Dolphins, more dolphins and a close shave on the Atlantic Rally Challenge
May 27 – and undeterred by the rogue wave that swamped the cockpit a couple of days ago, the team continue to make headway aboard Supertaff en route to The Azores...but always expecting the unexpected!
We’re following Boatshed CEO, Neil Chapman, Curt Mundy (Boatshed Ireland) and Curt’s niece Shea on the Bermuda-Azores leg of the ARC Europe Rally on board the 41-foot Van de Stadt-Rebel 41 ketch ‘Supertaff’ owned by Neil and his wife Mandy.
Here you can catch up with the highlights from Neil’s daily reports that he’s sending back to Boatshed HQ in Hampshire.
May 27th – and 345 miles to go!
By Neil Chapman
You forget out here, unless you sit back and listen, how incredibly noisy it is sometimes on a boat: slap, bang, rattle, swoosh, fizz, creak, tap-tap-tap...
Sometimes it feels really quite and peaceful but at other times it can be very noisy. At present I am sitting on the galley floor (probably makes it sound noisy as down low) typing this.
Sitting on the floor at night in the beanbag or on a cushion is very pleasant. You can wedge yourself in – and the boat’s movement seems less as you are at the lowest point in he hull and it is neither too hot nor too cold. Plus – you are next to the chart table and within three steps of the cockpit.
Not that other locations on the boat are less comfortable – but the floor gives a cocoon-type feeling just that little bit away from the wind, motion and noise.
12 days out of Bermuda – and one of our best sailing days so far
A good day so far and certainly one of our best sailing days so far. Distance run when I did the log was 160 miles in the last 24 hours and only 8 miles short of the boat's overall record. We have been going fast all last night and all day today. For hours today, the log was reading over 7 knots and it is only in the last hour (I have reefed the headsail for darkness) that we have been down to upper sixes.
Wind has been 18 to 20 knots just forward of the beam and for some reason the seas have not built up too much so despite lots of spray we are not having to push a series of waves and therefore the speed has stayed on.
At first I just felt a bit nervous about the speed: as the day progressed my confidence in the angle of heel and our speed grew and by this afternoon I was really enjoying myself.
Supertaff was literally flying along on a beam sea with spray all around but very little swell or waves to upset her forward motion. As if sensing our enjoyment we had a large school of dolphins come along to play. Curt saw them as they came in about half a mile away.
Probably 30 dolphins were leaping in and out of the waves, clearly having spotted the boat and tearing at full speed to take a closer look at us.
Just popped my head outside for a look around, dark and cloudy but great phosphorescence as the boat zooms along and adds a little light to our path forward and the great grey trail behind us. We have started some very preliminary discussion on what we might do when we arrive in the Azores, like tourist things, and Curt is talking about the salad stuff he is going to get as we exhausted our fresh supplies many days ago.
We do still have some meat left which we have kept in he freezer part of the fridge and it has stayed frozen this trip as we have been running the engine quite clear a lot to make sure Thelma (autopilot) is well served in terms of juice. She continues to do the most amazing job by the way!
Focus and concentration remains paramount
An episode earlier in the day reminded me how important that critical focus and concentration is on a trip like this.
We were due to reduce headsail as things were getting a bit lively as we had 22 knots of wind. Usual drill: gear on and out into the cockpit to discuss the plan. Shea is still learning so I tend to get her pulling stuff (we believe in girl power aboard Supertaff so try to exercise this principle when we can).
In this case the plan is a simple reduction in headsail by slackening the sheet and pulling in on the furling line. To do this Shea is in the aft cockpit and I am in the main cockpit. Shea will pull in on the furling line and I will quickly release the sheet to facilitate.
We have done this before and I quickly run through the process and remind her how to release the furling line from the cleat when I am ready to ease the sheet. I remind Shea that because the furling line is also through a jammer she can release the furling line from the cleat in relative safety as the jammer is taking the load.
Now, bear in mind the boat is fully powered up with about 50% of the Genoa out and we’re doing 7-plus knots in big seas. We stand by and I ask her to take the line off the cleat and get ready to pull in the line when the sail is released and starts flapping.
“In the Solent we may just be off to the local A&E...”
As I start to take a turn of the winch to start easing the sheet, Shea undoes the line of the cleat, loosens it and starts opening the jammer. Fortunately, I spot this at the last minute and grab the lever on the jammer and push it back down again.
Phew! Close! I run through the instructions again and Shea hauls in the furler line perfectly with only a short bit of Genoa flapping and we sheet in. It reminded me about the absolute need for focus and for me to also make sure that I do not make presumptions about how clear my instructions are or how a novice can misunderstand certain items of kit on the boat.
Should the furling line have let go in this case then in the Solent we may just be off to local A&E for rope burns or broken fingers. But out here?
As I say ‘focus Neil’. Just been off for a few hours and they called me as wind was up over 22. It actually moved forwards so my close reach has become a beat. Mmm! Cannot be helped, so have reefed the Genoa again and come off 5 degrees. A bit better and the forecast is saying this should be the worst for tonight so will keep bashing on.
Keep tracking back for more information and updates!
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