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30 November 2003, 08:35 am
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ARC 2003
Las Palmas - St. Lucia

A few minor mishaps have been reported: On board Elandra of Hamble, an exhausted crew member: <I>"Accidentally poured most of our knives and forks into the Atlantic Ocean yesterday evening during a washing-up session."</I>
However, the optimistic crew are still in good spirits after passing a distance of 180 nm in 24h (but in the wrong direction)! "We were finally forced to gybe this morning and are now heading again on our exact course of 260 degree SW. We are still in a very good mood, although sometimes excessively exhausted spending many times more on deck than being able to sleep". Like many of the yachts in the fleet this year, they reported sighting five or six whales on day two, although were unable to identify them as they were close and the yacht had to turn quickly to avoid a collision.

Northern Child, with 1806 miles to go, were having a "Ho hum, another day in paradise... ". Skipper Julian said "Dawn this morning welcomed in a brilliant blue sky and puffy white cumulus clouds. The winds last night have been less than the previous night and temperatures have remained warm throughout the night. We have had lovely sailing underneath a star filled sky, with an appearance, for a couple of hours, of the moon." The Swan 51 has slowed down a little, reporting a 182 nm run in the last 24 hours and 177 made good towards St Lucia. Deciding to head a little south of their current course today, they hope to be able to square back the sails this evening as they are expecting less wind to the north of 22 degrees north latitude tomorrow. As one crew member commented: "We are hoping to put ourselves in a position tomorrow lunchtime of being in the right place to keep the Easterly 10 - 15 knot trade winds".

Food is at the top of everyone's agenda at the moment and contention for the fishing prize is strong. Northern Child have landed a 24lb Dorado just after lunch this afternoon. After landing the fish, it will be pan fried fillets of Dorado for dinner this evening with new potatoes and a tomato and onion salad for dinner. Feasting on a hearty breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup, orange juice and coffee on board Intrepid of Dover, crew member Beryl also "Cooks a great pork and courgette dinner yesterday". She was probably glad of such a good meal as she and fellow crew member Bernard then went on to deal with their first major tropical squall at 5am, when the wind suddenly increases from 15 to 30 knots in 10 seconds as Intrepid screamed down the waves at 9 knots. Tropical or line squalls are typical of tradewind sailing, and often bring sudden increases in wind strength with them. If spotted in time, it is usually possible to sail around them, but if caught, the best advise is to reduce sail and sit it out; most only lasting a few unpleasant minutes.

Back to whales and Ernst on Samsam reported spotting a whale close to their boat shortly after sending the positions: "We went outside and a whale was swimming around our boat. It came close by and all of a sudden, it swam quickly under and hit us. Despite the little panic, everyone was doing some duties like taking the EPIRB, preparing the liferaft for launching, taking VHF etc." Cinderella have also reported a whale collision while the crew were enjoying the 'catch of the day' - a 83cm Dorado, a sudden bang on the port hull caught their attention. "We hit a whale!" shouted one of the crew members and indeed there was a huge brownish whale behind the boat. There was not sign of any damage to the hull.

The whale apparently stayed around and wanted to play a little so the crew requested advice from fellow ARC participants during the SSB radio net. Suggestions included turning off the depth sounder and also putting some beach into the water. However, neither tactic was successful. Finally after about two hours the whale swam away and left them. Skipper Hans described their emotions as mixed; excited by the adventure, but also scared by the danger. They have now agreed to stay close to another ARC yacht, Seren Wen, so as to offer each other some reassurance.

Andy and Nicky GIBB on Intrepid of Dover ran the radio net yesterday for Group D. They said: "This was anything but easy, as the fleet is getting more spread out. Lower frequencies are better for communications 50 - 100 miles away, but as the faster boats get ahead we have to try higher frequencies. There are six racing yachts out of 48 boats in Group D, while the smallest cruising yacht is 9.5 metres long, so already we are spread out over an area 360 miles E/W and 200 miles N/S. That's 72,000 square miles so its not surprising that we haven't seen another yacht for 36 hours. We start the net on the lower 4C frequency, then have to switch to 6C, and finally resort to a number of relays to get all the positions in. We think we may have had a poor connection on our set, (now fixed), but it is very frustrating for everyone." They are also having fun on board, with prizes for estimating the previous day's run. "Beryl wins the prize for estimating the previous day's run (148 miles) - a handful of premium cocktail peanuts!"

"As I write" continues Nicky, "we are averaging 6.5 knots towards St.Lucia, 2000 miles to go, ETA in 13 days time, brilliant sunshine, a stunningly beautiful rainbow arcing out of a menacing squall, 2 metre waves, we really are enjoying ourselves!"
Trish Jenkins
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