Crossing the atlantic: An accessible dream.

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Crossing the Atlantic is a special moment in the life of a sailor, it is often the high point, about which he or she has dreamt for several years: to be alone, with family or friends for a couple of weeks, in the middle of the Atlantic, finding out about yourself and pursuing a myth that your adolescent reading has magnified. But an Atlantic crossing is not to be taken lightly. So what is the best way to prepare yourself to live this experience to the full?

The right crew
The Atlantic crossing, strictly speaking, generally begins in the Canaries, and finishes on one of the West Indian islands. The crossing generally lasts between two and three weeks, depending on the state of the sea, the winds, your boat and of course, the crew… Because a successful crossing is a crossing shared with crew members who want to live the same experience as you. So before setting off, asking yourself questions about the crew is of the utmost importance.
Crossing as a family is often in favour with fathers seeking to both live out their teenage dreams and to share an intense moment with their wife and children. This is a real joy, if the family accept the project completely. Because you must ask yourself if your children will really appreciate the crossing. Generally, everything goes well. But time may seem to drag to children who are too young to take part in the manoeuvres and it is quite possible that the ‘mystical’ side to climbing over thousands of waves escapes them…
The other solution is therefore to leave with friend. Here again, the programme must be perfectly taken on board and understood by everyone. There is nothing worse than a crossing with a budding racer, who wants to change sails every half hour (one minute the symmetrical spinnaker, the next the gennaker, the next the asymmetric…), if the rest of the crew want to spend a moment of plenitude and take advantage of the break offered by the crossing to reread the complete works of Proust or the adventures of Harry Potter!
Finally, there is the option of leaving singlehanded… Reserved for hardened sailors, this solution means you can live your dream to the full, but does not allow you to share the experience!

The right boat and the right time
Examples of Atlantic crossings aboard ‘cockleshells’ are numerous (see following pages for Benoït and Pierre-Yves’ adventure on a sport catamaran). The choice of boat is therefore not of first importance. It is better to have a small boat whose preparation (as well as that of its crew) is optimal, than a roughly-prepared giant catamaran with a crew which has not even got its sea legs. A good overhaul and a few well-chosen spares should guarantee you a happy crossing… (see box).
On a ‘classic’ Atlantic crossing, the only essential is to leave neither too early nor too late. Waiting for the trade winds to be well-established guarantees downwind sailing, which is much pleasanter… Of all the magazine’s readers who, over more than twenty years, have told us ...

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