Lanzarote to Grenada, chance encounter with a man in a hurry

Stravaig'n the Blue
Wed 20 Jan 2021 16:19
Position: 19:38.823 N 037:56.771 W
Position timestamp: Wednesday 20 Jan 2021 08:51 UTC-2

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. This morning we crossed the wake of Charlie Dalin on APIVIA, currently the lead boat in the Vendée Globe!

We’d just finished breakfast and had gone on deck to do a sail change when I spotted a very tall mast on the horizon to the south of us. It looked as though the boat was heading towards us, so going north which was unusual as almost all sailing boats in these waters are heading west for the Caribbean. However, there was no sign of the boat’s AIS signature on the chartplotter so we couldn’t investigate further.

We knew that our route would cross the path of the Vendée Globe fleet as it made its way on the last leg of the race from Cape Horn to the finish at Les Sables d’Olonne on the French Atlantic coast.  On the off chance that this might one of the fleet, we altered course towards the boat.

As we got closer, Linda who was watching the boat through the binoculars concluded that it might indeed be one of the Vendée Globe Imocas. However, as we approached, the boat turned west. This allowed us to see it side on …. massive square cut reefed main sail and no headsails. Clearly a racing boat but with sails not exactly dressed for going fast, and now heading west at less than 5 knots. Just as we were concluding that it wasn’t anything special and we should return to our own west bound course and get on with the sail change, the AIS alarm went off ... danger: vessel within 3 miles of us. And there on the chartplotter screen, the boat’s name: APIVIA SOLO SAILOR, Charlie Dalin’s Imoca. Wow!

As we converged, APIVIA turned north west, ahead of us, and our chartplotter was telling us that we might pass within 100 metres of her. The boat’s name in massive letters up the mainsail became clear and we could see a headsail beginning to appear as it was unfurled. We crossed behind Apivia and the closest we came was 0.72 NM, good enough to get some long range photos.

Linda prompted me to hail APIVIA on the VHF radio, it would have been churlish to ignore him. So I gave it a go, three times, a few minutes apart but there was no response. APIVIA’s speed picked up to over 20 knots as she turned north and towards the horizon.

And then we got the call back, it was Charlie Dalin! I explained that we’d been following the race and were very excited by this chance encounter; Charlie asked where we were headed and provided a brief update on the weather (winds easing); I congratulated him on being the lead boat and we concluded by wishing each other good winds / bon vents.

What were the chances of that happening? 

All is well.