What a beginning to this epic race! With a forecast for a downwind sleigh ride the whole 1100nm to Madeira, everyone was so excited at La Rochelle to get out there and send it. And we weren't disappointed. The start day dawned bright and sunny, and amidst thousands of spectators both ashore and on the course, all 85 of us were given a well deserved farewell.
By the second morning of the race we had already rounded Cap Finisterre, the log reading an average of around 9.5kts, and the good times continued. Following this we had a night in survival mode, with no spinnakers as squalls passed through around 35knots. Boats broke rudders, ran into submerged objects or suffered pilot failures. The accompanying vessels were all occupied helping these competitors get into port for repairs. Yet after all the carnage, only two boats actually retired, a testament to the improved standard of boats and sailors in the race.
Meanwhile AUS 587 kept trucking along, eating away at the leaders, sitting comfortably between 6th and 8th place. I was more than happy with this, especially since it was our first long Solo race. All was balanced and calm aboard. That was until we were about 200nm from the finish…
According to the race forecast (which we listen to with our HF receiver), the wind was due to go NW at 10-15kts. So I continued along the Rhumb line to gain some westing. But the wind never arrived, and we sat totally becalmed for 18hrs, with another 24hrs of light winds to follow! Everyone was becalmed at some stage, but those to the East got the new wind first. It was quite a surreal experience, the radio went quiet for several days, not a breath of wind or boat in sight, it was difficult to believe I was in a race.
So we arrived in Madera in 22nd place, hooning along the coast in the middle of the night with bullets of wind shooting down from the mountain. After a good check through, the boat is in good form with no major repairs necessary, except for the keel! It appears as though a shark took a liking to the fluorescent bulb and went in for the kill, probably while we were becalmed! There are teeth marks and big chunks removed, so the boat will come out of the water to be repaired.
The atmosphere here in Madera is incredible, there is a certain relief that the Bay of Biscay is out of the way, and the Tradewinds now beckon. For me, despite being becalmed, this leg was the most fun and exciting passage yet in my Pogo 2. They are incredible boats, perfectly suited to eating up the miles downwind, so well balanced and a pleasure to steer. Even in sleeping mode, where you detune the boat, it's not unusual for the pilot to catch waves and drive her along at 10-12 knots!
My website has now been updated with a collection of photos and footage from Leg 1. The restart is scheduled for Saturday 3rd of October. To follow the next leg use the following link: http://tracking.transat650.org/