After a hectic start and a spot of fishing, Mike Stevenson, skipper of Sanuk, found time to recall the last three days on the Atlantic
Sunday (23 November) – Las Palmas to St Lucia – ARC day 1
Surprisingly, the butterflies of yesterday went as soon as we began preparations for leaving our pontoon. With some 225 ARC contestants plus a sizeable fleet of spectator boats, actually getting out of the marina without hitting something was a significant achievement.
The first boats to start were the racing division – big, powerful yachts with large crews. Fantastic to watch, but a different world from the one we live in. The start for the cruising division was some 20 minutes later, at 1300 GMT. We got a good start and were actually near the front for a few minutes until the faster boats came storming past. At 38ft we are on the small side (the average is around the mid – 40s) so we expect to be slower than most of the fleet. We stayed fairly close in and picked up a useful helping hand from the near-shore current. This was just as well as the wind died after an hour or so, eventually picking up again from a completely different direction.
We really appreciated the scale of the event after night fell. All around us were masthead lights and, beneath each one, a small community of people embarking on this big adventure. Some are in their 70s, some in their teens. Some are families with small children, some are crews of wannabee racers (usually male, aged mid-50s). Some in brand-new, multi-million pound boats, others in 25-year-old boats that have already been around the world. And lots of different nationalities, all with one thing in common – a love of the sea.
We settled into our three hours on, six off, watch pattern, and got down to business.
Monday (24 November) – ARC day 2
First fish! Jonathan had spent a great deal of time in Las Palmas selecting the right fishing gear, and this was his first attempt at using it. The fish went for it within 20 minutes. Wow! It was a large Dorado which put up quite a fight. When we eventually got it on board we found it was around a metre long and weighing in at around 20lbs. Yes – we’ve got the photo’s to prove it!
Back to the sailing. The $64,000 question before the start was which route to take. The straight line is obviously shortest, but heading south and then east might be better in terms of picking up the trade winds forecast to start blowing around the middle of the week as the mid-Atlantic high pressure region drifts slowly south-east. We elected to compromise, and set off in a south-west direction. Time will tell if we’ve got it right.
Tuesday (25 November) – ARC day 3
The wind has been veering towards the north-east as predicted. We have made excellent time, achieving our best ever average speed (over 8 knots) and our highest top speed to date (10.2 knots) during the night. Just hope we are going in the right direction!
Had some drama during the night when the autopilot lost its heading. Fortunately I was able to disengage it before it put us into a gybe, which could have been nasty. I shall be having strong words with the manufacturers about this as the problem, which first occurred on the way to Gran Canaria, was supposedly fixed by their technical representative in Las Palmas. We now have to concentrate for the rest of the trip rather than relaxing and trusting the autopilot to keep us going where we want to go. An uncontrolled gybe in strong winds could easily damage the rig, something we most definitely do not want to happen in the middle of the Atlantic.
The rest of the fleet has gone its own way now and we are alone. It’s like having the world to yourself. Lovely. 270 miles covered in the 48 hours since the start. The weather is overcast with squalls and the occasional shower.