First ARC Blog

Rich's 2019 ARC Blog
Richard Hurd
Mon 2 Dec 2019 13:12
20:41.106N 026:17.290W
30 Nov 2019 15:11 hrs utc.

Sorry for the lack of blog posts but my ARC Atlantic Crossing has gone 180 degrees in the opposite direction as planned - using a commonly known phrase - tits up! We were well ahead of schedule in preparing Xplorer with water and food all stowed and the yacht fully inspected and checked. Sadly Peter, the owner & skipper had a bike accident on Tuesday and ruptured tendons in his leg. After a night in hospital his and our dreams were shattered as he had to pull the yacht from the ARC. David, our crew mate had become friends with the yacht next door called Next Step and when one of their crew pulled out, he took their place. Dan and I spent a frantic 2 days trying to find another ride. From both thinking we’re on a flight home on Sunday, to finding 3 realistic options things started to look up (a bit anyway). We could pay to go on a 72’ Challenger 2 yacht, a pair of great Norwegians on board an old 40’ Bavaria who desperately needed extra crew or join a First 40.7 yacht from Cowes who was in the race division called Fireball. We chose Fireball and had to pay to get a berth each, but that was preferable to sailing with the ill prepared but great Norwegians.

Dan and I set off on Sunday after transferring our kit and some food from Xplorer and met up with our new crew of 6 - skipper Chris, his partner Rachel, her daughter Gwen, their friend Nigel, Lucas a 22 yr old from Madagascar, a recent refugee like Dan and I, a Finnish lad called Antii, whose boat was withdrawn too. After saying bye to Paula, we left harbour at 11:00 on Sun 24th Dec 2019 and headed off to the start line just off Las Palmas.

The start for the racing division was at 12:15 and we made a good start and soon we were flying a large asymmetric spinnaker as we headed south along the east coast of Gran Canaria. A few last photos and messages to Paula and we were then out of contact. After the first night, we realised that we had a major problem, the engine was not able to start and after stripping down some electrics and then the starter motor, it looked terminal. Well Chris made the call to carry on and simply not use any electrics for the next 16 to 18 days! We had a small solar panel to charge the batteries during the day, but other than keeping 2 iPads charged for navigation and the glow of a compass light on when there are no stars to steer by, we were to cross the Atlantic sailing in stealth or dark mode - no nav lights, vhf radio, ais - nothing. Was I out of my comfort zone - you bet! Chris explained, the engine is not able to be used for driving the boat in the racing division, so apart from battery charging it was not important!

Anyway we’re now 8 days in and we’ve been sailing well. We’ve sailed about 900nm. We’ve had very light winds for some of the time which had reduced our daily mileage but we are now through that patch and are just hitting the NE trade winds. For the next few days anyway, we should maintain F.4 to F.5 NE winds. We are on a heading of 245deg T and the watches are all settled down. Rachel & Gwen are doing amazing things in the galley to with some fab food being served.

I’ve been fishing and it’s been mixed news - caught several fish, landed and eaten one which was delicious. Landed and returned 2 smaller fish to the ocean as not big enough to feed all the crew. We caught a huge Marlin or Swardfish which sadly broke our 90lb line and took 95% of it and Steph our lure with it. 3 fish got away before we could land them and sadly this morning we caught another monster which took all our second line and Lilly the lure with it. So, all we have left is about 20m of 90lb line, which is tied to a rope and Paula the lure hanging on. Sadly I think our fishing is now finished and both rods dismantled!

So, it is the 1st Dec now, we’ve gone through 2 time zones, sailing in the sun with 16 kn of NE wind and doing best part of 9 knots flying a huge ginger spinnaker. I’m gaining confidence in the boat and skipper after embarking on a 3000nm voyage on a new boat, with new crew. Comfort zones - what’s all that about!!