Skip links

ARC 2016 GRAN CANARIA – ST LUCIA CHALLENGER 4

Thursday 17 November – Monday 12 December

The Last Entry

This time we really are nearly there….

Final thoughts, highlights and observations of Challenger 4 crew

Our 19th night at sea and now we are nearly there. What a journey! What a team! The ocean is majestic and huge. My memories will be of the night passages, the beautiful stars, the sunrises and the sunsets, the sound of dolphins breathing by the boat at night and the few seabirds. It is so precious and fragile. We must take great care of it. Thank you to our skipper Sue and professional crew for making it possible and thank you fellow crew for being so great. Nicky

Wonderful experiences. Great new friends. A great team in Sue, Gary and Amelia and the boundless ocean in all its changeable moods. A personal epic voyage in many different ways. Tony

A truly wonderful ocean passage.  For Mum & Dad.  Bruce

Great experience and fun.  Matt

Had a truly memorable and humbling experience, meeting a great bunch of people I can call my friends. I would also reiterate what has already been mentioned about our skipper Sue along with Gary and Amelia, very helpful, professional and caring. Thank you. Alan ( Steve ).

Entry 18

Are we there yet…?

So we now have less than 300nm to get to Saint Lucia – the crew are very excited to get there. We spend most of the day talking about how we are going to spend our first hours back on main land, what food we are craving and what drinks we are going to order.

Speaking about food – today has been a bit silly in the galley… We have managed to drop peppercorns in the mash, onions went flying across the saloon table and one of the precious remaining eggs got dropped on the floor.

Today will probably, hopefully, be our last day without seeing land, at some point tomorrow we will see civilisation. For the first time in, no one can even remember how long, we are now able to see ourselves and our destination on the same chart, without zooming out, exciting!

Tonight will also be our last night sail, so future astronomers Emma, Sam, Alison and Nikki learnt some new star constellations – Lepus, Andromeda and Cepheus. We are getting closer to our 15 star constellations goal.

Sam & Emma

Entry 17

Into every life, a little rain must fall

Day 16 of our journey started much like the last few days with plenty of sunshine and relatively calm seas.  The crew kept busy cooking creative meals out of the remaining fresh food, including the last of the fresh fish.  To the delight of some and disdain of others we tapped into our hot dog supply for our dinner protein.  Surprisingly after more than two weeks at sea, we still have fresh vegetables and fruit to enjoy on a daily basis.

In anticipation of our arrival in St. Lucia later this week, the crew began a deep clean of the ship, which will likely continue into the next few days.  All were pleased at the relatively clean and tidy state of the bilges and sail locker (credit goes to Paul and others who have ventured into the bilges at various times to hunt down rogue fruits and vegetables).

As we neared completion of the cleaning tasks for the day, several strong if not large squalls appeared before us and an all hands was called to pull down the spinnaker as heavy winds approached.  Unfortunately the storm came on all too fast and we suffered a tear to the kite that rendered it unusable for the remainder of our journey.

However, due to the quick response of management and crew, we were able to raise our yankee and staysail in a matter of minutes in order to take advantage of the consistent winds.  As a result, we lost very little time and have picked up speed on our journey to the finish line.  We are now charting a course due almost directly west to Rodney Bay and what I’m sure will be several well deserved rum and cokes on the beach.

Matt, Nicky and Helen

Entry 16

Week 3 at sea begins….the crew continue to wend their merry way across the Atlantic.  A lull the breeze has started to kick in today and we now approach the last leg of our ‘epic’ journey to St Lucia – a journey that has been as much about the passengers as the passage. 2425 miles down and we hope to be in by Friday latest.

Dolphins off the bow this morning and two more fish landed by the fishing brothers (and most of the crew) (cos they were giants) this afternoon saw us a hearty dinner tonight followed by another pudding by ‘do nothing Dave’.  Bruno opened his last present from his wife and shared out fudge and mints.  Emma and Sam found themselves, quite literally, in knots in the cockpit tonight and struggled to find their way out of the brain teaser with ropes that mate Gary set them……speaking of Gary….he’s now gone to bed with a radiating sun tan which displays the clear lines of……his life jacket.  Amelia successfully grappled with her sextant for her final reading. It’s all go.

The mothers squabbled their way through the afternoon with Tony ‘Babe’ trying to regale us with his random jokes whilst intermittently interviewing us all on the go pro. His efforts at sour dough were equally as random and we had to find an American (fortunately we have one of those) to undertake quality testing.

All quiet as night falls and we drop into night watches which seep into days and then into weeks……it’s been wonderful.

Love to all our families and friends and special love to Snail.

Alison, Dave, Tony and Paul.

Entry 15

The day it got hot and sweaty…..

Same old, same old, same old.  We’ve been at sea for 14 days now.  The sun rises, trundles over the sky and sinks.  The wind goes up and then down.  The sea is still blue.  The mothers keep cooking and another day is done.

To be a bit more precise for today, the night watches had some great shooting star displays to keep us entertained as we rolled along under an unconventional rig looking like granny’s washing line.  Progress was good and we had taken a few miles back on one of the other Challenger yachts.

Sunrise was grand again, and then we had a whale swim alongside for long enough for the camera to catch it and prove madness hadn’t totally set in.  We launched the kite while most folks were still snuggled in their bed, the day heated up, the wind died and we all started getting hot.

Mid morning mother duties included finding a rogue cheese that had escaped from a cool box and had spent the last few days festering, followed by trying to constrain the spread of Sam’s socks around the cabin.

