Follow Yachting Monthly's scholar from the Cape Verde Islands to Barbados

On 7 November Sam Brunner set out from the Cape Verde Islands on her way to Barbados, racing with a fleet of four Farr 65s. Having found time between sunbathing and board games to chronicle her journey, here she brings you the first half of her expedition.

‘Go West’
Day one – Tuesday 07 Nov

Course: west
Wind: on and off

1200GMT and the race was on to leave Mindelo as fast as we could. The crews of Diana, Isis Juno and Minerva heading off the start line, trying our best to avoid a fairly large and jagged rock that marked one end. Scrape free and spinnakers up ‘fashionably’ late, we were on our way.

Condition couldn’t have been better, 15 kts NE as we rounded the headland, Diana ploughing downwind at 12kts as we smugly passed the other three Farrs.. before sailing straight into a wind hole.

Flapped around for a while, getting hot and bothered watching all the others sail round us, before getting moving again, but slow going for the next few hours. 2nd mate Dan gets award for best plan of the day – turning the fire hose into an on-deck power shower. ‘Weather’s hot’ would be putting it lightly, as Skipper Liz said, ‘if nothing else, at least we’ll get a tan’. We’re all a redder shade of pale this evening, but at least we’re on the move and back in front of the pack…

Now diving south-west down to 14 degrees North in search of the trade winds which should be coming in the next few days.

Sam & Spirit of Diana crew

Wed 08 Nov am
Position: floating
Wind: please send asap

Tuesday night brought us a full moon to fly the kite by, but forgot to deliver any breeze to go with it. We split into watch systems at 1900GMT, I’m in with 1st mate Ali, Matt, Fergus and Brian.

Between 2100-0000 and 0300 -0600 we drifted about the Atlantic, pinning in the main and trying to keep the spinnaker flying more than it collapsed… good news when the wind veered east, allowing us to take a more SW course, bad news when each watch change brought a bit more breeze for the others to play with while we ‘slept ‘ in the sweatbox below!

A couple of local whales turned up to take a look at the newcomers, which was pretty awesome, even if we could only make out their humps.

We’ve taken a bit of a gamble with our course, splitting from the westing pack to head south in hope of picking up some trade wind breeze that may or may not turn up… heres hoping!!

Thurs 9 Nov
Heading: slowly
Wind: fat chance

Firstly, apologies for meagre blogs so far.. the inverter fan broke, so could only use the computer for five mins max before it overheated and crashed! Luckily, 2nd mate Dan is a very talented tecchie and managed to set up a new fan, so hopefully things should be better communications wise..

On board, things are much the same – our southern gamble wasn’t as lucky as it might’ve been, and has put us in practically no wind for much of the day.
The other three boats are doing much better to the north, and Minerva is about 100 miles ahead of us. Er. Nessy the loch ness monster, the new boat mascot, is strapped to the wheel to help too, though he’s looking a bit green.

I had my first look down a sextant yesterday when Graham showed me how to take a noonsight – when the sun is at its highest point, and the angle between it and the horizon is at its widest. Between that, swimming off the back of the boat in incredibly clear, deep blue water, dodging flying fish and the odd nap on the headsail in the shade of the spinnaker, I’m not missing the office unbearably just yet…

Fri 10 Nov

Four days in, and life on board has settled into a sort of rhythm. Sailing, sleeping and eating some surprisingly sophisticated food (tuna, sashimi, anyone?) mixed in with some deck dancing when it gets quiet, everyone’s pretty content.

There’s a lot of time in the day when the sailing’s this quiet, though, and the board/bored games had their first outing today.. chess is definitely NOT a talent of mine!

The wind is still variable, and the odd lull is still lurking, but it feels like we’ve been making some progress towards the west, keeping busy tweaking with every string and sail in sight. The staysail did a good job of funnelling some air onto the light spinnaker today, and we’ve made up 40 miles on the nearest boat Isis in the last 12 hours – great to know we’re getting somewhere! Bit of cloud cover today, which was a nice break from the scorching weather we’ve been having, but somehow managed to get more sunburn today than all week. Idiot. On the plus side, had my first shower since we left, and am feeling gorgeously unsalty tonight.

Reading Maurice and Maralyn Bailey’ s ‘117 days adrift’ – their story of their boat sinking after a whale hit it, and subsequent 4 months at sea with only a dinghy and liferaft… makes me feel silly for moaning about lack of wind – things could definitely be a lot, lot worse for us here!

Sat 11/Sun 12 Nov
‘Eating the Elephant’

Wind: yesssss!
Heading: halfway

We’ve got wind! The breeeze kicked in on Saturday, bringing us some great night sailing, going at 10kts, and, even better, going the right way. Feels good to be finally ‘eating the elephant’, and we’re hoping to keep trucking down the miles and be half way there by monday evening.

Everyone’ s in a great mood, and the practical joke fairies have been out in force. Liz got a shock – literally – when she picked up a joke-shop electric shock pen planted in the logbook, Graham’s sextant was mysteriously blacked out so he couldn’t take his sights, and everyone’s been careful to look at their sunblock in case it’s been spiked with food dye… Finished the weekend off in true English style with a roast dinner and pub quiz.

Wind is now 18kts from the East, and due to stay that way for the duration, so looking forward to a fun and fast week of surfing.

Mon 13 Nov

Position: half way heaven

1000 miles from anywhere! That’s not exactly true – we’re about 2 miles from the bottom of the sea, if you want to be pedantic, but we’re hoping to finish up the trip without getting too close to that …

6 days in, we’re exactly half way between Mindelo and Barbados, and having a blast. The wind has been 20kts for the last 24 hours, and we’ve finally clocked up a 200 mile day. Had an exciting night’s sailing under the stars, and spent the afternoon doing rig checks, surfing down the swell and ripping up old t-shirts/ raiding the galley to make costumes for tomorrow’s celebration – a ‘Pirates and Pansies’ of the Atlantic half way party. Off to try and make jelly…