Ludde Ingvall’s 100ft CQS was the first of the record-sized fleet to finish the fourth RORC Transatlantic Race © RORC/Arthur Daniel
The weather confounded navigators planning their route across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean for the 186 yachts taking part in the 2017 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. Around half the fleet was tempted by easy sailing on the rhumb line early on, only to be stopped at the end of their first week at sea thanks to a low pressure system that produced head winds and pushed the early north-easterly trades away. Those who headed south had to cope with lighter breezes for 700 miles to the latitude of Cape Verde, before plunging into reliable north easterlies all the way across to Saint Lucia. Most of the boats in the north subsequently opted to opted to dive south, crossing a void with little wind, to join the trades in lower latitudes.
Teasing Machine arriving in Grenada © RORC/Arthur Daniel
The first boat to reach St Lucia, after 2,900 miles and just over 14 days at sea, was Christian Guyader’s French TS42 catamaran Guyader Gastronomie. Subsequent arrivals were quick to compare tales, triumphs and testing times during their passages. Each welcome was followed by much talk of how each boat coped with navigational choices and the weather encountered along the way. Jubilation of reaching land after a tougher, or longer, crossing than anticipated helped to create an exceptional atmosphere at the finish.
A similar weather pattern was evident a week after the ARC start, for the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Trans-Atlantic Race from Lanzarote to Grenada, which started on November 25. With the race course specifying that yachts must pass to the north of the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria, despite an unusual southerly wind, the first hurdle was negotiating the 60-mile long wind shadow in the lee of Tenerife.
The larger Class 0 yachts, along with the leaders in Class 1, got through before a shut down that saw many of their smaller competitors languishing in a confused swell, but very little wind, for nearly 24 hours. As a result, the big boats got cleanly away and were never challenged on corrected time by the smaller Class 2 yachts.
Participants in a celebratory mood at the ARC prize giving in St Lucia. Photo: WCC / Clare Pengelly
However, the leaders on the water had very different views as to which route would be most beneficial. Roman Guerra’s Volvo 70 Monster Project headed far north, hoping to get into the easterly winds above a series of low-pressure systems, while Ludde Ingvall’s 100ft Supermaxi CQS was the first to dive south, sacrificing distance made good in order to maximise her time in the still relatively fickle tradewinds.
Despite damage sustained later in the race during a broach in a 40-knot squall, CQS took line honours in a fraction over 11 days. However, it was Eric de Turckheim’s Nmydd 54 Teasing Machine that took the overall win on corrected time. Among the smaller boats, Richard Palmer and Rupert Holmes on the 33ft JPK1010 Jangada took victory in Class 2 by more than two days and won the two-handed division by an even larger margin.