Light winds soon after the start

“It was a blistering start to ARC 2008. The wind went light for us pretty soon afterwards, but hey – enjoy the good times whilst they are there!

Dawn came up to reveal as nice a day as you could possibly hope for at the start of an Ocean crossing with light to moderate winds and clear skies out to sea. Heavy cloud over the mountains of Gran Canaria gave the hint of building clouds in the next day or two, but 12 to 15 knots of breeze from the North East, a slight swell and clear skies were luring us out to sea.

With a full crew of 12 on board, we gathered together on the foredeck for a team photo and then it was off – slip lines and motor gently out of our berth. Lines and fenders away; they hopefully won’t be needed until Rodney Bay, St Lucia, 2,800 miles away…

Being the first boat out of the marina gave us plenty of sea room within the harbour to practice basic sail manoeuvres and to have a good look at the start line and weather conditions. As it approached 13:00 (local time) we sailed down towards the line and with 30 seconds to go to the gun we were in exactly the right spot, hoisted our small spinnaker just as we crossed with clear air to windward, and quickly picked up speed. We were off!!

We managed to keep clear air to leeward of the fleet all afternoon and flew the spinnaker until about 17:00 when we needed to gybe and head off on starboard, with the wind coming in over the right hand side of the boat. The sun sets early so that by 18:30 it was completely dark and we were heading on course with a nice clear evening and the lights of Gran Canaria to our right hand side.

Gradually the wind dropped until at one stage we had only 5 knots, but it picked up enough to allow us to sail over night. In these conditions many of the fleet will have motored and it is our ultimate goal never to have to use the engine; therefore in today’s results we will not be able to differentiate between boats that have and have not motored, but we won’t have!

We have split the boat down into two watches of 5 people each; the watch times are 0600-1200, 1200-1800, 1800-2200, 2200- 0200 and 0200-0400. When off watch each crewmember is free to sleep or relax, but on watch on deck it is pretty busy with steering, grinding winches and trimming sails, especially when the spinnaker is up.

With Wouter (Dutch) we have Jenny, Alex (German), John K and Mel. With Guy we have Mick, John D, Murat (Turkish), and Andy. Both Wouter and Guy have sailed extensively over the last five or six years with Northern Child and Mick and Mel completed the Azores to the UK leg of this year’s return Transatlantic in May/June. I will do a small profile on each person in turn over the coming days.

The star of the day is Jenny (34), who is no longer single, but very independent! She is sailing with her Partner John D and most of her sailing has been off the west coast of Scotland where she has completed her RYA Competent Crew and Day Skipper courses. She was looking for a challenge and an adventure and has used the trip as a way of raising money for Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre – please click here to donate – and has raised £1,000 to date.

Our Teddy Bear naming challenge has thrown up a problem – we have three name suggestions so far and we like all of them! From Annabel (10) and Nicki (dare not say!) we have Nelson – as we are going to St Lucia where Nelson played a part in its history. We have Robert (Bob/Bobby – bobbing along on the ocean) from Mel’s Grandson Ben (6) and then we have Rodney from Andy’s son Ben, as we are going to Rodney Bay. You see the problem. So far then, the bear is Admiral Robert Rodney, let’s see if any more suggestions come through!

I am sending this log off the boat at 1200UTC, just as we are doing our daylight watch change. We have sailed a total of 155 miles from Las Palmas in light conditions in 24 hours and are sailing pleasantly along in light winds with our American spinnaker up – thus named because it is red, white and blue and came from an American boat. All is fine on board, everyone has found their sea legs and no one has been afflicted with mal de mer! A bientot”

Julian, Northern Child

Thanks to Iosif, who will race on Northern Child for Antigua Sailing Week 2009 for the pictures