Alec Lochore reports from the ARC aboard the Swan 48 Azure

Time/date0830/22 November 2005

Sunday morning dawned as it has an uncanny tendency to do following Saturday evening. The early evening was one of light-hearted pontoon parties with swapped intentions and stories. After supper there decended a more serious and considered atmosphere when everyone had returned to their boats to contemplate what tomorrow actually meant.

Sunday morning was one of busyment and farewells “….safe passage…” and “…..mines a beer in St Lucia….” and all in a carnival atmosphere with several bands competing for attention and people lining the walls of the marina to wave us all off. We made our final checks, said our farewells and slipped berth at 1110 motoring past the waving crowd out into the start area.

With half an hour to go the skipper put the sails up and he sailed in the mass of boats skillfully avoiding, in my opinion, inevitable collision!

1240 – BANG – we were half a minute short of the line exactly where we wanted to be as there is a three-hour penalty for crossing early. We watched Mike Slade’s boatLeopard of Londonpass us on the starboard side and then turn on the after burners, we had lost sight of her about three hours!

The first three hours were uneventful in every sense – there was very little wind and we just flopped along at 3.5 kts until suddenly woof we were beating into a Force 6 or 7. This meant big waves and a wet crew. We were ordered below to put on lines and skins. For me this meant that I had to get my skins on and return to deck before the onset of the dreaded sickness – I failed! Head in the loo I made my first reintroduction of the morning’s feed. Back on deck I continued for some hours until I was ordered down to my bunk. Floundering on the floor of the saloon like some pathetic animal stuck in barbed wire or netting I tried to remove my skins before…..I got to the bunk – there was nothing left.

The night was rough in every sense – I was paired with the Skipper (Stewart Oliver) to who I was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard, but we got through the night. During the night we switched the generator on to charge up the batteries and this switched itself off again after about 20 minutes and refused to restart.

Morning dawned and the generator worked – fantastic. Morning dawned and the water maker didn’t work – oh dear! This became the main focus of the morning with Stewart making calls on the sat phone to various people who might know – but with no success. Decision time for Stewart – do we turn back and get it fixed and rejoin the race in the cruising division two days late or carry on? We had 104 litres of bottled water and 150 litres in the tank so no showers or personal washing if we go on.

Whether to smell and be early or fragrant and late – the only girl on the crew wasn’t given a vote for some reason!

Decision made – smell and stay upwind of everyone else and let them share the benefit of our decision – with a well-earned shower half way across whether we need it or not.

To reward us for this brave decision we spent he next 12 hours wallowing about under bare poles with no wind but since dawn we have had 10 knots over the deck and making up some time – even tried the light weather kite for a while and the excitement of a dipping pole gybe (my first time and I’m still not sure what it is, but it does seem to involve a lot of shouting).

We’re now on a direct course for St Lucia although apparently we still need some Southing but we are steppng out from the African coast to avoid the Somalian pirates (my idea which has made everyone smile – although they have agreed it’s a good idea! – we spotted two likely candidates as dawn arose but I think they were put off by the smell).

City Desk … news as it happens?

Alec Lochore