Challenger 1 – ARC 2017

By Tall Ships - August 14th, 2018 | Posted in Voyager blogs No comments

Day One

Today is the day! After days of preparations, it really is time to go now.  The boat has been cleaned and cleaned again, fruit and veg washed and dried and stowed in nets around the boat or the bilges, mountains of food in the lockers and sails and lines at the ready.

Our last night in Las Palmas was marked with an amazing firework display and not long after waking up this morning, the bands started to play and the crowds began to gather along the harbour walls.

After final showers (on dry land!) and a good breakfast, the last few checks were made and we slipped our mooring at 11am as planned.  The crowds cheered and waved as we passed through the harbour entrance and there, we were……at sea at last!

After hoisting the main sail, we motored over to check-out the start line and soaked up the atmosphere.  With the Racing Division start scheduled for 12.45, we then hoisted the yankee, then stay sail and suddenly we were off.  The perfect start……!

Sun shining and a relatively calm sea.  Light winds made for a slow start but as we passed the airport on Gran Canaria, we picked up a little more speed.  Pre-prepared baguettes for lunch, followed by a cup of tea – what a fantastic way to start our crossing.

Day Two

After the excitement of yesterday’s start we have made 165 nm in the first 24 hours. From dark on day 1 until 0200 today we experienced higher breezes (ENE gusting to around 22 kn) and bigger swells until the wind started to decrease. Progress was good and the Milky Way was spectacular because of the Full Moon and the phosphorescence was giving us a good show. The wind changed slightly to NE and fell to around 15 kn by 1600.

The Yankee and Staysail is a good combination and we are pleased with our progress.

We have had some problems with our Watermaker but is now fixed. Bob is pleased because he was getting worried we were going to have another smelly no shower ARC.

Our first Mother Watch is turning out to be a great success with scrambled eggs on toast  for breakfast and some delicious baguettes for lunch. Dinner? Chicken and fennel tagine!


Day Three

A very changeable day has been experienced. This morning we drifted along at about 3 kts on a flat and calm sea but since 1500 the wind came around from the southwest at 15 kts and we have been steadily doing 8 knts. We are expecting the same for the rest of the night. As at the time of writing we have covered 350 nm and just slightly ahead of Challenger 2 but it has been nip and tuck and good that we are close and sometimes in visual range.

We had a flying fish that landed on the deck. This was a better result than the angling team of Nick, Andy and Lee who at their second attempt at catching something failed. The weight of expectation is building!

To great excitement we saw 2 small dolphins off the port bow; it turned out to be a brief visit though and therefore all of the crew didn’t see them but it is early days.

A small bird landed on the boat as well and as we are quite a way from land there was some concern for the little blighter.

The second mother watch had a successful day judging by the feedback from the crew. They have been busy bees for most of the day and they enjoyed the benign conditions in the gulley. Dinner was a mushroom risotto beautifully cooked by Harriet (wearing her best fish design apron all day) and assisted by Lee and Eddie. All the hungry little piggy’s ate it all up. A most welcome shower at the end of the day which is a privilege of being on mother watch. So a shower every 4th days! yippee…..all good fun.


Day Four

After a fairly heavy night, beating into a southerly at first before the wind went north, we are relieved to have had a calmer day today.  The news that we were lying 7th amongst the racing fleet raised a cheer as we ate our baked potatoes (with choice of filling) for lunch.

Lee and David took the opportunity of calmer conditions to do an exercise class on the foredeck – followed by a bid for an extra portion of lemon drizzle cake as a reward. A wide range of underwear has been decorating the rails for most of the day – with plans for more tomorrow. Terry has not yet found a willing volunteer so might have to do his own smalls after all. A pity that, just after the boat clean-through, Tom slipped with the swill bucket before reaching deck. All super shiny now though.

Some of us saw a small dolphin pod and raised the sighting call – but sadly the rest of us were too slow to get on deck in time. Wildlife expectations continue to mount.

We have been psyching up for 20-25 knots of wind come Friday/Saturday. Skipper Sue’s midday briefing included a reminder of the importance of the low side of the boat for throwing up and that the heads can be gimbled – no need to fall off! Tom is on notice to climb the mast tomorrow to attach the cunninghams so we are ready to reef.

