2007 “Swagman” ARC

I crewed for my friends, John & Sue Allison in the 2007 ARC on their Hanse 461. The total crew was therefore John, Sue and little ol’ me. Below is a copy of the blog entries that we made during the trip, along with our midday positions, distance covered, VMG with our course being a “great circle” route.

Before setting off, Sara and I had a bit of a holiday in Gran Canaria, staying at the Santa Catalina Hotel, (best one in the area for anyone considering the ARC) so that we could get a bit of R&R, whilst at the same time helping to get Swagman prepared. I also attended a number of the seminars organised by World Cruising Club – and these proved to be very informative and thought provoking.

During this time and for some reason best known to herself, Sara wanted to get winched up to the top of Swagman’s mast (I hate heights) which is some 60ft +……….and it’s fair to say I was having apoplexy whilst all this was going on !!

Sara having a breather on the top spreader !!

ARC 2007 038

For God’s sake hold on !! – at the second spreader

ARC 2007 042

Shot of Swagman taken by Sara…..I’m the one prostrate on the pontoon !!

ARC 2007 001

One of the common places to visit is Columbus’s house……this is a bit tenuous as going round the property you find out that he simply visited the Governor of the Island to pay his respects and ask for a joiner to make a new rudder for one of his boats, however it is a beautiful property with a lovely courtyard. Interesting fact was that Columbus took some 34 days to sail from Gran Canaria to the Carribean. We hope to cover the distance a whole lot quicker.

ARC 2007 014

One of the boats taking part was Heartbeat – a truly stunning yacht.

ARC 2007 025

We had an excellent final night in the town with John and Sue, with much laughter. Next day Sara was flying back home to the UK, and I was boarding Swagman. As we had completed all the safety checks on rigging, fittings, liferaft, lifejackets, flares, spares, plus at least one million or more other things, we had everything ready, apart that is for a few frozen food/water deliveries arriving that morning. The day was kind of relaxing but the excitement bubble was certainly building.

Following one of the seminars, as a last minute decision we also bought a few 1 mtr lengths of stainless wire rigging and bulldog grips from the local chandlery just in case we had any issues with the standing rigging, as these would allow us to do splicing repairs. The local chandleries must look forward to the ARC participants arriving because they are always busy with people like us buying last minute items – or indeed buying additional items, that the organisers who conducted the boat checks, felt should be onboard.

With regards to key areas such as “fresh water” there are 4 water tanks on Swagman with a combined capacity of 360 litres and we are also taking bottled water in sufficient quantities that we have 2lts per person per day for 25 days, this being what we considered would be the worst case scenario time wise. There is also a Katadyn/Pure 80 water maker on board which produces 15 ltr per hour and we will use this when the engine is running (either charging or making way) to keep the main tanks topped up and have the luxury of an occassional shower. Therefore unless the main tanks somehow get polluted we should have sufficient supplies of fresh water for the crossing.

With regard to diesel Swagman has a 240 ltr tank and we are taking a further 200 ltr making a grand total of 440 litres. Swagman’s Yanmar 75hp engine consumes 3.5 ltr per hour at 1500 revs for charging purposes & 4.9 ltrs (say 5) when making 7 knots. Therefore best case scenario we have around 440 litres divided by 5 litres per hour gives circa 88 hours at 7 knots which equals around 600 nautical miles + whatever the current gives us FOC. Therefore we must find the wind to sail a whole lot of miles, because we certainly ain’t got enough fuel to motor across the Atlantic 😉

Battery Capacity consists of 1x 120ah Starter battery and 8 x 80ah domestic batteries giving a total of 640ah of domestic power. We know from experience that our planned consumption is equal to 33% (213ah) of domestic supply, and because of that we need to run the engine for three hours in the evening, making sure we are charging batteries when using high amounts of power, and then once dark our usage decreases allowing us to go through the night without using the engine. The main winches fitted to Swagman are electric and with a big rig set up there is a fair amount of draw on the batteries when in use, personally I don’t fancy hand winching when I can simply press a button. In the morning we will run the engine for 1.5 hours to keep the battery bank at capacity. There is also a low battery power alarm and a “change of watch routine” to check the current battery capacity – no pun intended.

The engine battery is always isolated from the domestic batteries so that we cannot run it flat, as that would certainly spoil ones day !!

We also have plenty of varied food on board to last well beyond 25 days, (we have enough to feed a small army!) and we will naturally use the fresh food first, and save the frozen food till later in the trip. Prior to storing the fruit and veg on board we washed each item in a water/vinegar solution to get rid of any potential pollutant (insect eggs etc) then left them to dry before wrapping and storing on board. We also removed all carboard packaging before bringing goods onboard, and decanted the foodstuff into plastic containers.

