Four days in, its no milk run for cruising yachts

Cracking along in a fine 15-20 knot NE breeze is what its all about, said Colin Hall, ARC skipper of British Oyster 53 Boysterous (pictured left), yesterday: ‘This is what we came for! Champagne sailing in the Trade Winds. We’re bowling along at 8 knots on 259 degrees true, heading straight for St.Lucia.’

But will the wind hold that far? After fast 24 hour runs yesterday, some of the leading yachts have slowed as they move into an area of less pressure, and a distinctive split is forming between the northern and southern groups. Though it means sailing a longer course, yachts opting for the more southerly route closer to the Cape Verde Islands seem to be holding the wind at present. Swan 100Fantasticaamanaged a solid 259nm run down at 18N, whereas maxi yachtCapricorno, up at 25N has less rhumb line distance to sail to St.Lucia, but managed 50 fewer miles than the previous day.

Atlantic conditions are harder for some of the smaller boats, however, and crew of the Nicholson 32Compromisehave decided that perhaps their Atlantic crossing was not quite the milk run they expected: “The seas are sloppy, forcing the boat into an undignified waggling dance. During the night we surfed out a squall with all canvas set, but popped some of our mainsail sliders in the process.’

And skipper Mark Vernon of Lagoon 440Maverick Dreamwas amongst several reporting damage to sails and systems: ‘Our spinnaker has finally given up the ghost, ripping beyond repair for us – a combination of a 26 knot gust and a large wave pushed us sideways, and before I could get up to alter course it had caught on something sharp and ripped to shreds’.

‘Whoever said an Atlantic crossing on a small sailboat would be boring should be fed to the fish’ said Swedish sailor Petter Barve, owner ofBluesette. ‘We have been repeatedly gybing our spinnaker and finally ripped it into pieces. At night we have dodged sailing and fishing vessels; dolphins have orchestrated a jumping show for us; the ARC SSB net has consumed time and throughout this our 19 year old star chef Alexander has been turning out three course dinners with ocean fresh sushi and ceviche from the 25kg dorado we landed today.’

Part of the family appeal of this year’s ARC is that there is a daily radio net for the 27 children taking part, run by 9-year-old Sophie Ray on board Hanse 371Hullabaloo.

Almost all the 225 ARC yachts are now at sea, with late startersBe-Bop-A-Lulareporting their departure from Las Palmas at 1530 yesterday. Only one straggler now remains, German yachtSpicawho put into Puerto Mogan on Gran Canaria for unspecified repairs yesterday.