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Racing or cruising: why choose?

Published on 21 march 2017 at 0h00

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My first transat, in 2000, was a bit of a revelation.  Setting out from Mindelo in the Cape Verde islands, we reached Martinique after 17 days’ sailing in total “zen” mode.  Here’s what I wrote in my blog when we arrived:

“Thank you to the tropicbird who so often brought us a little pale glow in the sky; to the dolphins, and their cries that we could hear during the night watch; to the sky and her blanket of stars which, even though no longer guiding us, still let us hold a course; to the ocean for everything; to Catleya who made it; to my girlfriend who let me do it; and above all to my crewmates…”

For the transatlantic 2016 version, after years of sailing experience, cruising, racing, etc… I decided to take a different course.  The objective was still a transat, but I wanted to go via Cape Verde since these islands had left me with an impression of such wild beauty and memories of the kindness of the inhabitants.  And this time, the crossing would be combined with meeting people and with a competition which often belies this trans-ocean rally…  A handicap class system allows you to gauge yourself relative to other boats on the ARC rally taking into account engine hours.  Let’s see where this leads!

 

Racing across the Atlantic

The ARC+ is distinguished from the traditional ARC by its route, organized in two legs: Las Palmas (in the Canary Islands) - Mindelo (São Vincente island in the Cape Verde group), then the transatlantic to St.Lucia.

The start of the first leg… Not much wind, but we’re in a good position!

As for meeting people, no preparation is required.  There are 75 boats signed up for the ARC+ (Cape Verde route) and 270 for the traditional ARC, which means that there are loads of people.  They are enlightening, happy, sometimes crazy.  For the rally, there are no complex racing rules like in a regatta, nor any particular limits on the boat’s configuration.  On the other hand, the rules relating to safety equipment, based on ISAF rules, are fairly exhaustive and stringent.

You need an EPIRB of course, but also two systems of nav. Lights (even if in reality there’s a lot of leeway…), well-equipped lifejackets, a backup GPS system, lifebelts and man overboard recovery equipment, transocean  liferaft, and more.  Personally, I added PLBs with GPS, AIS and MOB system: in the event of falling overboard, each PLB would automatically transmit an AIS MOB signal including the position.  On board, a black box processes the message received and sets off an alarm if it’s an MOB alarm from one of our PLBs.  Lastly, there’s also a waterproof handheld VHF (with GPS and DSC) for the watchkeeper, a radar (especially for squalls) and an AIS transponder.

Hadès, the seadog.  On station and ready for his first transat.

Our Iridium is fitted: this morning I downloaded GRIB files showing fairly calm conditions for the first 24 hours with northeasterly winds, and a bit more air toward the African coast.  I did two routing calculations, with and without motor, but the motoring option, in spite of the handicap, looks advantageous for the start.  Shame…

 

On-board ...

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