There is also a “squirrel store” under the saloon floorboards where all the goodies/chocolate treats are stored, control of which falls under the beady eye of Sue, as she does not want to arrive at St Lucia with a couple of fat toothless crew members 😉

We were going to base our decisions on the route based on the weather predicted/guidance from the ARCS own weather man, but then we had the fantastic opportunity of being provided with top weather routing via Anthony on the race boat “Minnie the Moocher” in exchange for carrying their spare sails across the Atlantic……seems a good deal to us!!

Going back to the fresh water aspect, there is a boat that will remain nameless who say that they are not going to carry any bottled drinking water and will rely entirely on their tank and water maker………..I dislike any form of “nannyism” as we are all adults and should be able make our own decisions – but this is one decision I would not agree with, and indeed I struggle to understand !! Unless of course the are simply winding everyone up!

Swagman’s skipper and crew (L to R) John Sue and me.

John Sue & Gerry

All planning and talking is finished now as John has told us to get ready to depart in the next 30 minutes…boy it’s exciting, and as there are only the three of us I hope we manage to give a good account of ourselves. It is for me the realisation of a boyhood dream, and stirs all kinds of memories from the past.

One of the ARC Boats “Northern Child” is just heading out to the start line with a Piper playing Scotland the Brave whilst standing at the mast…brilliant – simply brilliant.

The following is a copy of the midday blog entry as entered on the trip – with some additional photographs etc

Swagmans Log Day 1 Off to a Flying (but then very wet) Start

We had already decided to take it easy on the start line. With 2,900 to cover, best not to risk a collision just to get in the pictures. We set ourselves up with a full main and were prepared to run away before the gusting northerly winds with a poled out genoa. The race fleet, which left 20 minutes before, all adopted a port gybe out of their start and headed off seaward. The vast majority of the cruiser fleet copied this strategy. We elected to cross mid line on port, and it was not too crowded, but when we found a huge Oyster plonking itself off our stern, we took advantage of the northerly wind gusts, gybed over onto starboard, re-set the pole on the other side and and off we went rocking due south at 9 knots, almost parallel to the coast. Only a few others followed this route, as the famed acceleration zone where winds increase by 15 to 20 knots, exist close to shore only 15 miles south.

Our course decision paid off. Despite hitting the zone with full main and effecting, (a) broach, (b) second broach and (c) third broach and near divorce, we managed to tuck in the first reef just as a squall and its accompanying torrential downpour rolled over us. Very very wet bunnies.

But the boat loved it all. We topped 12 knots in the gusts and made good progress southward as the rest of the fleet disappeared in the rain behind us.

No one was more surprised than us when emerging into sunshine and then rounding the end of the island to head south west, we found ourselves in front of a goodly portion of not just the cruiser big boats, but also some of the race fleet that had left 20 minutes before! Could not help it and took shots of the Volvo 60 that then caught up and slowly slid past us. We did get a wave.

The evening saw us slide across the so called wind shadows existing south west of both Gran Canaria and Tenerife, but it was only for minutes that we ever saw less than 15 knots of breeze, all now coming from the north east. It did however give us a chance to re-launch the spinnaker after a year or so in the sail locker. Interesting as the breeze went from 10 knots at hoist, to 25 knots once set!

The night saw us running 3 hour watches but as usual first night out, we were all over the place and only a few hours sleep was gained by each. Suspect I got the most sleep. Winches rattled as reefs went in and out as the wind gusted at times to 30 knots then fell back to 20s, and the swooping motion you feel just before the boat broaches and tries to tumble you our of your bunk, is guaranteed to keep only the exhausted wide awake.

Daylight saw us closing a position 60 miles (almost) due south of the most western Canary Island, Hierro. Our 1200 position today which we are required to report to ARC by email, was 26 21.7N, 18 11.529W. It shows we have a useful 195 miles in the 23 hours since the start, and we are still trucking along OK. Extended by our current speed, it should give us a 205 mile in 24 hours recording. Average speed therefore 8.5 knots. No engine used at all.

When Sue updates this tomorrow and we are doing it in rotation and she’ll cover this afternoon and evening as well.

Great to be sailing and apart from morning grumps due to lack of sleep all are fine and well.

