Tradewinds elude the ARC in one of the slowest crossings of recent years

It’s not just the solo round the world sailors who have experienced frustratingly atypical weather in the Atlantic this month: so have the 190 crews taking part in the ARC rally from Gran Canaria to St Lucia. Two-and-a-half weeks after the start from Las Palmas, only 40 of the starters have crossed the finish line, after one of the lightest and slowest ARCs in recent years.

“There were good winds in the first 48 hours. In fact, that smallest boat [Glad, a Comfort 30] broke her boom on the second day. But then there were only patches of wind and a big hole in the middle, five days with very little wind,” comments Jeremy Wyatt of organisers World Cruising Club. “On the flip side, there were not many breakages.”

With tradewinds only kicking in properly in the last few days of the crossing, the event has been remarkably incident-free this year. But, as ever, the continuous stresses of downwind sailing eventually reveal any inherent weaknesses. One boat has reported problems with her skeg; another has a leak from the keel fastenings; and there have been several injuries, including a badly broken finger and a crewmember with a broken elbow which caused the Swan 65 King’s Legend to divert to Barbados.

With the exception of King’s Legend, which declined help from other ARC yachts, all these incidents have been handled with assistance from other participants. An unusual situation this year, however, was when one yacht, a Warrior 35 named Moonshine, reportedly contacted Falmouth Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre direct, expressing concern that their supplies of food and water for just 18 days were running low.

Tomorrow and Friday are set to be the busiest day for arrivals, as the bulk of the fleet pick up better winds in the last few hundred miles of the 2,700-mile crossing. Over 30 yachts are expected here in St Lucia in the next 24 hours. By the weekend, most of the family crews that represent the core of the ARC finally will have made landfall. Among them are our intrepid reporters over the last two weeks, including the boys from Makathea, who are still struggling with communications problems, a leak or two, and a dwindling stock of beer.