Expected plain, got battered

Rich Carey
Tue 21 Nov 2017 10:46
Windsurfing would seem an unlikely skill, in its usefulness, for taking a yacht around the world. Ah ha, not so. Feeling the wind on your face and knowing your orientation instinctively, where the sail should be, and the next move, are no different. Thus on the start of the ARC 2017, with the entire fleet of 186 yachts circling around you, the picture was exactly the same, as when I'd represented the British Army 25 years ago. No charging the line however, as getting hit by a cumbersome slow moving yacht was certainly less desirable than being hit by another windsurfer.
As the fleet converged on the line like a heard of sheep with a pack of wolves after them, we sat at 45 degrees from the committee boat down wind, slowly drawing up. On the 10 minutes gun, you always get that 'too close' feeling - hold your nerve. On the one minute gun, release the Gib, and turn square on the line. Bingo, x86 gets line honors, crossing first by inches. Nice.

For most of the next 3 hours we had the bulk of the ARC fleet behind us (the fastest boats started 30 minutes later), which was a magnificent sight. The wind was light so the spinnakers were in full bloom. Our Gib was quickly wound away, and the Screecher erupted from the bow sprit. Nice.

Down the coast we all flowed, towards the 'acceleration zone'. The wind from the north divides around Gran Canaria Island like wind around a sail, but on both sides. It then converges at the south end in a distinct rush. Into it we rushed. By 18:00 we were going faster than x86 had ever gone before, touching 12 knots - the screecher was twirled and the gib took station. When the wind stabilized, we turned more easterly and put it on our stern, enabling the twin gib to go wing on wing - another first.

A couple of hours after dark, the acceleration zone was supposed to fade out, but the persistent 22 knot wind - persisted. That was the time to reef down, but with the forecast wind set to drop to 15 Knots average, we persisted with cautious mind. Then we had a couple of 30k strikes, brief, but tell tale. When the strikes became a trend, we went for the reef. Then ensued some mild confusion as the new crew learned the ropes. The gib got stuck, as did the mainsail downhaul. This required a couple of trips forward by yours-T, lifeJacketed and harnessed. When it was clear that a night fix of the Gib was not going to happen (the furler had slipped its rope), we opted for no mainsail, and just the Gib. This worked fine and x86 was happy at a 9knot average for the next several hours. Never any danger, was the main thing.

At dawn I had the 7:00 watch to myself for 3 hours and busied around fixing the Gib and tiding up the rope knitting. Later, on the daily rig and gear inspection, I noticed the topping lift was broken. Chafe of a connecting line to the boom. Easy fix.

At lunch we joined the ARC SSB roll call, about 1/5 of the ARC fleet (guess) having SSB radios. Cracked a few jokes about the 30 knot dance, and that the dog hadn't wee'd yet. "Where does he poop" asked the net controller. "The poop deck" came the witty reply of some anonymous radio ham, before I got chance to utter!

Then at dusk the wind went away, and we listened to two other fleet yachts discussing motoring, and watched them start to move away, as we floundered. Inevitably we also turned to the iron sails. I sit now, tapping at 00:59, to the sound of a Yanmar 30hp in my starboard ear.

Our 'Chef of the day' schema is working awesomely. I've never eaten on x86 like this for sure!

All's well on x86, in the night time.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com