Love from Sue, Gerry and John



Swagman Log Day 2 Rollicking Along

Re John’s log yesterday, we had a fast rollicking ride for the first 24 hours. The boat was rollicking, I was rollicking. I rollicked from table to chairs, I rollicked out of the heads when the door flew open, and I rollicked out of my bed when the boat broached. The washing up after dinner (chicken curry made for me by a lass from Swansea before the start), ended up on the galley floor, the milk from the Weetabix went into the bowl one side, and out onto the floor on the other, this morning more milk washed down my shorts and onto the floorboards. God knows what the bilge is going to smell like by the time we reach the other end. I cannot begin to count the bruises I’m accumulating. Gerry said he should have bought me a blow up Sumo Wrestling suit, I could have bounced my way around below. BUT when we got the positions through for the first 24 hours, FANTASTIC, at the first 24 hour sked we were lying in 23rd position. In front of many of the race division boats, what a blast, I’ve told John that temporarily the caravan and the divorce are on hold.
Wind is easier now and the seas not so large, sailed through the night in company with two other boats, but this am, cannot see them on the horizon. The engine is running to recharge batteries, the watermaker is running, I’ve had a good sleep and I was allowed to have a shower (A girl dispensation), and all is well with the world.

Love from Sue, Gerry and John

Position as at 1200 on 27/11/2007 was 25 41.20N, 021 25.126W. Distance run in last 24 hours 185 miles, average velocity made good of 7.7 knots. No engine hours.


Swagman Log – Day 3 What a blast!

Sue wasn’t wrong when she said about rollicking along, how she managed to cook us hearty meals in trying conditions is beyond me. If I had to go down to the galley it would have been snack bars and cans of juice for breakfast, lunch, and evening meals 🙂
We have been having a terrific sail however and have been munching up the miles. I am certain that if John and Sue had a full race crew instead of just little ol’ me, they would have been able to squeeze even more performance out of the boat.

Sue currently holds the official speed record which is only between us, we don’t include John, (but don’t tell him) of some 11.3 kts. Prize at the end to yet to be decided, but we will think of something appropriate.

Late in the afternoon we had our first brief sight of Atlantic dolphins, as a fair number of them approached us like missiles from our starboard side and then turned onto our course within even the courtesy of stopping to play in our bow wave. I have never seen dolphin travel at such a speed, they shot out of the water like a bar of wet soap being squeezed by Neptunes hand. I guess they were on a food hunt and had no time to stop and play, and whilst this only lasted a few minutes, it was amazing and even John put the boat on autopilot to have a look.

Love to family and friends

Position at 12.00 on 28/11/07 was 25 17 N 24 34W. Distance run in the last 24 hours was 173 miles, with an average VMG of 7.2 knots and 0 engine hours.


Swagman Log Day 4 Magic and Mishaps

John back on the keyboard. It’ been a 24 hours with a bit of both magic and mishap in this 24 hour period. Early morning saw us continueing WSW basically down the great circle route towards St Lucia, under cloudy skies with occasional rain spatters. By late morning it had cleared up, and with the wind still shifting back and forth around ENE at 20 knots, we managed to keep up a goodly pace (for a cruiser with half the Canary Islands groceries and grog on board, that is). Magic boat.

The ocean around us have been absolutely empty. No sign of any other participant or anything else for that matter. The three of us have settled into a lovely easy routine lots of laughs – shared memories and stories. Just great. Magic crew.

Have in this period been better able to stay in a straight line with solid 15 – 20 knots of breeze and gusts over 25 knots coming from behind. We were hopeful we might set a higher 24 hour run figure this day, but when eagle eyed Gerry spotted a metre long rip in our mainsail luff around 1700 and we knew our hopes were dashed.

It was an interesting exercise sewing it up whilst strapped around the mast base not exactly a real neat job. Sue reefed the main to give us a chance to get at the rip and Gerry and I sewed away almost inverted, as the boat continued to rock along downwind. It was dark by the time we’d finished, so we elected to continue through the night just with reefed main plus poled out genoa and live with the temporary loss in miles covered.

This is a photograph taken a few days later when we were patching on top of the repair carried out previously, and in much calmer conditions.

ARC 2007 053

We re-sewed on the other side after dawn and then re-hoisted, but the night sail combo forced upon us proved not too bad. It is actually a nicely balanced formula and we have still managed to top 9.5 knots despite us nursing the damage but to do so we’ve two on deck at all times – so it’s meant reduced slumber all round.

