5 days, 20 hours and 902nm later… Leg 1 was complete.
Day 6: Race Day 1
6th November 2016
At the starting line… and we had set off! Overtaking boats and waving a sarcastic goodbye, we were on top of the world… then the spinnaker got stuck, worst luck – in the words of Adrian Mole. We brought up the rear in style… then the wind completely died. We had to motor from 1500h, all through the night.
Dinner – tenderloin, fried potatoes and salad.
We are in shifts from 2000-2300, 2300-0200, 0200-0500, 0500-0800. I did the 2300-0200 with Jean (pronounced Jon in a French accent). He’s 63, Belgian, with a relaxed personality but full of bubbles, and he has eyes that smile. We star gazed and he pointed out the Milky Way – a ring of stars that are so dense they look like mist. The ring spans from one side of the ocean, overhead, and back down to the other. I spotted Orion’s Belt and the Small Saucepan (not sure that’s the official name) and a planet. He says “the stars twinkle and the planets are like lights.” I believe him. I counted 4 shooting stars. Next time we will take a star gazing book to spot the other constellations. Jean showed me “the stars of the sea” – when the sea water is displaced either side of the boat and the “little sea animals” (otherwise known as plankton) create sparks. This only happens when the sea is the right temperature – that night it was.
Unfortunately half way through the shift, the sea sickness tablet I had taken seemed to take control. My eyes drooped and it was a real effort to keep them open. I’m not even sea sick! It was a precaution that will not be repeated. No more pills for me! Thankfully the salty cashews gave me a second wind. Before I knew it the shift was over and I was back in my top bunk fast asleep.
Day 7: Race Day 2
7th November 2016
No boats, we are completely alone. The autopilot packed in at 0645 so we took turns to steer manually. Fixed by 1500. Still motoring. Had dinner. Still motoring. At 2100 the wind came. Eventually we could sail!
Lunch – stuffed pasta and tomato sauce
Dinner – chillie con carne (pre-cooked)
I was on 0200-0500 with Michel, 50, Dutch, and what a jolly fellow. He’s got a contagious laugh. Sailing across the Atlantic was one of his dreams. It felt wonderful with the wind in my hair, sails full and the stars coating the entire sky giving us light. There was no moon visible. Smooth sailing at 10 knots. Three mint teas for me and three double espresso’s, with two sugar cubes, for Michel and the watch was over.
SOG – 8kn
Seen – sea, 1 small grey whale, 2 birds, 5 dolphins, 5 shooting stars.
Day 8: Race Day 3
8th November 2016
Sailing, slight swell (3-4m). Practice guitar with Jean, House of the Rising Sun and Lola.
Dinner = burger and salad
0500-0800 with Max, the Captain. Silence. Swell 5-6m. Pretty rough but Lady Biz cut through like a knife through butter. Well actually it still had quite a heel.
Unfortunately I fell into the accelerator stick… Twice. Wooopsy.
SOG = 7.5kn
Wind speed = 24, 147°
Seen: sea, 15 dolphins
Day 9: Race Day 4
9th November 2016
Went back to bed after the night shift till midday. Woke up. Still rough waters. Bianca, Zoe and Rachael sea sick. Jean is in his seat below deck, I’m sat in my seat next to him. Jess made us Yorkshire tea. Michel had 2 sugar cubes in half a cup of tea, he said he liked it… I’m not sure.
Chocomilk in fridge for tonights shift with Jean. Practice guitar, House of the Rising Sun. I will master you.
Dinner = Chicken curry. Yes.
2300-0200 with Jean, the ‘dog shift’. In his words “I’m like a tourist in my own life”- sounds dubious. What he actually means is he does things he enjoys so his life is a holiday. I questioned him, in my usual manor, and he humoured me with random tales of his past that kept me entertained and intrigued for hours.
Worst job: When I was 16 I had to go to a battery chicken farm to collect eggs to bring back to the egg factory. The stench was unbearable. I knew from that moment on I would never live near a chicken farm. Obviously a common consideration for many of us…
When I ran a photography company, we were working with commercial products so there were 12 professionals crowding round to determine how to position the baby pink fabric softener. The product manufacturer wanted to have three little yellow chicks surrounding it with a light blue background. I searched all over Belgium to locate the chicks, but was told it was the wrong season… Eventually I found some 150km away and got them delivered in a taxi. As you do. You need to remember it was before digital photography and Photoshop. They pooed, dribbled and jumped around all over the light blue backing paper, it was a long shoot… He gave a giggle come chuckle at the memory. I’m just imagining 12 advertising professionals watching 3 chicks pranking around. Jean said that he was told to glue their feet down as they do in America, he refused.
He grew up in the time of rebellion and free loving. When studying architecture I was part of a rebellion against the head of the department. I then ‘didn’t get the grades’ I needed to carry on to the next year. The head said “you will always be 2 marks short to get through.” Instead he took photography and hasn’t looked back. Things have a way of working themselves out. Years later, he met his son-in-laws mother who happened to have been in the year above Jean at university. They had met at one of the many parties…. Apparently they came to an agreement not to mention this to the family. It was the era of free loving after all!
Day 10: Race Day 5
10th November 2016
Still swell. Cloudy. Fajitas for lunch. No boats. No sea life noted. 1600, House of the Rising Sun cracked… nearly. Still attempting Lola, working out what the song is actually about… On closer inspection not what I initially thought.
Dinner = pork chop, potato and peas
Rachael was feeling a little under the weather (sea sick to the max) so I took over her watch and chilled with ma homie Jean. He’s a wise old thing. We discussed the tides… The main fact was: whilst we’re on the sea, we do not actually rotate with the earth. The tide follows the moon 2 days behind. At 0200 Michel arrived for the next shift. He smokes like a chimney. We assumed Jean had gone to bed… 20 minutes later we notice Jean sat in his chair drinking a whisky, reading his book and by the looks of it, bare naked!
We arrived at São Vicente at 1100 in high spirits, ready and raring for Leg 2.
We set off to Saint Lucia on 16th Nov. It is possible to follow the race in real time on the ARC website:
Pigeon out and thanks for reading!