Sunday 27th November - Head for St Lucia

Jon & Carol Dutton
Mon 28 Nov 2011 00:42

17:55.96N 33:32.74W


Sunday 27th November – It Ain’t ‘arf ‘ot, Mum


The problem with melted butter is that it just spills everywhere.  But, there must be a way of saving on the cutlery when you’re spreading it.  Not sure we’ve really perfected that technique quite yet, but when the new moon is in the evening sky, Venus is directly below it and the sunset is tropical, who cares?  This afternoon we reached that important decision point in this vast expanse of nothingness and have turned onto a great circle route to take us from where we are straight to St Lucia. All is well, spirits are high and we have started our 8th night at sea.  Today we also cracked the 1000 NM qualifying passage required to permit Jon and Carol to become full members of the Ocean Cruising Club.  The burgee, so kindly presented by Jon and Lyn Whyte, was hoisted accordingly.


Since we last blogged on Thursday morning we’ve been hacking SW towards the general area of 20ºN, 30ºW, about 300NM to the NW of Santa Antão (the most NW island of the Cape Verde archipelago).  We’ve now dived even further south than that – as our position will indicate.  There is a low pressure system some way north of us and this leaves in its wake an area of little wind to the south of it.  Areas of little wind are not places we wish to be.  The sailing has been relatively straightforward – mostly with Percy pulling us along.  But, he has struggled on occasions because the wind has been too far forward for him to be the best choice of sail.  So, we’ve had to drop him twice and replace him with normal foresails for some lengthy periods.  Percy is back up again now and pulling like a carthorse.  That’s one of the issues with him.  He’s still a lovely chap but, as they say in Yorkshire he’s “Strong in t’arm and thick in t’ead”.  He’s endlessly enthusiastic.  But, a bit like an over-large puppy in a small apartment, needs to be restrained.  And, despite your best attempts, he’ll still break stuff and not understand your getting cross if he does so.  You wanted a big, hairy, lively puppy.  So; deal with it.  We’ve got quite lively conditions now – at several hours after sunset - and wouldn’t be surprised if we have to turn out in the middle of the night to sort out something else he’s broken.  Of course, to be fair, if we put him in his kennel for the night the issue would not arise.  But then, this is a non-race in which we are all trying to non-race to St Lucia faster than each other - all in the spirit of friendly non-competition.


So, how do we think it’s going non-race wise?  We’ve talked previously about handicaps and how they work and where Arnamentia sits within the scale of handicaps.  To recap; she is something like 2/3rds the way down the list in terms of theoretical speed.  All other things being equal she should arrive in St Lucia after around 2/3rds of the fleet.  That’s, emphatically, not our plan.  But, in addition, we have a local difficulty.  Parked alongside us in Las Palmas was an identical Swan 46 MkII called Cochise.  Well, sort of identical in that she was a Swan 46 MkII.  In fact; different keel, on-board equipment, sails, blah, blah but identical enough for the ARC to have allocated us precisely the same rating.  Before we left Las Palmas, Jon did mention to her owner, Nick Eaton, that he would much appreciate it if he could arrange not to arrive in St Lucia before us.  The response was that the only way that was going to happen was if we crossed the finishing line at the same time.  Honestly; I ask you!  Such a response to a perfectly reasonable request.  


Throughout this event we have been neck and neck.  Cochise has always been rather further north than we as we have taken the gamble to dive a bit further south and play a longer game in betting to pick up the stronger winds we expect to find there.  We’ll sail further and our daily progress directly towards St Lucia won’t look as good as it might until we find those winds.  We’ve no idea how Cochise is thinking but I guess that the real game for both of us is around which Swan 46 MkII manages to get to St Lucia first.  The mass of boats in the ARC is divided into classes; each class made up of boats with broadly similar handicaps.  Overall results are always a bit of a lottery because of the vagaries of any handicapping system.  So, most racers concern themselves with class results.  Unless, of course, in addition to winning their class they win overall.  Then , briefly, scepticism about the validity of overall results mysteriously vanishes.  Cochise and we are, of course, in the same class and there are 15 others.  Apart from one yacht, Splendid, Cochise and we appear to be leading the class.  Splendid is very far ahead - oddly far, even given that she is 56 feet long.   But, this is still a long game.  And, it is still vital that we don’t push the boat too hard.  Out here, you’re pretty much on your own.  No friendly Yarmouth lifeboat to tow you back home.


Having reached the 30º W meridian at 1620 yesterday we put ship’s time back an hour.  We left Las Palmas on GMT.  Whilst this is Las Palmas ‘local time’, it is an hour ahead of natural time there because Las Palmas is 15º or so west of Greenwich.  But we’re comfortable with the slightly later mornings and evenings that that implies.  However, obviously, unless you adjust your watches as you go across the Atlantic you’ll end up eating breakfast in the middle of the previous night and dinner at lunchtime.  Since there are 360º in a circle and 24 hours in a day, it is convenient to make an adjustment of an hour at intervals of 15ºof longitude.   We weren’t very sure what to do about this going back in time.  However, we reckoned that if we timed it correctly we could end up with a usefully extended gin time in the evening - if only the ‘pussers’ hadn’t been so tight with the tonic provisioning.


It’s a fact.  You just can’t get the staff.  And, if ever there was a cheap shot, that’s it.  The fact is that we are eating like kings thanks to the meticulous planning and efforts of Carol and Penny.  Still a bit worried about skimping on the medicinal benefits of quinine but . . .