Regarding our direction which we see is at variance with a lot of the others, we’ve taken a great circle route aiming for now directly at St Lucia, whilst the race fleets stayed north and west looking for more wind, and the majority of cruisers have headed SW. We like the racers want stronger winds, but we also know there is a risk heading west relatively slowly in hitting the remains of a low pressure trough which was straddling this route. It is breaking up, and the part that’s remained is still 600 miles south west, but as we’re unsure what conditions we will find if we reached it, we are hedging our bets. So far it has worked out but there are lots of miles to cover.

We are hoping the Azores high now building will cause our NE winds to swing E as we get further south west, and our plan is that when that happens, we willl gybe and get more south to duck under the remains of that trough, and finally a couple of days later, we will gybe again and head due west for St Lucia under spinnaker.

Well that’s at least the plan but hey, they are made for changing!

Love and kisses to all from Sue, Gerry and John.


Swagman Log Day 5 Highs and Lows of the sailing life

Last night was very tiring, the boat was rocking and rolling, sleep was impossible, we were all fractious and over tired. Some sleep in relays this morning and we are all fine. The weather is warming up and the wind fair. Added to the assortment of fungus deposited in the bilge in the galley, add two gin and tonics, sent flying off the worktop after preparation. What a waste! I’ve also smashed into the guard rail around the top of the stove and bent it inwards and for my troubles, got two more lovely bruises on my hips. We have just espied another boat, the first for the last three days, a 44 ft catamaran. Had a chat with then on the VHF, they have been busy catching fish, but I have decided not to cast my lures, which cost me a fortune in the UK, cause I’m afraid of catching Dolphin, my lures are so big. Saw more dolphin today, plus flying fish and birds flying low over the ocean this far out we have covered 1,000 miles since leaving Gran Canaria. The spinnaker went up this afternoon, but a 25 knot squall with rain in it saw us trying to get it in very quickly. It ended up with the three of us lying on top of it to stop it going overboard, and then stuffing it un bagged down the forward head hatch.
I got to add HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my younger son Robert for today. We wish that he and elder son Alex were with us now. Think they would find it a blast.
They say this is not a race but a cruising in company rally BUT we are glued to the radio when the position reports come in, and either dejected and then finding we are determined to push harder. Or we are elated and equally determind to push harder. I have to keep repeating the mantra “we are just a cruising boat“… but John simply ignores this view.

Our noon position today was 24 30N, 31 11W. We covered 185 miles in the past 24 hours, with zero time under engine, so have an average VMG of 7.7 knots.

Love to all


Swagman Log Day 6 What a belter.

What a fantastic days sailing with at times sizeable waves on top of the swell – on the helm it felt at times like charging down a hill, driving a big shiny blue Mac truck without brakes – huge fun!

With us making such good progress running repairs had to be done under way and this meant John and I up at the mast bouncing about (whilst strapped on). We had conducted most of the repairs when John said “be careful with that pin Gerry it’s the only one I have on board” no pressure then !!

Had a couple of flying fish land on the boat today, with one almost hitting John on the head boy would that have been funny as he hates them!!

Again Sue has been a star in meal preparation albeit last night we were charging so hard and getting through squalls that it was a hurried affair – but tasty non the less.

We altered course earlier today to avoid the forecast 50 kt winds as they could really spoil one’s day..and more to the point may mean snack bars and cans of juice instea of nice hot meals!

Stories are coming in about a boat diverting to Cape Verdes and another had a MOB but recovered him safely.

We are still sailing with excellent breeze and I’m glad to say that Mr Yanmar is only on to charge the batteries otherwise the heat in my cabin would be unbearable. It’s just getting hotter the further south we go.

I left the inner hatch open last night and in the middle of my sleep (if that’s what it could be called) I was wakened by a big dollop of water straight on top of me!..Sue was on watch and had taken a fair amount of water over into the cockpit during a big stern wave slap c’est la vie.

Our noon position today was 20 16N, 35 30W. We covered just over 200 miles in the past 24 hours which is a superb result. So have an average VMG of 8.4 knots.

Love to family and friends.


Swagmans Log Day 7 Hunting some wind on the south side of the course

Since noon yesterday we’ve been heading south west, looking to dip that further 300 miles south before taking up a new heading due west for St Lucia.

Skull and Crossbones is Anteater Blues another Hanse 461 fully crewed and in the racing division.

