Les Sables d’Olonne to Tahiti in 96 days…

Darren Thompson is a New Zealander. He has waited a long time to fulfil his dream of crossing an ocean under sail. With the help of two sailing friends, he sailed his Excess 11 to Tahiti.

The voyage was undertaken with the help and remote monitoring of the Sail Tahiti team. We collected our catamaran in October. My wife and I have three children aged between 9 and 17 and after spending a lot of time researching and trying out different multihulls, we decided to buy an Excess 11, which the kids called Albatross. We live in New Zealand, and since it’s only a five-hour flight from Auckland to Tahiti, that’s where our catamaran will be based. That way we can explore the hundred or so islands that make up French Polynesia. A sailing friend came from Australia to help us during the first half of the voyage - departing from Les Sables d’Olonne. Before sailing Excess 11, one of my main concerns was how a smaller catamaran would cope with bad weather and big seas, but Albatross was very comfortable throughout the crossing. We cooked full meals in the evening and enjoyed coffee at the helm in the morning. At Cascais, we picked up an extra crew member, and then we set off from Lanzarote to cross the Atlantic to Martinique. The trade winds were calm, which meant that we had to sail very far south in search of wind. There were periods when we had to sail under motor to be able to get to Martinique on Boxing Day. A capacity of 400 liters (105 US gallons) of fuel gives the Excess 11 a good range under motor, and two days from Martinique we were even able to help a monohull that had run out of fuel. On the route between the West Indies and Panama, which is always very windy, we were once again confronted with waves of over 3 meters and strong winds. Excess 11 proved to be very stable in all conditions. We transited the Panama Canal, revictualed the boat and set off for the longest leg, covering more than 4,000 miles across the Pacific, heading for the Galapagos and then Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands. With winds of around fifteen knots on the beam and a favorable current, we covered 200 miles a day at times, with a daily record of 240 miles. It took us just under 25 days to complete the crossing. After a brief stopover, we continued on to Tahiti with a pitstop in the Tuamotus. It was a real adventure to sail the catamaran to the Pacific... but the best is yet to come. Next month my family and I will be returning to Tahiti to spend a few weeks exploring some of the islands aboard Albatross.

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