After months, and in many cases years of preparation, the second edition of the CCR set off from Marina Rubicon, Lanzarote on 14th December at 12 noon. The fleet enjoyed almost perfect start conditions sailing in 20-25 knots of breeze from the NNW in a calm sea.
With crews from Great Britain, Holland, Germany, France and New Zealand, the cosmopolitan fleet had an action packed week preparing and acquainting themselves before the start. The camaraderie that built up was palpable as a supposed ‘evening off’ on Saturday, the final night before the start, saw almost all crews meet in the Sailor’s Bar to wish each other well for the crossing.
Despite all boats firmly declaring they are not interested in racing, there is clearly an element of competition as crews were joking and jostling over who is going to get line honours and therefore, the first to taste the much anticipated rum punch in Antigua. However, with 2,850 miles to run, they are all going to have to wait a couple of weeks for the argument to be settled.
The Beneteau First 45 Raven, skippered by renowned meteorological expert Mike Broughton who has crossed the Atlantic on 16 occasions are favourites to be in first. Mike Broughton commented at the beginning of the week ‘I’m so pleased to finally be here and be part of the CCR this year, and to be able to get to know everyone else in the fleet makes a great atmosphere. To be crossing the Atlantic in my own boat with my family and in such a close knit fleet makes it a very special event for me. We’ve got a lot of work to do this week, but we are confident we will make the start on time’.
Make the start they did, and the rest of the boats are going to give them a run for their money. Beneteau Oceanis Escape were first to slip their lines on Sunday morning and were confident that they would be ‘first out, first in’ to Antigua. Crew members on Escape, John and Pete said they had ‘the most fantastic week in Lanzarote’ and although having to leave both their wives at home they are looking forward to seeing them on arrival in Antigua.
The skipper of French boat Penn er Karreg was even more vociferous describing the week as ‘superb’. Maximum use was made of the range of seminars during the week presented by various experts, whilst the evening entertainment which included a Tapas Masterclass, wine tasting, salsa & mojitos and paella & sangria were all well attended, despite the amount of work to do during the daytimes. Sailing Rallies Events Manager, Mikaela Meik agreed that these had been good fun but also commented, ‘The free airport collections and shuttles to the supermarket were very popular with the crews this year, and allowed the crews to easily prepare for their transat.’
Skipper of Patchouly, Chris Shelton and family have been planning their crossing for 20 years, and chose to enter the CCR for the dedicated support they would receive, not only from the Sailing Rallies team but also from the marinas at either side of the event. Marina Rubicon did not disappoint and once again offered superb support to the rally participants.
A short survey conducted by the marina before the yachts left revealed that the yachts really appreciated the quality and cleanliness of the facilities and the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, as well as the excellent facilities in the boatyard. This is all completely in keeping with the ethos of the rally. “It is a real pleasure to work with Marina Rubicon and we’d like to thank them for all their hard work and dedication throughout the event.” commented Sailing Rallies Managing Director, John Simpson.
The marina and the rally is described as ‘catamaran friendly’ and this was certainly the case. Skipper of Duplicat a Privilege 435, was full of praise for the rally and delighted that even though they were over 7m wide, the boat yard were able to accommodate them and lift the cat for a quick scrub before departure. All boats completed a comprehensive safety check, which not only involved checking the equipment on board, but gave opportunity to discuss in detail procedures should crews find themselves in an emergency situation.
The wind is expected to veer round to the NE over the next couple of days as participants sail out past the Canary Islands and make their way across the Atlantic to Antigua. Weather for the passage looks to be very favourable with steady tradewind conditions forecasted for at least the first week. As the boats move further south these conditions are expected to continue.
During the crossing boats are in touch with each other via iridium and SSB radio, and will be emailed weather forecasts and position reports from the Sailing Rallies team daily. GPS trackers provided by British based company GTC track are fitted onto each boat and will report at 4 hour intervals.
Crews are looking forward to arriving in Nelsons Dockyard, Antigua in 2 – 3 weeks’ time where they will be met by the Sailing Rallies team whatever time of day or night they arrive. A whole host of celebrations will be organised, including a ‘Taste of the Caribbean’ evening held at the Admirals Inn, rum tasting, a visit to Carib Coffee Co and a trip to Shirley Heights – a true rite of passage for sailors in Antigua.
You can track the fleet’s progress and read the blogs at www.sailingrallies.com.