Alex sends a special message of thanks to her sponsors. She says it’s a bit like crossing Braydon, but without the reeds.

We look forward to a pork Thai curry this evening and making the most of the light overnight winds and will probably be changing from our Yankee 1 to the Genoa before nightfall.

Onwards – only 2,213 nm to go!

Day Five

The morning found us drifting, waiting for the wind.

Lee was excited this morning when he caught the first fish which was filleted and fried for lunch.

We were joined at last by a pod of dolphins playing around the bow.

We were sad to hear that challenger 2 have had to return to Cape Verde for some necessary repairs, however we are glad that everyone on board is well (although perhaps a bit disappointed).

It has been a beautiful day sailing in gentle swells with very warm and sunny conditions.

We are now preparing for our first heavy weather which is forecast to arrive tonight and last a couple of days. Hopefully skirting through the bottom of a large low pressure system will boost us on our way to the trade winds, but 48 hours of strong winds await.

Hi to Simon, Kate and Flo, Jess, Beth, Rache, Jenny, Holly and Jenny.

Sheena, Barry and Rod

Day Six

After yesterday’s light airs and slow progress the wind increased significantly from last night. During last night the wind rose steadily with plenty of sail changes from the larger yankee 1 to the Y2 and eventually the Y3 when we had at 35 knot of wind over the deck.  With two reefs in the main sail we pressed on in the night as the wind slowly moved our position to the north. In the early hours the storm bit back with wind now reaching 56 knots, over 60 miles an hours and the seas turned horrible and large as the spray from the top of each wave hit us firmly in the face, stinging with pain. With some urgency as third reef was put in the main and we stowed a Y2 back in it bag, all of this was a mighty effort by the crew.

By mid-morning the winds had dropped as we reaches the eye of the storm before once again giving us a final kick for the rest of the day and overnight as we turned south to escape its grip.

Below decks the mother watch provided some necessary hot drinks and food to keep us going, a sterling job done by Bex, Lizzie and Nick.  Meanwhile once fed crew got some well-earned sleep before returning to their watch to sail CH1 away from this storm.

Overall a mighty effort from a crew recently formed, despite being very cold and wet at times and no doubt fearful of the cruel sea these guys delivered when it was necessary.

Day Seven

Those not on watch awoke to slightly calmer seas, with winds moderating to a mere 28-32 knots!  However at least the sun was shining and spirits were lifted further by the mother watch (Harriet, Lee and Eddie) providing toast for breakfast!  With Challenger 1 heeled over as she is, this was no mean feat.

As the day progressed, conditions on the boat got slightly easier as the winds decreased. Lee and Harriet were sceptical about the tortillas that were on the menu for lunch when they got them ready to cook and sadly, 7 days in the bilges had done them no favours!  Thankfully the skipper was first to taste them and announced that they were indeed off……!  Which left grilled bacon and beans for lunch, supplemented with a fine selection of cheeses.

The mother watch then rather bravely decided to cook a cake.  The result was well received despite the varying product which could loosely be described as either biscuits, chocolate brownie or chocolate sponge – depending on where the cake mix found itself in the oven as the boat was always on a constant heel.

Every time the mother watch ventured on deck they risked being soaked so they happily remained in the gallery for 12 hours, playing a selection of music, with kitchen dancing and Lee appropriately dressed in a sleeveless T Shirt –  of course, Harriet wearing her apron again!  They finished the day on a high with spaghetti Bolognese, which received very enthusiastic ‘reviews’.

Harriet and Lee.


After yesterday’s excitement of storm force winds the weather moderated to 25knots WSW to help us go South towards the Trade Winds to make our push for St Lucia; but no guarantees yet. We enjoyed some fine sailing today with moderate seas and WSW winds at23 knots reducing to 18 by 1700 making for good speeds, maybe with no 1 Yankee, and more comfortable conditions on board.

Helming is already improving enabling us to make better courses at optimum speed.

As usual the Mother Watch provided fine food for us all day. Unfortunately some of the Spanish omeletes included in the breakfast had gone off! On the other hand the lunch and dinner were exceptional.


