AZAB 2007 - Web Diary - Leg One

Southerly 110 - "Star Dancer"

02 June

50:05.42N 04:59.20W - One hour into Race

The AZAB started at 1310 hrs for Star Dancer in Class 3. We awoke at Pendennis Marina, Falmouth to a grey misty morning but the visibility and wind improved up to the race start. We were a respectable 3rd over the line and around the first two marks (in our class of 12 boats – total fleet is 51 boats). We have a SE wind at 15/20 knots and are settling down tacking out toward the Manacles which we leave to starboard. Just finished a nice baguette bought ashore - last one for a while. Quite nervous and tense for the morning but feeling good now we are under way. Here we go…!

03 June

49:05.22N 07:13.55W @ 1200 UTC – Damp and Wet

Nearly 140 n miles sailed and about 120 n miles down the course towards the Azores. We have had a good first 24hrs. More wind than forecast - from the SE and now moving North of West. We had up to 18 boats in sight at one point last evening but now there is just one to be seen as the rain keeps falling and visibility is moderate. Radar watch is needed - especially last night when some big ships were close and we only picked up their lights in the mist less than a mile away. We are settling into the routine of watch keeping and ate a good pasta supper last evening. Everything is damp and wet - but our spirits are high! 

4 June

47:33.14N 10:43.37W @ 1200UTC – Into the deep Atlantic

We are well over the continental shelf now and sailing in NW 15/20 knots with the big red kite up. Celebrated with a slice of fruit cake made by our good neighbour Roz - thanks Roz it is great! Quite big swell running but warm and sunny with a little cloud building - pressure is up so we hope to stay the right side of the high. We have sailed well over 300 miles in the first couple of days - been great - never expected such good daily runs - we will no doubt hit some slow patches later. We can see 5 other sails up on the horizon. We cooked omelette last night - fried up some bacon and mushrooms and baked some rolls - bit of a swell so must be getting sea legs!

05 June

46:22.01N 13:36.37W @ 1200UTC – Importance of food

Great sailing yesterday but the wind dropped at dusk and we decided to keep the spinnaker up at night only to have a big wind shift and gusting - so Robert got out of the sea berth and we dropped it for safety sake - all fine and spent the rest of the night polled out genoa - but not much wind so lumpy and not nice. Today is much the same with wind coming in fits and starts. We have the spinnaker up and its trim, trim and trim with constant wind shifts - and not much at that. We are eating well - have 2 bits of fruit a day - so no scurvy - Robert did a great Irish Stew last night with fresh mushrooms, pepper, onions - too much to have any pudding! He cooked bacon, egg, tomato and mushrooms plus a hot roll for breakfast this morning!!! (Funny how such things are so important on a boat!) We sailed 146 nm 12 noon to 12 noon today which is not too bad. A school of dolphins joined us yesterday afternoon for 10 mins - great to see - felt they came to wish us well! Just heard a couple of boats talking - both have racing pigeons on board - one was fed and watered and flew off - the other refuses to go and making a right mess of the new teak decks!

06 June

44:30.20 N 15:18.50 W. @ 1200UTC - SEAME is working

We have had a great morning surfing down the waves with wind astern and poled out Genoa. Wind speed has been over 30 knots occasionally but more generally high teens, low 20's. The seas are quite big and confused so I am bouncing around as I write this. Nice thing with the Southerly is I sit here at the Nav Station looking out as the watery world races along.

We had the spinnaker up all yesterday afternoon and made good progress. Decided to keep it up for the night but then had the wind gust up to 27knots and opted for the Genoa poled out. It was a pitch black night until the moon rose in the early hours. Around midnight we saw the lights of a large ship headed fast in our direction. Plotting with MARPA on the Radar showed she would miss us but called her on Ch 16 to make sure. ‘No worries' was the reply - they had seen us on radar for a good while. This was good news - the first time we have proof that the SEAME radar transponder we fitted works well - difficult to test in the crowded Solent.

Now for a short note from the other half of the crew. Although we are on the same boat we work different watches so we hardly ever see each other, just during meals and watch change-over. We have however been communicating about tactics and other race related subjects via email!! We have been sailing with poled-out genoa for most of the night. We probably could have run with the kite but the risk of shredding it on Day 4 of maybe a 10 day race is just too high. We only have a 1.5 oz kite (that is basically the strength of the cloth) and if that goes we do not have a replacement and we feel the advantage of the kite is greatest in lighter conditions, so hopefully we will make the most of it. Just now looking for ways around the windless patches protecting the Azores although it seems the Azores are having a bit of a blow at the moment. Well it is back to work for the mate, talk to you soon.