ARC 2007 049

As explained before, it’s to avoid the low that straddled our old course, and also its attendant light wind area sitting to the south of it, that makes us have to do this.
It means by the time we get to St Lucia our course is going to look a bit like a big reverse Z but with luck it should keep us in reasonable breezes most of the way and moving. I don’t care which way we go to get there, as long as we go quickly!
The full sail wardrobe has now been aired. Our symmetrical spinnaker as been giving us some good speeds for most of this last 24 hours, and it was only mid arvo when we needed to replace it with our Code 0 headsail to make further southing when the wind dropped under 10 knots and veered further. Again a super bit of mylar and tape allowing us to make 7 knots in less than 10 knots of true breeze!
The suns got so hot this afternoon we’ve even accepted we are kinda cruisers, and hauled up the bimini. Blessed shade and needed as today were celebrating our crossing of the half way point. It seems odd. What with hot sun, .flat sea, warm breezes, spinnaker flying, boat sliding along nicely, and us all with glasses charged and sippin cold wine. It’s definitely not a race right now.

Our noon position today was 18 44N 38 03W. We’ve covered 171 miles since midday yesterday, and all under sail.

Lotsa love to everyone from Sue, Gerry and John

John Allison

Swagman Log Day 9 Now Here’s the Rub

Being cruisers, we were happy to say Good Luck, give them hell to the other Hanse 461 , Anteater Blues, owned by Phil and Robbie from Perth crewed with their son and three of his racing sailing mates. (Perth being our old home town. BUT, by going west at the start, they went south we got the jump on them and have been in front of them for the last eight day, which of course has made us work all the harder to keep in front. At the position reports today they have caught up with us through the night, and are running parallel with us, albeit they are 100 miles further north. We have been reducing sail through the nights as we are only one person on watch. Now Here’s the Rub – Do we congratulate ourselves that we have sailed so well so far keeping a racing boat with six crew at bay, OR do we go for it with just the three of us and give it our best shot. If we decide to go for it, we will have to sail two up in the night to keep the spinnaker flying, and there are squalls forcast for the next few days. SO what’s it to be? Watch this space!


Our noon position today was 17 16N 40 24W, so we covered 160 miles (ED: in pretty light conditions). BUT we used the engine for 2 hours 30 minutes a factor they will compute into our results.

Swagman Log Day 10 Wea’ve Found the Trade Winds

Sue here. After yesterday’s slow ride and the good showing of Anteater Blues where she nudged 2 miles ahead of us (if you take the distance to St Lucia) , we have finally had a day we’re pleased with. We are now into the trade winds proper, getting steady 20 knot, gusting 25s up our bum. We have the spinnaker up and we are flying, getting 9.5 -10s. Trouble is while I can handle the kite most of the time, I’m nervous of the squalls and gusts that are coming through and therefore will not let John leave the cockpit. It’ss going to be a long day for him. At nights we will now drop the kite and sail with a poled out genoa the same as we did last night. Even with that reduced rig, we were getting 7 /8 knots of boat speed, which is fine. It’ss safe. We can just take in some headsail if we get prolonged squalls, and still keep trucking on.
Had a problem with our faithful auto pilot in the middle of last night. The alarm went off, and the autohelm switched itself off. It is now working again, but showing our reciprocal heading, i.e. the boat is going forward backwards on the plotter screen, and while we are sailing about 260/270 degrees the digital compass shows a heading of 75 degrees. Very strange, but at least the autohelm is still working and can take over when we get tired. We love sailing, but do not want to hand steer for the next week until Rodney Bay.
It’s getting very warm now, it’s boiling down below,and sleep is becoming very difficult. We do not have the bimini (up as we need to see the spinnaker to rim it continually) so we are all lathered up with sunscreen and frying up like sausages.

That apart, all is well. Feel as if we are on the home run now.


Noon position was 15 58N 43 01W. Zip engine hours. Distance run 175 miles.

Swagman Log Day 11 Gear Failure (Sort Of)

Had our first major failure today the outfall from the back dunny (toilet) holding tank is completely blocked. I wont go into too many details, but a mighty plunge on the toilet pump with the deck level holding tank port opened, saw a chocolate fountain erupt like Vesuvius down the starboard side of the aft deck. Poor Gerry who was standing close by got a shock. He went very grey and quiet. John came up took one look and got the giggles (not surprising knowing his level of toilet humour). It was a major clean up operation with the spinnaker still flying, the autohelm taking control, before 20 knots of breeze, It took copious buckets, plus the deck wash pump, to remove the mess – all the while and rocking and rolling downwind. FYI the holding tank outlet is still blocked, and I am refusing all male rights to use My Toilet at the front of the boat. They have buckets they can use – or they can snap on the marigolds – and get it fixed up.

It’s getting very hot and sticky, and a special treat last might was a shower in the cockpit at the end of the day when the spinnaker came down. Followed by a STIFF gin and tonic.

