ARC Race 2018 on OE60 #2, Cygnus Cygnus
Our 2,700 nautical mile journey from Grand Canaries to St. Lucia began on November 25, 2018. The ARC race began 30+ years ago with the idea for a safer passage as a group to the Caribbean. This year over 300+ boats entered the ARC, 99% still cruising yachts with a keen interest competing in division, class and overall. Our cruiser is a 60 foot very luxurious, high performance, safe offshore, high quality construction and easy handling catamaran. Our boat building facility is in Jakobstad, Finland next door to Baltic and down the road from Swan. Our catamarans are built with the same quality and craftsmanship as our neighbors.
It was a beautiful afternoon, with winds light: around 10 knots, gusting to 15. We got off to a great start with our new A2 asymmetrical spinnaker. We immediately found our competition – S’ARENELLA (Outremer 5x) and SEA CHILD (Custom 56’): both catamarans. By the next morning, we had crossed paths many times.
As the weather was predicted, we committed to go on a very southerly direction to avoid a large High pressure area the size of Texas to the west of the Canaries. Rapidly our 2,700 kt mile trip was turning into 3,100 miles. All was good onboard with the crew getting into their routines and meal times. The 7 crew members were split into 3 groups with 2 people per watch. Each watch did 2 hours on and then 4 hours off. The schedule was very relaxing with delicious meals set at regular times. Our Captain, Philip, was the extra man and floated between shifts. He was up most nights and slept during the day. Most of the time we could get 6-7 hours’ sleep at night and possibly grab a short nap in afternoon.
Surfing 10-12 foot waves with 15-20 knots of wind was a joy on the OE60! We maintained 12-14 knots of boat speed and reached a max speed each day of +20 knots. The record on a particular beautiful afternoon was 27.4 knots (31.5 mph). Not bad for a cruising boat with 5 bedrooms and 4 full baths, full kitchen with fridges, freezer, oven, dishwasher, clothes washer, dinghy and many more comforts of home!
Very few days did we miss a sunrise and sunset and when the moon was out the first half of the race it was like sailing during the day. The last half of the race was a new moon, that’s when millions of stars came out in full force. Late afternoon as dinner was being prepared, we would be joined by dolphins and whales on most nights for an hour. Magical seeing these large fish within feet of the boat. At night the entertainment of flying fish landing on the deck, avoiding being hit by one and then picking them up and dropping them back into the sea. The last few days as we approached the Caribbean, squalls had our attention. Always in the middle of the night from midnight till sunrise. In the dark sky you could see the squalls form in dark very low clouds then wind 30+, veering to the right with a down pour of rain that would drench you in a NY minute. Squalls lasted 10-20 minutes and the stars were back out in full bloom. Also nearing the Caribbean, seaweed became an issue as large islands floated in our way. We avoided most but some would catch on our foils and luckily fell off without us having to stop. The locations by latitude and longitude of Sargassum seaweed patches were noted and reported to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory at USM.
As we gybed downwind, going farther south than we ever imagined, staying out of the high pressure with no wind, we had a few unfortunate situations over the next few days (days 6-9). We hooked one of our spinnaker ropes around the dagger board, caught an old fishing float with a very long line attached, ran over a 200 lbs. of fishing net with floats and an anchor attached, and lastly broke the spinnaker halyard and shredded our new A2. Not much sleep was had and each incident required us to pull sails down and go head to wind with no speed, so that someone could get in the ocean to cut and remove the debris. All rubbish was packed on board and disposed of in St. Lucia. Every little bit helps our Oceans! By day 9 we were 150 miles behind the competition and nursing our boat to the finish, at 70% of what we were doing the first 6 days. By day 10 we managed to repair our spinnaker halyard with a crew member at the top of the mast for 3 hours. The seas at that time were 10-14 feet and even on our wide catamaran the top of the mast moves around in a 15-20 foot circle. Hard to hang on, doing work at the top of the mast.
The final three days with the A4 asymmetrical spinnaker up during the day light hours and the Code Zero up at night brought us to the finish in St. Lucia. Our professional adventure photographer, with no experience sailing or racing, said, “I was very surprised that I was never bored and the beauty of being in the middle of the ocean never gets old.” The OE60 was extremely comfortable and performed incredibly well against the competition, which were much lighter and had ¼ the comforts. Our crew of 7 left with big smiles and memories to share with family and friends for a lifetime. All in all, our trip was very successful and we had lots of wonderful memories.