Tuesday 26 November

Ian Matthews
Tue 26 Nov 2013 20:30
We have had quite a night – details later.
The story so far: we had got a good start on Sunday but had got caught in a wind shadow south of the Canaries.  The lee area extends a long way south and the wind even bends back in a vortex.  We had planned to go east to avoid the shadow but we just caught it.  We then got into the vortex and the wind was against us.  So we were a bit slow for the first night.
We have a weather guru called Chris who had told us about the wind shadow when we planned our route to St Lucia.  Every morning and evening we email him to say our course, speed and local weather conditions.  He looks at the forecasts and plans our next 12 hours direction.  We sail faster than most boats if we have the spinnaker up and the wind neither dead ahead nor dead behind.  Chris plots the winds and finds us our best path through.  He told us on Monday morning that the boats that had gone east had missed the shadow and were ahead of us.
We can only use the internet by email so we don’t have yellowbrick and we don’t know where everyone else is.  From the evening of the first day we have seen no other ARC boats. So it looked as if we were behind from the very beginning.
The wind really got up last night.  Fortunately we had put the heavy spinnaker up late afternoon and so were ready when we got 23 – 25 knot winds.  We were flying at 13-16 knots with peaks at 17 or 18 all night.  For the first 6 hours before the moon rose it was pitch black and the poor helmsman could only use the compass and a torch on the spinnaker to judge the course.  It is much easier if you can see the waves.  Rupert and Al did most of the helming and with spray flying everywhere we shot through the night.
We normally run 3 watches of 4 hours each (Ian & J, Al & Rob, Rupert & Simon) but we changed to 3 on deck, 4 hours on 4 hours off.
This carried on through the morning and settled in the afternoon and we are now doing 10 knots in a 14 knot wind.
The boat is brilliant – whenever we lost control, she simply slowed and we regained control.  We were never in serious trouble but it was a white knuckle ride.
Today we got some emails telling us that we are now leading the Class A fleet!  Last night had more than made up for the poor first day.
So the plan is to go south until we hit the trade winds and then turn right.  The south course has always proved quickest apart from last year (in a Pogo 40 a bit like ours) and the weather now looks better for the south route.
We are now at 22 degrees 43.9 N. 20 degrees 46.6 W.