We are now running low on fruit and veg, it has all ripened at the same time, and everyday I have to go through it and throw the rotten stuff away. We’ve thrown more than we’ve eaten. And we’ve eaten lots.

Love to all Sue

John here. Our noon position today saw us at 15 27N, 46 02W, with zero engine hours. We have done well and appear to have squeeked in front of Anteater Blues and they are almost parallel 150 miles to our north but most importantly 5 miles behind. Tomorrows is another day.

Swagman Log Day 12 What a beautiful dawn (but a bad one for sailing)

Johns back. After a super run yesterday where we bowled along before 20 knot NNE lies and collapsed at dusk feeling we had done our bit to stay ahead of Anteater, this morning early (circa 0200) the winds all died away. Overnight the guys have decided man (and woman)fully to share the night watches between them allowing me virtually uninterrupted slumber so I can resume solo helming in what were promised to be even fresher conditions on Friday.

So when I awoke just before dawn, and found we were down to only just over 4 knots boat speed under our night rig of reefed main and poled out genoa, I knew our advantage may have been forfeit.

Immediately dawn broke and it was absolutely beautiful all pinks, blues, white and grey colours overlaid with the golden sun coming up over the horizon behind us we scrambled to get our spinnaker out and working. It did help. We teased Swagman up to around 6 knots and managed to keep her around that pace until our midday schedule for position reporting eagerly awaited so we could see if we had done enough yesterday to retain our lead. We were not hopeful, but did have fingers crossed. We were right. Anteater had enjoyed (???) 30 knots of breeze for some 14 hours yesterday evening and last night. It allowed them to gain and now actually lead us by 4 or 5 miles, albeit they are still 100 miles north.

We spoke on the radio, and it seems they were just entering a softer patch – so who knows? Maybe this arvo we’ll get some stronger winds and leapfrog back in front? Maybe Sue will go mad and kill me so she can put the bimini back up and get some shade from this roasting sun? Maybe Gerry will mutiny if he does not get proper toilet rights? Maybe we will keep going and get back in front. But now only 690 odd miles to St Lucia so heads are still up.

Our noon position was 15 20N 4907W, have not used the engine except for battery charging, and covered 178 in past 24 hours. Average VMG of 7.41.

Love and kisses to all

John, Sue and Gerry

Swagman Log Day 13 Unlucky for some

Including us. Had a frustrating afternoon yesterday where we had to work really hard to even achieve 6 knots. It was hot (no bimini up due to spinnaker trimming needs), we are all getting tired, and the finish line albeit now 500+ miles over the horizon seems a long way off.

As the winds were light until dusk and the autohelm easily handled the steering most of the day, it was agreed I’d re-enter the night watch pattern this day. I went for a snooze after supper and as I tucked down, we sere slipping along nicely under full main and poled out genoa making just over 6 knots in a gentle but freshening breeze.

When I awoke to change over with Gerry at midnight, the wind had risen to a solid 20 knots, and gusts were making the rigging howl at 10 knots more. Rain was flowing down like a tropical storm (well what did we expect, eh?), and the boat being closed up because of that, was hot and humid.

The genoa had already been furled away and the pole left on the mast, so we ran around with our little head torches like mini miners, swiftly turned the boat to windward, tucked in a single reef, turned away downwind and rolling out a portion of the genoa with the pole creamed off on our course to St Lucia in the pitch black night. Squalls rolling through from behind were obvious as the blocked the stars but what we could never guess was the increase in wind that accompanied each one.

Sheet lightening illuminated a glassy looking sea with big swells sort of grumbling though. Swagman lifted her tail to the gusts, and sometime early hours she topped 11.7 knots rattling along across this strange oily sea. We learnt later that the rest of the fleet north of us were hammered by even stronger winds and this mornings email bulletins showed a list of damage to both people and craft.

Dawn for us saw a spectacular rainbow from horizon to horizon like a big arch we sailed under. Awesome. The colours were so vivid they could have come from a paint pallet.

Anyway. Ended up by midday radio sked feeling pretty good with a 175 miler in the 24 hours the extra pressure during the night allowing us to keep in the competition.

Anteater herself has used the wind angels to slowly close the north / south devide between us. At noon she reported she was around 40 miles north of our line, and it seems from positions given, she has something like 506 miles to go, we have 515. Only nine miles in it so plenty to play for and we jumped around to swop sails and try to crank another .001 knot of speed to try and close that gap. But luck is definitely not with us today as we have just sailed into a hole in the weather, and a virtual calm.