07 June

42:53.37N 018:14.20W @ 1200UTC – Third crew working well

A good 24 hours. Grey and cloudy but a great wind for running. Initially the wind and sea state were risky for the spinnaker - gusting high 20's and a confused following sea. We eventually put the spinnaker up at 0200 this morning and have now been running with 18/22 knots of wind on the port quarter for the last 10 hours. Some nice surfing at times!

Star Dancer has taken it in her stride so far. The autopilot - our third crew member - drives her well allowing us to tweak the sails and watch for wind shifts - we have her sailing to a wind angle (rather than a compass course) which is working well. The twin rudders have lots of bite - thanks I think to having nothing heavy stowed forward of the mast and no anchor/chain weighing the bows down. Stern is well in the water and allows the rudders to have maximum effect - well that is what we think! Just before noon today the sun broke through - off came the mid-layer thermals and on with the shorts - but alas short lived and it is grey again. Still it is much warmer - after all we are level with Northern Spain!

09 June

39:22.04N 23:00.36W @ 1200 UTE – Storm yesterday

At sea one week. No diary yesterday because we had a bit of a blow. By 0730 we had gusts over 30 knots and then an hour later up to 40/50 knots which were pretty much sustained for the whole day through to early evening. Max wind speed recorded 61.3 knots. By afternoon the seas were very big and confused (big as houses an apt description). Star Dancer was fantastic and felt well in control. We sailed on with a three reefed main and tiny genoa out. Realised how difficult storm sails are to set in these conditions but luckily we were able to keep our course with the waves on our stern quarter. The autopilot coped well but we found we could be just a little quicker when a big wave arrives! The main thing was not to gybe the main. We had some good surfing - max speed 11.4 knots! With no land to worry about and the fetch of the Atlantic storm waves so long it was a different situation to that faced in the English Channel. Certainly the biggest seas I have sailed in and a real test for Star Dancer - we both agree she was simply great. The rudders always dug in - lots of stern weight and the 4 tons of grounding plate and keel made her feel really stable - she never hesitated in coming back from a wave strike. Well we are not too far away now.

At 0700 this morning we altered course to investigate as we approached another yacht which was wallowing and had no sails set - it was Merlin another AZAB that had suffered damage in the storm and was only able to use a headsail. We offered some diesel but would had been a difficult transfer in a lumpy sea state blowing 27 knots and it was declined by the single hander on board - he is ‘limping' into Ponta Delgada. Right now Robert is making lunch - freshly baked rolls with tuna while outside it is blowing 25/30 knots as we close reach towards the finish line - another bumpy day but our speed is good (7.5 knots speed over ground). Robert Hughes a friend from Northshore (doing the return leg on Sea Spine) sneaked a bottle of Champagne on board in Falmouth for when we get to the finish in Ponta Delgada - perhaps sometime in the next 48hrs - all being well!

10 June

38:12.16N 24:37.18W @ 0300UTE - Magic Moments?

On watch at 0300hrs. The half moon has just risen over low clouds astern and just after 0200 hrs the plume of Ponta do Arnel lighthouse appeared on the bow - just where it should be after 1130 miles at sea! We are 39 miles off the coast of San Miguel - sailing along in 20 knots of wind from the NW with the bright stars and Milky Way as a backcloth above the bobbing masthead light. Magic moments?

11 June

37:44.40N 25:39.59W - Arrived in Ponta Delgada!

We crossed the finish line at the entrance to Ponta Delgada harbour at 1807 hours UTE yesterday evening (Sunday 10th June). We had a long day beating along the South coast of San Miguel from the East. Perhaps a mistake in hindsight not to come in from the West but we were being headed by the wind and pushed to the East. We had 20 to 30 knots on the nose the whole way for the 25 miles and we were a bit exhausted - but elated at the finish. We reefed and un-reefed at least a dozen times and short tacked all the way - hardest work on the whole race! The shower, beer and a good meal were a bit special last night. We have been waiting on the arrival quay overnight to present our papers formally at 0900 in a few minutes time. Despite being part of the EU we have to be cleared by four different Departments (all with offices next to each other). A few hours later now and we have gone through the formalities of registering our arrival and have a berth alongside Ruffian another Class 3 boat. Sea Spine, the other Southerly boat, arrived a couple of hours ago - good to see them - we were alongside in Falmouth. Now the clean up and preparation for the return leg starts. Robert has managed to book a flight back to Holland for Wednesday. Jenny arrives Friday and John flies in on Sunday ready for the return leg which starts on Tuesday 19th June.

STOP PRESS

The provisional results list for Class 3 Boats have us in 2nd place lying 3 hours behind Ruffian for the return leg! We were the 4th boat to arrive in Class 3 but move up on handicap. Robert and I are smiling!!