Day Eight

Overnight the winds eased somewhat. We needed to change up to the Yankee 1 but our precise timing was a little unfortunate… Tom did a doughnut, we had to tack the staysail, then we realised the halyard was twisted. We had to lower the sail again just as a squall came over. Those of us who had dried out remembered what it had been like a few hours before to be soaked to the skin – again!

With much calmer seas in the morning it was all hands to clean the boat and rescue it from the internal chaos that had ensued during the heavy conditions. Fruit and vegetables were sifted and sorted. Sadly some had to go overboard but we salvaged as much as possible. The mums made a huge vat of ratatouille (two thirds now in the freezer for another day) and Tom learned how to make fruit crumble. (His family can look forward to his culinary skills coming to the fore at Christmas!).

The winds became even lighter through the afternoon and up went the genoa. Watches were focussing on getting us through the calm patch before picking up the trade winds and setting the course for the Caribbean – hopefully tomorrow.

Being Sunday, the mums excelled themselves and laid on a three-course roast chicken dinner. The catch of the day – another dorado – provided the starter, thanks to our increasingly expert fishing team. Bob and Alex managed custard for the crumble – without lumps and with just enough skin to satisfy Bex. There was more washing up than usual and a well fed, appreciative crew helped with the clearing up. A pity the bin was not emptied – but we had had a very busy day!

Alex, Andy, Bob and Tom

Day Nine

Still light winds, the skipper and mate are talking about a short stop in Saint Lucia now if we are to sail all the way. We understand the trade winds will soon give us the kick we need to press on to our goal.

To all you folks back in the UK, today is very hot isn’t it? Are you down to Tee shirts and shorts in the evenings? Don’t forget to put on plenty of sun block, its Important not to burn.

Terry has just put on his playlist which I have to say is not very rock and roll, still it goes down well with the crew who are off duty sunbathing. The song as I type is ‘Everywhere you go you always take the weather with you’ rather apt!

Pass up the G and T Terry, it’s getting a bit too hot.

Despite the light winds, last night the watches enjoyed a magical display of stars, with the Milky Way arching overhead. Today, dolphins joined us for half an hour or so.

We still have a considerable way to go south to pick up the Trades , but with slow progress and schedules to think about there may be a decision taken tomorrow to motor through the light winds to pick up something stronger. Disappointing, but may be a necessity without unlimited time.


Day Ten

Hello to everyone following our passage! It’s day 10 of the journey and we’re making steady progress south west to find the trade winds. Sue and the team have been busy studying the weather and we had to put the engine on this afternoon for a few hours due to light winds, hopefully we won’t need it again tomorrow. Preparations are now underway for the infamous halfway party tomorrow. The stakes are high for the best costume competition-we’ll update you all on the results!

We had a glorious sunny day yesterday and the weather has been kind to us again today. The storms of a few days ago seem a distant memory now. Washing day for blue watch today- an interesting selection of underwear on the guard rail! Arnold the Egret landed on the yankee pole this morning and has been with us ever since.  He’s keeping a close eye on our helming. Lots of flying fish spotted from a distance too.

Bob and Harriet have been busy doing some running repairs-port head pump handle yesterday and compass light today.

Baz, Sheena and Rod served up a delicious supper of vegetable curry yesterday which went down a treat. Motherwatch is now becoming rather competitive-with standards going up by the day! Bex, Nick and Lizzie baked our first loaf of bread of the voyage, to accompany baked eggs for lunch. Nick excelled himself by baking his first ever cake today; lemon drizzle which was delicious.

Harriet loved hearing from her children and Jojo-it made her day!

Lots of love to everyone at home, Lizzie.

Day Eleven

Half way to St. Lucia and time to celebrate.  With light winds persisting and the engine still on we hoisted the yankee 1, poled out and then set about preparations for our party!  Arnold the Egret did return to the boat overnight and somehow found his way in to the sail locker but he is now on his way – let’s hope he makes it as it would seem that he is a long way off course!

After pancakes and bacon for breakfast provided by Harriet, Lee and Eddie, the mother watch set about cleaning the boat and generally getting things ready. The theme this year was ‘Medical’ and everyone had gone to great lengths with their costumes. Andy (the eventual winner) appeared dressed as a nurse with a very ample bust! Bob donned the habit of an ‘Apothecary Monk’ in order to dispense ‘remedies’ where needed. Bex eventually worked out where the different parts of her anatomy were located and appeared in a bodice of body parts.  ‘Party food’ included smoked salmon and cream cheese on crusty rolls and crisps. Then the much awaited can of beer and sparkling wine was unearthed and we all toasted our achievements to date.

