A team of amateur sailors have undergone an intense training weekend off the coast of the Isle of Wight in preparation for a famous transatlantic race later this month.
The 12-strong crew, backed by a professional skipper, his mate and 2 watch leaders, have signed up for the high-profile Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) with Southampton-based sailing specialists First Class Sailing.
Beginning in the Canary Island resort of Las Palmas on 20th November, the ARC will conclude on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia around 2 weeks later, with over 200 vessels taking on the 2,700-mile voyage.
During the training weekend, held in the Solent, members of the crew on the 72-foot long racing yacht were put through their paces by skipper Ricky Chalmers, who will compete in his second successive ARC. He said:
“We’ve been getting the team used to the methods on big boats. Many of the crew have experience of sailing smaller vessels, but nothing as big as a Challenger 72 yacht.
“Aspects like the power of the boat, winch techniques and the forces involved need getting used to, so the weekend has been a good introduction.”
Starting and finishing in Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, the crew explored the eastern Solent and moored overnight in Cowes before approaching Southampton the next day and doubling back for Portsmouth.
Crew members familiarised themselves with a variety of roles including deckwork, putting up sails and grinding ropes in the ‘snakepit’ – which additionally acts as an important area of communication between the bow and stern. Basic tasks such as cooking and cleaning were also carried out as the crew readied themselves for all facets of their voyage.
With the ARC less than 2 weeks away, Ricky believes the reality of crossing the Atlantic Ocean will now be setting in for the crew.
“This race is nothing trivial, it’s a huge challenge. We are dealing with nature. The ARC will throw up ‘rolly’ waves of eight to ten feet and on a stormy day those numbers could double.
“We’ve got the right formula to compete and transatlantic racing is something lots of people have done successfully and are able to do.
“Sailing is very accessible now – that wasn’t the case 20 years ago mainly because of the costs involved.”
Charlie Tulloch, principal at First Class Sailing said:
“Training has gone well for the crew. They practiced some of the vital skills needed to operate the yacht and got over 50 miles under their belts.
“The ARC is a tough challenge and isn’t for the faint-hearted. Winds of 30-40 knots and large Atlantic waves may well be experienced at the start of the race.
“However, once the boat gets into the proper trade winds the crew should have days and days of blissful downwind sailing with the spinnaker up.”