Location - 330 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands
The days are passing remarkably quickly out here and we have now completed our seventh day at sea, considerably more than any of the crew have done before and a huge milestone for us to have reached. We have had a fantastic first 7 days sailing mostly under one or other of the two spinnakers we have on board. All members of the crew are up for a good passage time to St Lucia and are willing to work hard to this end – running spinnakers day and night is considerably harder than not doing so. Admittedly the wind strength has been absolutely right for this type of sailing, hardly ever getting up to more than 20 knots. Position wise relative to the weather we are exactly where I want us to be and relative to the fleet of boats on the ARC we are looking good. So although we have been pointing in the wrong direction for most of our trip so far, we have had amazing weeks’ sailing and a great start to ARC 2008!
It sounds like the Eurovison Song Contest on deck as Wouter awards nil points – we get a huge lurch and roll from the boat and the spinnaker pulls us ahead onto another wave. It seems to be some sort of competition within the watch to try and steer the best downwind course whilst achieving the best speed, this all in bright sunshine at 0830 at the morning. With Alex helming, all hell breaks loose as the boat picks up a wave again and we go into a massive roll to windward: “So Grandad, what were you doing this Sunday morning?!” demands Wouter as Mel trims the spinnaker and hangs on at the same time, the boat going mental, winches creaking and ropes groaning as they smoke off the winch drums – the sea rushes past the side of the boat in a blur of speed. Okay, all’s back to normal – the call of ‘trim’ from Mel on the high side, yee-ha and 11.5 knots, the winding of the winch by Wouter on the low side and the boat being steered neatly throughout by Alex. And again, and again, and again, it’s a long way to St Lucia. ‘St Lucia, here we come baby’ drifts down from the watch on deck.
What are you doing this Sunday morning?
Looking at the weather forecasts last night I decided that we should gybe west for the night and then southwest again this morning – basically perform a zig-zag. You can see this clearly from the snapshot off the computer
The Cape Verdes are now over 300 miles away to our east and we have a good overlay of winds for the next 24 hours. There is a developing trough, read bad for us, about 500 miles ahead of us that is now occupying my thoughts; do we head west or more southwest? Well, I have decided more southwest, but I just cannot imagine when this going south stuff will end – the Equator? No… We’re St Lucia bound! The Bear will have to be consulted.
The crew photo today is of Wouter, one of our most faithful long term Northern Child sailors. Wouter is 38, Dutch and has just completed his MBA at INSEAD, in Fontainebleau & Singapore. Having worked for InterXion and Microsoft in the past, he is now a technology entrepreneur and his main passion is sailing. From 1997 to 2001 Wouter was part of the Dutch sailing team ACE, competed in the Fastnet’97, Commodores Cup and North Sea Regatta and over the last six years has sailed Northern Child on many occasions. As well as organising two Heineken Regattas for us, earlier this year he organised a 10 day cruise on Northern Child with close friends around St Martin, St Barts, Saba and the Virgin Islands – a really lovely trip. Wouter is also to be congratulated on having passed his Yachtmaster Offshore exam recently, and on board he has a reputation for pushing the boat hard, only really happy when the staysail is down and spinnaker is up! For next year he looks forward to sail with French, German and Bulgarian friends from St Lucia to Guadeloupe.
That’s it for today as the Eurovision Song contest continues: Mel has got 12 points and I haven’t a clue if that is good or bad, all I know is that we are doing over 8 knots in the right direction! Jenny is taking over the helm, Jon K the trim and Mel is grinding the winch. Our zig-zag has taken a few miles off our run today, but we have sailed 178 miles in the wrong direction in the last 24 hours which makes me happy! I hope you can sense that all is well on board and we’re having the time of our lives.
A bientot, Julian