The departure from Mindelo was somewhat chaotic due to the mess with the PCR test analysis that was missing. The continuous postponements were starting to make Kjetil’s travel plans difficult. WCC’s lack of information on any progress had already made some of the crew on other boats fly home from Mindelo. Several of us participants had started to question the process and also offered help but this was declined by the local WCC rep. His trust in the marina owner and some mysterious “minister” always referred to seemed to have no limits.
The participants in an ARC race are not without resources. Most of us are highly educated, have a huge amount of international experience, also in Africa, and could have been a good resource for the bewildered local reps, but no. Well, until Anders from, the Swedish boat Ydalir, a retired physician started to use his local contacts. Until then the updates on the VHF had been a continuous “I know nothing”, comically starting sound a bit like the waiter at Fawly Towers (the television series), strengthened by an unknown boat sending the tune of the Benny Hill show after ever “update” (haha, we know who did it). Anders ensured we started to get some information, and it was not good at that point. The tests were still in Mindelo and they did not have the capacity to analyze them locally. They were to be shipped to the capital for the analysis but time was running out as they had to be done within the next 24hours or a new test had to be done, with additional 2-3 days waiting for the result. A zoom meeting was held with the CEO of WCC and he confirmed that any boat that left early would be welcome in Saint Lucia, regardless, and that the test result if they showed up, would be forwarded by e-mail to us and the local authorities. If not, we would have to take a test on arrival. However, any boat that started before the official start would not be in the official race results but otherwise supported like any other ARC boat. We believed there had to be another test, so decision, but not an easy one, was to leave so Kjetil could participate.
The end of the farse was that, by a miracle, all tests were analyzed during the night in a laboratory with limited resources, and they even had time to make the documents for all participants and mail them during the same night/day. But this didn’t matter at all! Because during the crossing we got the message that new entry rules at Saint Lucia forced us all to take a new PCR test on arrival anyway and the test from Mindelo was irrelevant.
We were seven boats that decided to start at 13.00 local time that day. That was ap 30% of the whole ARC+ fleet, and we even got a start signal from the local reps. Again we had a great start, broad-reaching in the beginning, wing-on-wing a bit later with steady 16-20knots of wind. Well, it lasted until we were south of the islands where it becomes totally becalmed but still with some messy waves. To be able to steer and maintain the course we had to motor for 30min, then the wind came back if not much. During the night it strengthened and we broad reached on the rhumbline towards our target, 2000nm away!
The crew again performed great, easily falling into the rhythm of sailing and enjoying the good winds. We said goodbye to the fast catamarans Immagina and Ningyo as they sailed way to fast for us. We also fell behind a 50 feet Oceanis in the beginning but caught up some days later. The first days were just great. The gennaker was hoisted during the day and we went pure white sails during the night. The wind wane became our best friend and worked great, especially with white sails. With the genny, a bit more unstable.
Until now, we’ve had no damage to the boat at all. However, as the wind picked up even more this was to change. In Mindelo, we had noticed that some of the lower screws on the rail for the spinnaker pole had loosened. We screwed them back, but clearly, 2 of them was not properly installed from the beginning as the threads were not good and didn’t hold properly. However, we tightened them as best as we could and didn’t think more of it. A saying says that all bad things that happen on a sailboat, happens at 2 AM on a windy night. They were right of course. The 3rd or 4th night though, just after I had gotten off the watch at 01.00 in the night and was in the front head, getting ready for bed, I heard a big bang and knew the clothes had to come back on. The crew also alerted me and as I got on the deck the headsail was clearly not right. Kjetil and I strapped on to the security lines and made our way forward. No doubt what had happened. The lower part of the rail was ripped off the mast together with the traveller. Luckily the part that was ripped off still hung, more or less in one piece on the end of the pole. We recovered it, got the pole down and went broad-reaching. No repairs could be done in the middle of the night, so we sailed o during the night, slightly in the wrong direction and a little depressed of the thought of not having a spinnaker pole.
The next morning, Kjetil went on deck and actually found the rubber part of the end of the rail. This meant we had all the parts! We brainstormed how to make a fix during the day, and after 3 hours of discussion, we went to it. We couldn’t get the ball bearing system on the traveller back together as we didn’t have all the balls. However, we glued with Sica, a line of the balls on each side to ensure enough support of the traveller. Kjetil had filed away the sharp edges on the remaining part of the rail (app 35cm was gone) and was able to slide the traveller back on and fix it in a position slightly higher on the mast. Then we only had one problem, as the line had come down during the night. Someone had to go up the mast, and even if its only half the way, its, for most people, not a fun task. Good then that we had a fearless 19-year-old girl who just said YES, and looked forward to it. I’m quite sure we were the only boat in the entire fleet with a crew member thinking this to be fun. Up she went, fixed it and reluctantly came down again. I believe she’d been happier if we left here there for an hour. We mounted the pole again and rolled out the headsail…IT WORKED! Back on course, we high fived and was ever so happy with ourselves and maintained 6-9knots towards to Saint Lucia.
The meals onboard continued to be magnificent. 2 hot meals per day and a varied menu kept the crew happy and content. Even the most stormy days, Jill and Ingeborg had premade meals ready for us. The first week swept by in an instant, and we were ahead of our 14days schedule as we approached the magic “1000nm left to go” line. The girls had prepared a Prosecco lunch on the halfway-day, however, as the wind was still a bit tough we postponed it to the next day. A smart decision as we hit the mother of all squalls that morning, with the wind suddenly increased to 30+knots and all the rain in the sky came down for 45minutes. I hand steered for that time ensuring we went downwind the whole time. As with all squalls, it goes away, just as abruptly as it starts and we could get back on course.
The halfway-lunch became the “900miles to go” lunch bur was great anyway. Prosecco, newly baked bread from the oven, ham and salami from the Spanish butcher in Las Palmas, while sailing 7-9knots with the gennaker up was a fantastic experience. Tinius wanted to taste Prosecco, but in the end preferred a Cola Zero, haha.
All was good as we got into the 2nd half of the race…then the noise from the autopilot and steering started…..