Lynn Grano and team are sailing Eleutheria, a new Hallberg-Rassy 43, across the Atlantic in the ARC. Here's Grano's first log

Date 23 November 2005

Position North Atlantic – Lat. 23.02.50/Long.

The day before the ARC departure, there was a noticeably different vibe around the boats berthed against the main wall dock. It was a mix of concentrated focus on final preparations and a general sentiment that it was time to go. The general camaraderie between the boat crews remained, but there was less chitchat and amiable meandering about the floating wall dock. The prelude to the race itself started in earnest about 1100, Sunday morning, when a vast number of boats started pulling out from their berths and then starting the typical pre-race position jockeying for the two start times of 1240 and 1300.

The wallside quay was quite a scene, with a competent local marching band playing riffs including ‘We All Live In A Yellow Submarine’ to John Phillip Sousa numbers. There was also the usual party at Don Pedro’s Texaco wharf. Don Pedro remains the unofficial do-it-all ambassador of goodwill and boat services to all the yachties.

Around the starting line, one boat’s crew was fully attired in tuxedos and another had a member playing a tuba. Most of the rest of us just tried to avoid hitting or getting hit by other vessels, cognizant of a final request that came up during the day before skippers meeting to place a fender in front of one’s bow boat anchor.

Once the race began, it was rather slow going until the islands legendary south-east side acceleration zone kicked in. We went from 3 knots to 8 knots in about three minutes. We observed two boats in our immediate vicinity blow out their spinnakers. Later, we were managing near 9 knots with one reef in the main and the 130 genoa spun up a third until evening. Once nightfall came conditions generally calmed down despite the ocassional squall, producing winds in the mid to high 20 knot range for brief periods. We listened to the dedicated ARC race VHF traffic as well as to some of the dialogue coming over the SSB. Several boats had severed halyards and turned back; another was struggling to address a complete electrical failure while one of the big yachts suffered an instrumentation loss.

The news of greatest general concern came the following day when one of the ARC participants started taking on water. Many listened in to the unfolding drama as other ARC racers and a coastguard helicopter rendered assistance, all wonderfully coordinated by one of the ARC communication net volunteers.

Regarding race strategy, ours and (we presume from a subsequent review of the position data) other yachts seemed to change for many of the boats between the Saturday skipper’s briefing and race day Sunday. The Saturday weather briefing highlighted a potentially menacing and deepening low 3-4 days out to the west. Unfortunately, the alternative routes were projected to have light and variable winds. Most of the skippers we spoke with were, as of late Saturday, planning to haul west until things started turning grim and then beeline south for the trades before the projected possible 45 knot winds off the low came into play. We shared that view.

By the following morning, however, the low had deepened further and there was some opinion that it was going retrograde, ie, reversing its easterly march and moving west. We gave up our prior strategy and made for a south-south-west course. It made for some dull sailing and after a longish period of 5-7 knot winds off the aft quarter and 2-4 knots of inconsistent boat speed, we turned on the iron jenny and motor flogged south-westerly. That’s where we are now two days later? recomputing our fuel use in consideration of the current light winds and projected absence of the typically reliable trade winds to the south that everyone was hoping for.

We’re considering heading even further south to pit stop in Cape Verde for refueling, realizing that without availing ourselves of that final opportunity, it could be a long trip over if these uninspiring, almost flat calm, sailing conditions persist.

In the meantime, we’ve lured the fishing pole and are dragging line in hope of at least augmenting the calm conditions with the excitement of dining on fresh Ahi tuna sushi with the wasabi we provisioned on-board. So far, however, our only wildlife sightings have been one fin whale and a pod of about 20 dolphins. Other than that, a major source of entertainment has been listening in to the race participant’s SSB and VHF dialogues about finding a good shark vindaloo recipe and regrets that one boat’s laying hens quit laying and, regrettably, had to be put down, ‘rather humanely’.