60 miles off the African Coast - 21 November

Mon 21 Nov 2005 12:18
Yesterday, 20 November, was the start of the ARC, and a very exciting day for us.  Although we thought there was not much left to do, we found ourselves pretty busy with final preparations.  We motored out of the marina around 12.00 noon, and were cheered on our way by crowds of people, as well as a brass band.  We had not expected such razamattaz, but it really added to the occasion.  We all felt a sense of relief that all the preparations were done and we were finally on our way.
Leaving the Marina
Charlie and Juliet, with Las Palmas behind
The sight of 230 boats milling for the start was quite a spectacle and there was a Spanish naval warship.  At the start they set off a maroon which was very loud.
We started very conservatively, in the middle of the fleet.  However, we were encouraged to find ourselves overtaking boats and, along with others, found we could fly our asymetric spinnaker, which made the first couple of hours a lovely sail.  The wind then died and we rolled around a bit, watching boats ahead which were beating.  When we did get the wind it was a headwind and we were in the Gran Canaria accelleration zone with quite a lot of flukey wind.  It was a tiring night as the first part of it was spent in nearly constant sail changes with the wind fluctuating dramatically, both in strength and direction. There was also some rain, so we were in full wet weather gear.
This morning the conditions have settled to a calm sea and WSW wind.  It is beautifully sunny, and Pip has been on the helm for nearly an hour, with only the occasional prompt from us.  We are heading for Africa and, although we are being lifted, we expect to have to tack within the next hour or so.
Pip on the helm
Earlier we opened our first week's worth of snacks:
Amanda, Alice and Pip with the snacks
Nick on the helm
There has just been a shout from the cockpit that we have caught a fish so it is time to sign off.