Tuesday 11 December 2012

ARC Day Thirteen

It is 3am and our last night at sea. We are about one hundred miles from St Lucia, having sailed two thousand seven hundred miles since we left Las Palmas almost exactly two weeks ago. If someone had said that we would cross in fourteen days I would never have believed them as that involves making 200 miles per day, averaging over eight knots every hour, every day for the whole trip. And yet that is what we have done. Even now in the pitch black under heavily reefed sails we are doing over eight knots, with more in the gusts. During the day we let out more sail and drive faster but at night, and this night in particular, we are sailing conservatively, trying to ensure that nothing breaks on the final run in to the finish.
The mood over dinner in the cockpit last night was reflective and a little melancholic. We are all excited about making landfall tomorrow and seeing the girls, but we are also sad that this adventure is about to end. Andrew described our trip as ‘uneventful’ which at first makes it sound rather dull, but in fact he is right. No one has been sea sick, nothing has broken, no major injuries and the winds have been perfect for a fast crossing. It hasn’t been the gentle downwind milk run that people associate with the ARC, and we haven’t had many cloudless days or gentle starry nights, but we have had the wind, the elixir for a sailing boat, and other than one, twenty four hour period, we have had lots of wind.

When assembling my crew over a year ago I knew that I was taking a risk, going with a group with such little sailing experience. However, from my last Atlantic crossing in 2005 I learnt a few important lessons. The ARC is more of an expedition than a yacht race, where cool heads matter more than the finer points of sail trim. It is a test of human relations, putting a group of individuals in a confined space with no escape, depriving them of sleep and adding an element of danger. I learnt that with a bad skipper and a group of strangers who have never met before, it can be a miserable trip albeit one that gave me a sense of achievement. But it was always just a dress rehearsal for doing the ARC on my own boat with my own crew. So I chose a group of good friends, each of whom I felt that I could rely on to stay calm under pressure, and who together would form a cohesive and supportive team. I feel completely vindicated as they have been fantastic, applying themselves with equal enthusiasm to the sailing, cooking and cleaning and contributing to the dynamics that have made for a happy, safe and fast boat.

A number of people have asked me what our plans are once we get to the Caribbean and I don’t have a simple answer. The planning and preparation for the ARC has been all consuming for some time, as my long-suffering family will attest, and I just haven’t had the capacity to plan in any detail beyond that. On Sunday most of the crew fly home to the UK, leaving Fatty, Kim and I to sail to Grenada where Tom, Jamie and all of Kim’s family will meet us next week. We are staying in a villa owned by Will King, someone who I met on my last ARC and the one individual on that crew whose company I really enjoyed. We will spend Christmas and New Year in Grenada, maybe making the occasional sail on Juno up to our favourite islands in the Grenadines such as Mustique, Bequia or the Tobago Cays. Then in the New Year I am delighted that my mother is coming out to the boat again and I look forward to showing her the Caribbean and spice island in particular. Beyond that I don’t know but I feel very sure having Juno in the Caribbean over the winter, with few time constraints, and with friends and family to join us, Fatty and I will have an amazing time exploring these wonderful islands.


  1. I think I'll be just as sad that your trip is about to end - safe passage in. It has been great hearing everyone's accounts - you have clearly all missed your vocations and glad the friendships have stood the test!
    Lots of love

  2. Jeannette and I are up early viewing a very English looking landscape (grey and rainy) from our perch in Albatross nest. Thankfully it is tropically warm but we are really looking forward to seeing you all on the dock in Rodney Bay.
    Lots of love
    'Suelo xx

  3. I have been following this blog prety closely. It seems to have gone so smoothly I am concerned that it is all one big hoax...... like the 1969 USA moon landing.

    I believe Juno has not left Portofino and you blokes are having a huge laugh.

    cheers A Friend

  4. Sounds like it's over far too soon! You'll just have to find a bigger ocean to cross next time! Indian, maybe?!