Our noon position was 15 10N, 52 09W. Covered 175 miles, nil use of engine.

Swagman Log Day 14 Our Fat Lady is Singing

Afraid to say our unfair advantage (ie we in the cruiser division are allowed to use the engine) has led to us declaring Anteater Blues (in the racing division so unable to use theirs) the winner in our impromptu race twix our two Hanse 461s. Silly thing is they probably don’t even know we were trying to beat them in!
But as at noon 9th December they were 10 miles closer to St Lucia and it looks like we’re now both in the same wind patterns. So facts are they’ve done really well, and we hope they feature in the racing division results.
We’re possibly the most southerly yacht out here, and today struggled all morning with winds as low as 4 knots from behind. It’s not been bad when it gusted to 7 +, as we then flew our code 0 – which still stuns us all by giving us 7 knots of boatspeed in 7 knots of true wind! But code 0 up then down, spinnaker up then down, code 0 etc finally wore us out and by late arvo it was back down at times to 3 or 4 knots and sailing around in donuts trying to get some speed. It was about then that the lure of rum punches on the dockside seemed slightly more interesting than out-sailing a fellow Hanse owner – who is after all in another division.
So on went the engine for 4.5 hours to help us move further along our line and hopefully towards some stronger breezes. It would have been great o lead them in if we had not used our engine, but because we have we can’t think about claiming any form of win against Ants.
However, if you discount the catamaran, racing and big boat invitation divisions, we are in 15th place on the water. Not bad as most in front at much bigger yachts, and who knows, maybe some of those used their engines also for more than we have.
We’re got back into some breeze albeit only 7 knots before dawn broke, so engine went off and we slipped smoothly down the rhumb line for the final 400 miles.
Midday today with cold beers under a shady bimini, over flat seas, rattling along with code 0 drawing us at 7 -8 knots, felt good. Seems this cruising does have something going for it:-) JOHN

Our noon position was 14 54N 54 52W. We’d covered 155 miles so average VMG was 6.4 knots.

Swagman Log Day 15 We Can Almost Smell Land


Today is our final full day at sea, we should arrive St. Lucia tomorrow, only one more dinner to cook, one more night shift at 3.00 am, one more night sleeping in an oven with damp, sticky sheets. How do I feel, excited at the prospect of arriving on terra firma, the rum punch awaiting and a huge lobster salad for dinner tomorrow night,stories to tell and listen to, but I also feel a tinge of sadness, it’s been a trip we have been planning for so long, and the three of us have got into our own little routine in our own little world. The sailing has been spectacular for the most part, except the times when there has been no wind, and I’ve been energised, excited and nervous by turn. Would I do it again? Absolutely YES.

Love to all Sue xx

Gerry’s Entry

From my perspective the trip has had all the aspects I thought it might have, with some 150 miles to go we are being a bit reflective on the trip and without doubt my highlights (apart from the amount learned) include charging downhill with full main and poled out headsail sitting on top of the sizeable swells and looking down into the holes really amazing ! Then to top that John teaching me how to dive into the holes and across the wave for more speed (quote “if we gained three feet in every wave think of the additional distance we could do in a day/week” etc ) what a feeling and what fun.

Another aspect that has been interesting to observe and experience are the squalls that come through, in fact we were this morning sailing along in really hot sunshine and blue skies with the Code Zero giving us good speed with the breeze at around 8 kts.
We saw the squall coming in and no sooner had we dropped the Code Zero and got out some rolled up genny (we had full main still up) , that we found ourselves in torrential rain and 30 kts of breeze charging downhill with the combined efforts of the wind and rain flattening the seas.

I could go on for long enough about the trip but one observation I would make is when people refer to the ARC or indeed anyone crossing the Atlantic disparagingly as the Milk Run, they do need to have a re-think. Out of the boats crossing this year , including ARC and non ARC there have been reported –
Around 6-8 boats with damaged booms.
Two people evacuated onto a freighter and cruise liner respectively
One MOB successfully recovered
Two boats abandoned.
One boat sunk and crew rescued from their liferaft.
And probably more incidents that we are unaware of ..Some milk run.

All this without having recourse to any rescue facilities, such as calling on the RNLI or medics back home, whether sailing in the Solent or the Clyde.

John’s offshore race experience has obviously stood him in good staid, and it has been interesting for me to understand his strategy and see it all falling into place.

One more night of watches and then we should arrive tomorrow around midday (ish) and it will be strange to sleep on a level bunk without having to clamber out for a three hour watch.