The ‘party planners’ then put us in teams and we all played a selection of games which included ‘Hunt the sweet in a bowl of flour’!  Harriet’s valiant efforts when it came to her turn nearly caused her to choke to death but her competitive side led her team (the Whales) to victory in that round (6 sweets retrieved!).  Apple bobbing, speed dressing-up and chocolate eating and then a risqué game of ‘swing the chorizo’ followed. Culminating in a round of ‘Beat the intro’….which disappointingly the Whales did not do well in! The overall winners of these mad activities were the Pirates – Congratulations go to them.  We then all set about the business of clearing up the flour and water mixture on the deck and the fake blood that seemed to be everywhere!

Another hot night with the engine running, with 1,682 nautical miles to go.


Day Twelve

Life has returned to normal after yesterday’s celebrations, and with temperatures in the mid-30s this morning we have all been glad of a slightly less eventful day.  Rod found himself so relaxed that he fell asleep in the sail locker, which Nick thought looked so comfortable that he moved Rod and claimed the spot for himself.  A heavy lunch was much enjoyed but in order to prevent a diet for the last few days consisting solely of pasta, sweetcorn, and baked beans, a warning not to over-cater was included in the mid-day briefing.  An afternoon’s entertainment was provided by Tom climbing the mast to reattach some anti-chafing foam to the spreaders, and evasive manoeuvres when some Japanese fishing boats appeared across our course.  David replaced Bob on mother watch for the day and prepared for supper his own secret chilli recipe.  Today’s mother watch are especially grateful for their showers given the extreme heat both above and below deck.


Day Thirteen

It’s getting even hotter and making a good night sleep difficult. Crew are spending more and more time on deck trying to find the odd bit of shade here and there.

We have been motor sailing for a few days but the engine revs are dropping watch by watch as the wind increases. We hope the motor goes off soon so that peace and quiet return to the Good Ship Challenger 1.

We didn’t see other vessels for over a week until yesterday when two Japanese trawlers appeared on the horizon. Today there are two Yachts in view heading on our course, all a bit like London buses! I think we may well beat them to Saint Lucia on the basis they are averaging 6 Knots to our 7.5.

Sheena says thank you to Flo for the hidden letters, it was a great moral boost. Lee would also like all his loved ones to know he misses them very much and looks forward to seeing them all soon.

Looks promising to try and fly the spinnaker tomorrow, so fingers crossed. All the crew are enjoying the dawn and dusk watches best, with the fabulous light shades across the water.

Rod sends his love to Holly, Jenny, Guy and also his Special Friend. See you all soon.

Current ETA is 8th Dec but a there is still over 1300 nm to go……

Day Fourteen

Firstly there was no blog written yesterday as we had a lot to do following the spinnaker wrapping itself around the rigging mid-afternoon. Huge efforts were made to rectify the problem (including the first mate spending quite a lot of time attempting to clear it from the top of the mast) and after many hours it was decided that we had no alternative but to cut the sail down. It is now safely stowed in the sail locker where it will remain!! Many thanks to the skipper and 1st mate that a difficult situation was handled in a calm and controlled manner.

Following yesterday’s activity we principally have taken today to recharge the batteries when not on watch duty. Fortunately we have had a great days sailing down wind with no motor in lovely weather. As a consequence of the progress today we have now under a 1000 miles to go.  This landmark was celebrated with a cold fizzy drink.

No fishing today due to a combination of Lee being on mother watch and the speed of the boat making it more difficult for Nick and Andy. Whilst we had a number of sightings of other boats yesterday we saw none at all today.

We were visited by a flock of graceful white Egrets. They circled and had a good look at us but on this occasion they didn’t land on the boat. We were also visited by flying fish and one of them hit Bex square on the head. Amongst much squealing Sheena bravely scooped it up and threw it back into the ocean before it slipped into the very nearby porthole to the lady’s cabin.

