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A crossing with a rally: the adventure within reach of your bows

Published on 01 april 2016 at 0h00

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Las Palmas marina, in the Canaries, was agitated. More than 80 boats of all nationalities had met up to cross the Atlantic, via Cape Verde, as part of the ARC+, a new option offered to participants in the ARC, which generally crosses directly to St. Lucia. The departure was just three days away, and when I embarked aboard First Step, the Lagoon 400 S2 belonging to Martin and his son Micha, chaos reigned aboard. The welcome was convivial, even though I felt a certain amount of tension, linked to the imminence of the departure and the list of things to do, which was growing longer. Like many participants, this father and son were going to cross the Atlantic for the first time. This voyage, a kind of initiatory trip, would reinforce the bonds which unite them. At 24, Micha was at a crossroads: he would either return in a year’s time to take over the family business, or decide to find his own way. Since their departure, 4 months earlier, from the Baltic Sea in Germany, everything had gone well, and the 2,000 miles they had already covered had created a harmony between them. After endless preparations: provisioning, checking the spare parts aboard, small repairs, and above all, stowage, it was time for the big departure. “I bought this catamaran new,” Martin explained. “However the number of things to be prepared on a new boat has amazed me. I thought that everything would be simple... I intend to sell the boat when we return, that’s why we are quite fussy about maintenance.”
It was true that since my arrival two days earlier, Martin and Micha had put more effort into polishing the hull and renovating the stainless steel fittings than dealing with the purely technical details. The last day was dedicated to checking the Iridium and reception of the e-mails which would allow us to get weather information at sea. A general briefing was held in the local Yacht Club, and finally Martin and Micha applied themselves to painting the boat’s name on the jetty wall, as is the tradition! As soon as this work was completed, we finally cast off. Leaving the marina was a very emotional moment. The foghorns added to the palpable tension. The trade winds were present – 25 knots on the dial! And in the right direction: 210°, directly towards Cape Verde! However we had to slalom between the enormous cargo ships at anchor off Las Palmas, and the other competitors. We decided to hoist the Parasailor, a kind of magic spinnaker whose tube nicely replaces a spinnaker pole and which allows the boat to sail deep downwind, at 160° to the wind. “First Step” gathered speed, and we were soon sailing at 6.5 knots in a sea which was still calm. A myriad of dolphins leapt joyfully around us; it was a magic moment. Next to us, the Camper & Nicholson 48 “Lerina”, one of the only two French boats entered in this rally, unrolled its genoa; we would see them again in Cape Verde.

Atlantic Rallye for Cruiser catamaran

It’s the tradition: you must paint your boat’s name on the jetty wall ...

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