ARC Blog Day 16, crossing the Atlantic

Rich's 2019 ARC Blog
Richard Hurd
Mon 9 Dec 2019 17:19
17:06.164N 051:55.877W

Day 16, Monday 9th Dec 2019. 1635 UTC

We’re pushing on and while we’ve decided not to be in full race mode to prevent over stressing Fireball, we’re pushing 8+ knots and flying the fractional radial kite in about 16 to 18 knots of wind almost exactly from the East. Our bearing is 255deg T, which is pretty much bang on target for the finish line. The sea is more ‘lazy’ now with a large easy going swell, so handling the kite on the helm downwind is not too bad. Chris & I tend to spend most of the time helming, with Antti, Dan and Rachel also taking turns to give us both some down time.

It must be about high twenties temperature wise on deck with blazing sun overhead, so we’re all just dripping in sweat. Oh how a bimini would have been a fantastic accessory to have had on board to provide some shade in the cockpit. Below deck it is even hotter - probably about mid 30’s, but I have to get down below to avoid being in the sun, even with Factor 50+ suncream on.

We’ve had some more incidents in the last couple of days. On Saturday during the night, our mainsail shredded and it had to be dropped. Luckily the main luff line didn’t snap, as if it had our main halyard would still be at the top of the mast. So we recovered the sail and lashed it to the boom until daybreak. Running under a poles out genny provided a slow wallowy sail, so with cupboards half empty all our cans and bottles of food etc were clanking around. This clearly got up the skippers nose and at about 0500 he seriously lost the plot!! The cursing abated thanks to Rachel and in daylight we were able to hoist a spare race main sail and get on our way again, however we lost a lot of time as we were sailing for over 8 hours with only one sail. Sadly our daily mileage was about 130 in total for the midday to midday 24 hr period. I ended up being on duty from about 0200, when my watch started until about 1100 when I was able to get some sleep.

Last night we had a squall of BIBLICAL proportions on our watch from 2200 to 0200. We had a few minor rain showers earlier, but at about 2330, we noticed a rain veil under the clouds behind us, which looked a little more aggressive than the general cloud cover we had. With no moon due to all the clouds, it was difficult to call, but I took over the helm from Rachel and about 1 minute later, we were engulfed in a tempest of epic proportions. The wind backed about 30 degrees and increased in strength from about 15 kn to 35 kn. I just about avoided the jibe and called for the headsail to be immediately furled, but as the furling line doesn’t quite fit the winch self-tailer, it has a locking loop on it. This was forgotten about and the whole furling ground to a halt. By now the rain was just coming in bucket loads and with no visibility or reference, I missed the next big wind shift we jibed. Luckily the preventer held to prevent the boom from crashing across and I was able to recover the tack, but with the headsail still unfurled we were seriously over canvassed. Chris came on deck to help and finally we got the headsail fuelled and I regained control of the helm to run before the squall until it finally died after about 20 mins of hell. The rain was so heavy, it even got through Rachel’s Musto ocean rated MPX foul weather gear and she was totally soaked. One by one we went below to change into dryer gear and get warm again. What an epic event that was.

I woke at about 0800 to calls of ‘dolphin wankers’ from the on-watch crew, as on the bow a huge pod frolicked on our bow waves. Dolphin Wankers is a Fireball phrase, which came about during many races when the helmsman lost concentration in sailing the correct direction to take a look at these magnificent wild creatures. This meant the skipper lost his temper and yelled at him to focus on his job and stop watching the dolphins. He then blamed the ‘dolphin wankers’ for screwing up his race and the phrase is used every time dolphins are spotted - & as a reminder to the helmsman no doubt!!! However I had plenty of opportunity to watch our extended pod play with us for over 4 hours this morning. Just a delight to watch mum’s & babies synchronise their jumps & leaps and teenagers screaming across our bows and doing acrobatics. We even had one dolphin who specialised in belly-flops!

We’ve got about 559 miles to go before we reach St Lucia and we are currently averaging about 8 knots with the black spinnaker flying and 1 reef in the main. Probably about 16 knots of wind right up our chuff and we’re heading for that rum shack on the beach in Rodney Bay.