General conversion has at times turned to the anticipated delights to be enjoyed in the West Indies. We have now been at sea for over 2 weeks with a probable further 5/6 days to go and whilst no one is wishing the time away in the Atlantic we find ourselves thinking about the easy pleasures to come…there would be no surprise that most are thinking about a beer or a rum punch! Of course there is also much thinking and conversation about all of our loved ones back home.

Bob delivered a good talk on flag identification as part of the Competent Crew qualification. This is ongoing throughout the voyage.

Toady’s mother watch of Harriet, Lee & Eddie delivered the required sustenance throughout the day to keep the crew happy with the highlights being a chocolate cake and a chilli con carnie evening meal beautifully flavoured by Harriet.

We are all looking forward to another great days sailing tomorrow.

Tom wishes Alice a Happy Birthday (3rd December). Love and hugs….

Lee and Sheena

Day Fifteen

With several watches overnight covering 25+ nm despite challenging conditions for helming (a rolling sea with heavy cloud cover masking the horizon) we were pleased to hear that over the last 24 hours we covered 197 nm and we have now under 800 nm to go.

For the third time “C” mother watch had the privilege of being able to offer another catch of the day, as the fishing team landed a whopping Dorado before lunch.  Thanks to Lee for managing to haul it in and to Nick for cutting it into steaks, sufficient for all of us for supper.

We have now finished the competent crew syllabus and ordered our log books, after a final lesson from Baz on parts of the boat.  At last we know the pointy end from the blunt end.

Sheena finally made contact with her friends from home on “Into the Blue” after several attempts.  They are now two miles south of us, and hopefully we will all arrive in St Lucia at the same time to raise a glass.

We had our last laundry day before seeing Mr Suds in St Lucia but hopefully won’t smell too strongly by the time we get there.  As we empty water tanks they are now being closed down to lighten the load for the final push.

Bex climbed up the pole to jury rig the storm staysail underneath the Yankee 1, giving us the biggest sail area possible to push us on our way.  Our hopes are up for continued good speeds as the wind is forecast to be with us at least for the next couple of days.

Harriet loved hearing from P and H and her brother.  All “digging deep” here H!

Alex, Andy, Nick and Tom

Day Sixteen

With 3 to 4 days sailing left we are beginning to get the boat ready to moor up, plenty of cleaning chores for the stand down watch. The winds are a little lighter today so we need a bit of help from the engine to meet our deadlines. Plenty of Downwind Helming practice over the last few days, and hopefully an improvement from the less experienced of us.

A wonderful full moon last night to light our way, and the flying fish very active in the day time. Amazing little creatures.

I think the crew are more than ready to sight land as the talk is about comfy beds, having a drink and relaxing by the sea.

Guess what? It’s hot here!  Very hot below, especially at night it seems, and there is always a figure asleep on the Yankee 2 sailbag on deck. A coveted position and by now nicely moulded to lie down on.

Rod, Baz & Sheena

Day Seventeen

Day 18 and the skipper just announced less than 50 hours to go until St Lucia! We can smell the rum and coke already.

As part of the morning boat check the skipper noticed a problem with the track on the mast. This meant Terry spent yet another day half way up the mast (anything for him to get some peace and quiet!) and kept us all busy for most of the day. The team went from good to great to transform the sail locker back from its use as a grocery store.

We sat down to a “round the world in a bowl” Jambalaya for dinner featuring German frankfurters and Spanish chorizo-but hopefully still with Louisiana soul. Followed by school dinner favourite: peaches and custard!

All the crew members with loved ones coming out to meet them are getting super excited for their reunion. However, we expect showers will be needed first..

Bex and Lizzie

Day Eighteen

We really are ‘nearly there’, with just over 200 nm to go!

After the excitements of yesterday we were all relieved to have a relatively relaxing day following an exceptionally dark night which made helming difficult at times.

We continued to prepare the boat for our arrival in St. Lucia, stowing further lines and cleaning all the bulk heads and floors. The galley also had a ‘super clean’, with lockers emptied and wiped where necessary. The only minor issue being the discovery during the afternoon that the port head was blocked. This proved not to be due to mis-use, was relatively easy to repair and did not involve Terry going up the mast in the bosun’s chair again – which I am sure was a huge relief to him and to the rest of us left back on deck, watching on the previous occasions!

