First time crossing for Samantha Brunner

Yachting Monthly Geoff Pack Scholar Samantha Brunner, 24, lives for racing and sailing across the Atlantic aboard a Farr 65 provided her with an exciting one design ocean contest.

Here is the latest run of blogs:

Fri 17 Nov
‘Life at the extremes’
Speed: 4kts

If the last 48 hours have taught me anything, it’s that things change
freakishly fast in the Atlantic. Thursday evening brought with it some of
the best night sailing I’ve ever had, surfing down 20ft swell in 25kts of
wind with speeds consistently in the ‘teens – a total buzz. Went off watch
for three hours and came back to find we were flapping about on flat water
under squally grey skies and pouring rain. It felt like sailing on the west
coast of Scotland, not the tropics!

The sun burnt the clouds off and we had a ‘nearly there’ party to cheer
ourselves up – the ‘Pirates and Pansies’ theme proved suitably ridiculous,
2nd mate Ali came as a flower pot, Matt as a video pirateer and Liz and I as
Pirates of the Atlantic.. Keira Knightly watch out! More and more bizarre
ways to fill the time appeared as we floated through the afternoon, best was
‘monkey fist baseball’ – tie a monkey’s fist knot in the end of a length of string and bowling it towards the pushpit at the batter and their water bottle ‘bat’… helms changed pretty fast, as they kept getting thwacked.
Passed the time, anyway…

Nightwatches weren’t much fun – wind and speed dropped to under 2kts, and prompted some fairly depressing calculations about us not making it there in time for Christmas at that rate – yuk. Resisted taking the keelbolts
off and calling Search and Rescue for a lift to land, however, and wind did
pick up a little again, though stayed shifty and unsettled.

Saturday 18 Nov

At 0100 this morning, we all reached a milage deadline of 396 miles, having
agreed that if we did not cross it due to light airs the race would finish
and engines would start; many of the crew have flights booked early next
week, and, with no wind forecast until Monday, it looked as if we would have
to motor to reach Barbados in time. Unfortunately Juno was stuck in a wind
hole and fell short.
Final positions were:
MINERVA 13.13’704N 053.48’339W 334.91 MILES TO GO 1ST
ISIS 13.13’160N 052.55’670W 386.16 MILES TO GO 2ND
DIANA 13.29’120N 052.55’280W 387.14 MILES TO GO 3RD
JUNO 13.11’550N 052.44’240W 397.27 MILES TO GO 4TH

Although it was a shame to have to turn on the engine, there was a huge
sense of relief as we pointed in the right direction and started moving
again without the main flogging and clanging about, and slept really well
for a change! Woke up to another story, however. Dan had heard a funny
knocking noise from the bottom of the boat, and was suspicious that there
might be a problem with the anode or P-bracket. He dove down to find the
P-bracket was sheared off and hanging, leaving the prop shaft with no
support. This would have been putting a massive stress on the hull, and, if
left, would probably have given us a huge hole. Engine went straight off,
and, with 0kts of wind, none forecast for three days, and no means of
propulsion, Liz called the other skippers to ask for help.

Isis was the closest boat, 3 hours sail away, and she turned back to assist.
We watched the horizon and waited, feeling very small in a big, big ocean.
Great to see them finally coming towards us, though very surreal to need
rescuing. They radio-d us: towage conditions required that we cook them
lunch and pass it over as they moored alongside!. A couple of bowls of
cheesy pasta for a 300 mile tow?
Deal. They came up blaring ‘We are the Champions’ out of their deck speakers
– we’d tried to find ‘Rescue Me’ but no one had the tune – and we all
grinned at each other and the madness of the situation.

Now hooked up on a bridle and towline, travelling at 6kts, and situation
normal is almost back. Weird to have another boat and crew so close to us –
in 11 days, the only sign of human life we’ve seen 2 ships, and they were
miles away. Now we’ve got a fairly noisy crew of 12 30ft away trying to
slingshot horse chestnuts at us to snack on! We’re definitely very
grateful, though, and hope to be in Barbados late on Monday night. Nothing
to do but get on with cleaning the boat up and sit tight – it’s only 300

Sunday 19 November

‘No Tow’

Things certainly haven’t got any more normal in this little part of the ocean. Towards the end of my watch at 0500hrs this morning, the crew onboard Diana and Isis were quite content swapping riddles – ‘what’s the least number of moves you can win a chess game in?’ – over the radio to pass the time, when the messages suddenly turned unfunny:

‘Diana, Diana, Isis. Our engine sounds in trouble.’

‘Diana, Diana, Isis, our engines cut out.’

Within a couple of minutes or so, they found the problem – a fault in the oil breather system causing the engine to stall, and we were able to take up the tow again for a couple of hours. The problem persisted, however, with Isis’s engines leaking a large amount of oil, and we had no real option but to unhook once more and put up the lightweight spinnaker to try and sail our way in light and fickle winds.

The engine problem isn’t too surprising an addition to a trip that’s been full of strangeness – perhaps it simply couldn’t take the double load strain for an extended period of time – together, the boats weigh 80tonnes. Isis are being assisted with fixing their engine by the UK office, and our contingency plan is to tow up to Juno and Minerva, who are 20nm ahead and have slowed their motoring speed to 4.5kts to wait for us in case the wind dies. Luckily, we aren’t becalmed anymore, and the trade winds are due to reestablish from today, with winds hopefully showing east to north-east 10-15kts. With two boats without engine, here’s hoping – we could do with a bit of luck.

Monday Nov 20

‘smell the rum’

DTF: 26 nm!!!

The stars finally got around to smiling on us yesterday, as the trade winds
did what they were meant to do, filling in to 10-15kts from the East and
increasing to as much as 25ks. For 12 hot and smelly people with no motor,
it was heaven. Nothing on this trip seems to go smoothly for long, however,
and, true to form, the spinnaker guy broke at 3am and sent us flying over
onto our side in a pretty major broach. The off-watch were all rudely
awakened, hurled out of their bunks – Cath was woke by a wave crash to end
the journey by sailling in to port.
There’s plenty I’ll miss when we leave Diana later today – counting
shooting stars under clear skies , sailing (wind willling!) 24/7, the
simplicity of daily life, the sound of the sea and the solid comfort of new
friendships – but I’m actually looking forward to making my way home
tomorrow for a dose of office normality. Until the next time.