Love to Family and Friends back home.


At noon today we were at 14 37N, 57 43W, nil engine used. Distance covered in 24 hour was 179 miles so VMG to St Lucia averaged 7.46 knots.

Swagman Log Day 16 A Real Gale on to the finish line.

The afternoon saw us sailing in loose company with two larger yachts Northern Child (Swan 51) and One Too Many (a 66 footer) and we surprised ourselves by sticking with them until dusk. At times we were within 500 metres of one another as we struggled to keep up.

As night fell the winds eased and we decided to remain competitive by continuing with a full main and a fully poled out genoa. As a general rule the longer the boat the faster they go but during this, our last night, we managed to stick with them.

The winds were almost due east, with lots of squalls coming through at around 25 knots, but as we had left our bimini up from the day sailing, we did not get too wet when the rain pattered down. The boat was moving along nicely, but with a slight amount of north in the wind we found our line was taking us towards the lowest point of Martinique, 50 miles north of our target St Lucia.

We did gybe several times to see if we could lay the top of St Lucia on the other board, but going that way the best we could do was line up with the bottom of St Lucia so we ended up settled onto starboard gybe and all stayed up as we watched the loom of the lights on Martinique begin to glow on the horizon.

It was a special moment.

Dawn saw us still moving along nicely mainly due to our full main zipping us along before the squalls. Funny. When we started, you might recall we always reefed down at night for safety sake. Now on this last night we just wanted to get there quickly so carried every bit of canvas we could.

Anyway. It worked to keep us level with our two temporary sparring partners and as dawn broke and we could begin to see the size of the squalls coming up behind us we decided the extra pressure of wind might let us lay St Lucia on the port board so we gybed over. By then we had left Northern Child behind in the rain. All I wanted to do was stick with the 66 footer right to the line.

Our gybe was completed only just in time as the huge squall that then enveloped us from behind had some real sustained pressure in it. As Swagman took off still with full main but this time with only a scrap of genoa unfurled those winds howled in at close to 40 knots. Our 66 foot competitor was not so lucky. As we shot off towards St Lucia surfing each wave they struggled to reduce sail and gybe over to follow us.

Swagman’s wake at 15.8kts….!!

ARC 2007 074

Within 10 minutes we had lost them too in the rain behind us and we hand steered the next five hours through that big squall to arrive off the top of St Lucia in quick time.

Our first glimpse of St Lucia…….for the more observant reader you will note the autopilot showing a course of 70 while we are actually heading 290; this was due to the electronics going a bit Pete Tong on the way over. We had the charplotter showing the boat going backwards to St Lucia, the wind coming from the reciprocal direction BUT, the autopilot was still working so we left this till we got into Rodney Bay.

ARC 2007 079

Our fastest speed was seen as 15.8 knots but we actually averaged 10.1 knots for that last leg. Not sure if it was simply our good crew, or our full main, or our huge bimini which was still up and humming in the 40 knot gusts that saw us round the top of the island and in the shadow of the shoreline, turn upwind to cover the final half mile to the finish line.

Sue steered as we creamed up towards the finish boat with its big orange ARC flag and a photographer zoomed around us in his rib with camera clicking. Not sure what they thought about the bimini!

John and Sue at the Finish Line.

John & Sue crossing the finish line

Our finish time was just after 1000 making us 37 over the line – out of 250 boats. And again, it you recall a majority of the 36 in front were either full race boats, or big cats, or invitation race boats I think we’ve done real well.


Mixed emotions dropping sails and entering Rodney Bay to a cacophony of sirens, horns and cheers from those already in. It was good to arrive, but it was also surprisingly sad to think we were ending a period, where the three of us who had bonded so well and worked so hard, were soon to be standing down.

On the way down the channel and into Rodney Bay Marina

ARC 2007 087

For me, this was the single longest passage I’ve ever completed. The crew have been more than superb. They have both been fantastic. The boat has exceeded everything we asked of her. And we beat not just Anteater Blues but all the other 50 foot Hanses over the line also. Fabulous experience, albeit tiring with there only being three of us onboard.

Want to mention also all our family and pals who have kept supporting us on the trip with emails and messages. Its been additionally nice knowing others have been able to share our adventure and without that support, I doubt we would have pushed so hard.

So thanks, and bon boyage.

Photograph showing John and Sue receiving their prize from the Prime Minister of St Lucia.

John & Sue receiving their prize ARC 2007

And finally; no mention of St Lucia would be complete with a photograph of the World Famous Pitons.

ARC 2007 098