Mother watch (Harriet, Lee and Eddie) were keen to ‘impress’, as it will be their last! Following a breakfast of sausages and beans, Harriet baked her first ever loaf of bread for lunch (Penny please note!). Cakes and cookies for tea and the day culminated in Jerk Chicken and rice for supper.

It is hard to believe that at some point tomorrow we will sight land for the first time in nearly three weeks. For all onboard this has been an amazing experience. With exceptionally unusual weather systems we have been faced with extremes from 56 knots of wind to barely any at all!  Not a ‘traditional ARC’ crossing by any stretch of the imagination but we have all discovered our unique hidden strengths when adversity struck and have pulled together as a team.

Each of us had their own reasons for choosing to spend four weeks with a group of strangers in the middle of the Atlantic and as the end draws near, we can perhaps reflect on what those reasons were, what lies ahead and how this experience might have subtly changed us all.

Looking forward to crossing the finish line and the rum punch that we are told will be handed out by the organisers!


Day Nineteen

Having been told that ‘normally’ we should have experienced at least a few ‘squalls’ on the crossing, the ‘Gods’ didn’t want to disappoint and for the final few hours of the voyage, the heavens opened and the wind really did finally blow.  This all made for an exciting and somewhat nerve-wracking arrival in St. Lucia! However we finally crossed the finish line at just after 19.00 local time, with the lights of Rodney Bay Marina in the distance and the photographer wildly circling the boat, trying to capture the event for posterity.

Once the sails were all down and we had negotiated the rather narrow entrance to the marina, we finally moored alongside our allocated pontoon and stepped ashore – the first time on dry land for 19 days and it certainly felt more than a little odd at first?! We were greeted by members of the ARC staff and glasses of rum punch were handed round. Hugs for all and a few photographs.  We might have all been feeling like ‘drowned rats’ but we had DONE IT!  We had actually crossed the Atlantic and lived to tell the tale……….

A quick final check that everything was secure on the boat and we were off to the bar at the end of the pontoon. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces from Las Palmas, most of whom had arrived in St. Lucia themselves in the last few days.  A fun evening all round and even Harriet (who claims not to drink!), was clearly up for the ‘party’!

The following morning, after a fairly slow start, we cleaned up the boat and took our washing to Mr. Suds in the marina.  A water taxi then whisked many of us off to Pidgeon Island for lunch, a walk up to the fort, followed by a swim. Back to the boat for showers and then a few of us headed off to join one of the many ARC parties.  Sadly, with time pressures a major consideration we had to leave St. Lucia at 9.30pm that evening so unfortunately possibly missed the best of the evening.  However, it seemed a fitting ‘end’ to our Atlantic crossing and the ‘ARC’ experience. Lizzie and Eddie left the boat before our departure from St. Lucia to head home – the first of many sad farewells.

We then motor sailed overnight to the Saintes and spent yesterday relaxing on the island, with dinner in the evening. This morning we headed up the coast of Guadeloupe and moored in a small bay on the west coast of the island to snorkel and swim – parrot fish and many other species were spotted.  With seafood linguine being prepared in the galley, we hoisted our anchor and are currently pushing on up to Antigua. We hope to arrive in Falmouth tomorrow morning around dawn.  A last ‘night watch’ for all!

Harriet was thrilled to receive a few final messages from home – L and B. Thank you Carolyn for the Yuzu and Ben for the hand cream and scent – they have all been invaluable!

A few of the crew will sadly be leaving the boat tomorrow so that really will mark the end of our adventures together. This really has been an amazing experience and will no doubt stay with each and every one of us for many years to come. There will be a final short passage up to Jolly Harbour on Wednesday morning, where the rest of us will disembark.

A huge thank you to Sue and Terry for guiding us all so skilfully across such a large expanse of sea and for their endless patience. Baz and Dr. Bob were excellent Watch Leaders and I think it is fair to say that ‘Bob the builder’ really ‘can fix’ everything!

Time for home now. Until the next time……….

Harriet, Bex, Sheena, Alex, Tom, Rod, Nick, Lee, Andy, David and Lizzie and Eddie in absentia.

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