crew have been planning for months – for many it is the dream of a lifetime, something they have been thinking of for years. Mixed feelings for many; we are setting off on both a physical and a mental challenge, something that challenges beyond the normal scope of daily life.

The southern end of the Island came up just before dark so we dropped our spinnaker, gybed (bought the wind onto the other side of the boat) and headed just south of west in 25 knots of breeze in the acceleration zone. We were pretty pleased with ourselves as well: clear of the Island, good strong breeze, heading straight for St Lucia – couldn’t be better.

Which is where our problems started, and which brings me back to the start of this log – Poseidon thought differently! Ok, I guess it was a little early to start celebrating our imminent arrival into St Lucia… The wind decided to play with us – first going right, then left, then right, then dropping, then on the nose. Sails up, sails down, going backwards towards Las Palmas, then in a circle and towards St Lucia. Get the picture?!

How does dawn this morning find us? Exhausted; but we have the big blue and white running spinnaker back up, we are making 7 knots through the water and the on deck watch are happy and trimming for gold. It isn’t calm, it isn’t sunny, but at least we are sailing – not quite in the right direction, out towards the south-west in an effort to keep the breeze later on today when it is due to change.

Are we happy? Oh yes, definitely. We have just had a pretty big whale breaching off on our starboard side, the sun is poking its’ head out and the two watches have started working well; there is no friction on board and there is only 2,700 miles to go! We should be in a reasonable weather pattern for the next couple of days, and if we work hard we should be able to make up some of the ground we lost last night. I have a suspicion that a lot of the boats in the fleet will have motored last night; we saw quite a few making great progress directly into the wind! Our objective is still not to use the engine if we can avoid it.