The past 24 hours have seen most of the ARC fleet catch some of the strongest winds so far on their Atlantic crossing. Gerald Metz's Hallberg Rassy 39 Kaskelot broke the boom in the strong winds; the second reported boom breakage of the trip.
On board Sydney 41 El Syd, which suffered boom damage early on, navigator Craig Dymock reports they have tried out their jury rig with some success in testing conditions. "The last 24 hours have been a mixed bag." says Craig. "We tried our 'turbo squirrel' rig last night with some success. Twin poled out headsails and a blooper rounded off with a hint of trysail. Works well when the breeze is below 20 kts otherwise a little too much for our damaged steering. Unfortunately, we discovered that five bolts have sheared off the spinnaker pole track overnight, probably due to the amount of downhaul needed to get a decent shape on the poled out jib. More headaches!"
Kate Gower sailing on Swan 51 Valhalla describes last night as "an orgy of sail changing." Kate continues "Yesterday turned out to be sail changes galore. I think we made four major sail changes in the 12 am to 4am night watch. We double reefed the main sail, put out some jib, pulled it back in again and then poled it out on the other side!" So much for expectations of a relaxing cruise.
However, it is not all bad news. Lots of yachts report landing fresh fish, an important part of menu planning and crew moral. El Syd, even have a restaurateur and chef, Marco on board to cook their 5kg Kingfish hooked yesterday.
With the wind has come typical trade wind sailing conditions, stiff north-easterlies with occasional rain showers. In these squalls wind strengths can often increase by another 10 knots. However, a bonus is the opportunity of a fresh water shower, a great treat on those yachts without watermakers. On Valhalla, the crew are reportedly steering in their bathing suits in preparation for the ocean squalls, poised to grab the shampoo at the first sign of rain. At the front of the fleet a battle royal is developing for the honour of being first yacht to arrive in St.Lucia.
At noon today, Swan 68 Lady in Red had just 827nm to run, and Farr 65 Spirit of Diana just 828nm. It really has been a big boat crossing this year, with the front runners including two Swan 68s, three Farr 65s and a W60, with just a spread of 133nm between them. The Italian crew of W60 Chica Boba 2000 have been unlucky, making an early decision to stay north, when the winds have favoured those yachts to the south of them. Special mention should be made of IMX40 Meta Baron, just 168nm behind the leaders - not bad for a boat some 8.5m shorter than the leaders.
However, for the majority of the fleet, the ARC is much more about taking part, than winning. For many it will be the first experience of bluewater ocean sailing, and a fantastic opportunity to learn. For novice sailor Kate Gower, "learning the ropes" and coping with nautical terminology have been a cause of great frustration.
Kate explains "Last night was a festival of sails, an orgy of sail changes, a celebration of speed! And what I most noticed was that all these bits of sailing technology have their very own names that seem to have no bearing to anything else in the outside world. Kickers, boom-vangs, clues, sheets, genakers. I swear Skipper Jeremy and Ringer Harry are just making these names up to see how far they can push the rest of us! The fore-guy, the aft- guy, the cute guy, the big guy. We even have a crew member called Guy! So when they call back, 'Kate, Grab the Aft Guy!' Who can blame me for leaping towards the stern-most man - usually the one steering the boat - and giving him a quick squeeze? I am tempted to make up my own set of names for things and see how they like that! I do so want to learn all these things. There just seems such an awful lot of them to learn!"
Kate continues: "I think I'm living in some kind of wonderful parallel universe; where things just have different names, the ocean is an azure blue and, in the first days of December, we are all gamboling about in our swimming togs. I like it here. I think I'll stay. I just hope I can learn the language."
Over the weekend, two ARC yachts have sailed close to some of the Ward Evens Atlantic Rowing Challenge boats, which left from Tenerife in October. Tadorne, came within hailing distance of Team La Gironde, and Team Esprit had a visit from Tangoroa. Both rowing teams were pleased to see the yachts and are in good spirits.