Soup was cancelled from the menu to be replaced by fresh bread, cheese and meats.  A sort of British Ploughman’s mid Atlantic.  We tried fishing again, but this time drew a blank – maybe we have fished the Atlantic out already?  The afternoon treat was another lemon drizzle cake, after which we had a little rest to build up energy for the spinnaker drop and wooling in the cabin.  Wooling is this funny sailing activity in which you stretch the spinnaker out from bow to stern below decks, wiggling it through all the cabins, and then you have to roll the sides in so it becomes a long snake like thing around which you then have to tie wool at 1 foot intervals.  This is all done in a ridiculous heat below decks so you all get sweaty.  Then you have to fold the long snake into its bag and then shoving the whole thing back up the companion way.  This is where our personal trainer, Dave, comes into his own, flexing his biceps and pulling it out in one go.

Dinner was another yummy one pot pasta dish followed by tea.  Evening showers were well deserved tonight, wiping away a day’s grime, before we settled down for the night.  The wind fizzled out further taking away any cooling breeze as we sat on deck. A reef went in the main, not because we had too much wind, but to try and stop it bashing around as we all sat here wallowing around in a big blue ocean.

We’ve started dreaming about what drinks we will buy when we arrive.  Definitely something with a lot of ice.  Moral is still high and we are hoping for better winds tomorrow to push us along towards that ice cold drink.

Xxx Hayley, Alan and Bruce

Entry 14

The day we caught a fish…..

Oh boy, what a day! A lot of things to celebrate and definitely another day we have all been waiting and longing for, especially Tony and Bruce, our two fishermen on Challenger 4.

It all went down just as the whole crew were gathered up on deck having our daily midday meeting, celebrating with a cold beverage that we passed the 2000 mile point, when Tony spotted a fish on the line!! In excitement Bruce ran down stairs to get the gaff, whilst Amelia and Tony were bringing the line and the fish in. It was a beautiful and fairly big mahi-mahi aka dolphin fish. Bruce the brave skinned and gutted what was now going to make our dinner.

We have been trying to catch a fish for days without any luck at all, so we were all very pleased, but we also have to admit that it was the perfect timing since we are starting to run out of meat, something that our American protein lover Matt is struggling with, he didn’t even have the patience to wait for the fish to be cooked, and therefore had it raw.

The rest of us(except our two vegetarians) had a proper feast, and as if one fish wasn’t enough, another one joined in just in time for dinner. So we had mahi-mahi three ways – panfryed, baked and raw, yum!

Apart from that, we are still doing well and going strong, all in all: happy days on board J

Xxx Sam, Malcolm and Emma

Entry 13

The night it all changed….

The last 24 hours has been full of excitement, as we crossed the 2,000 NM mark and turned our sights toward the green hills and sandy beaches of St. Lucia (now only 997 miles away).  We began yesterday evening sailing under the spinnaker until around 0100, when we had our first night watch all hands call of the trip to bring down and wool the kite.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement for the evening, we also had several close encounters of the marine variety.  Our skipper was struck in the head by a rogue flying fish, clearly seeking revenge for all of Tony and Bruce’s efforts to catch one of his acquaintances.  The crew’s response was noisy if not heroic, as Hayley and Amelia contributed to the screaming, eventually inspiring the fish to jump back over the deck.

The same watch also witnessed a pod of dolphins swimming alongside Challenger IV and emitting what was later described as a “sneezing” sound.  And for the grand finale, the graveyard watch shift heard and saw tell-tale signs of an orca less than 5 meters from the boat, but a moonless night prevented positive identification.

Our sailing day was full of sunshine and breezy, if not windy, conditions, thus allowing the crew to finish some much needed laundry and work on their tans.  And this evening, in addition to a wonderful pasta dinner and banana nut bread created by the mother watch, we’ve had a bit of excitement as the skipper and mates tapped into their creative spirit with the sail configuration.  Everyone on board is anxious to see the results come morning!

Nicky sends love to all the family.  She can’t wait to speak to you from St. Lucia and tell you all about this amazing experience.

Matt, Nicky and Helen

Entry 12

Only 1200 miles to go…. 

Another great day at sea on Challenger 4.

The sun was shining and almost everyone was out on deck during the day – this evening the sea is more consistent with long rolling swells and it is a starlit night with clear skies.

We now have some wind that seems to be settling into a consistent pastern and the spinnaker is flying, and so are we. We should pass the 2000 mile mark tomorrow evening and hope to be in St Lucia on Thursday.

Still no fish despite the top of the range lines and lures and the combined efforts of Bruce Malcolm and Tony – our first catch cannot be far off!

Our pears were coming to a sticky end so David and Tony made a pear crumble under the direction of our culinary leaders of the day- Alison and Paul. Despite the inexperience of the kitchen staff it was judged a success and to have enhanced the Jambalaya main course.

Alison, David, Paul and Tony

Entry 11

We’re moving again! And in the right direction….

Today has been mostly about wind and food…lots of food!!

Bruce has been showing off his cooking skills with cake overload today. After another stunning sun-rise, everyone woke up to the delicious smells of lemon drizzle cake wafting through the cabins. We then set about making toasted baguettes for lunch with a homemade potato salad and coleslaw. Dinner was a chorizo and butterbean stew with freshly baked bread and then Bruce again cooked up a storm with stewed apples and sponge for dessert. (He’s promised to keep it up when he gets home!! 😉

Above decks the wind has been growing steadily all day, we have changed sails and Amelia has trimmed and trimmed again…and again. Folding away the genoa was a whole team effort and after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing we finally got it flaked and stored away.

We are now storming in the right direction at a reasonable speed of 7 knots… much better than the 2-3 we were doing yesterday.

The fishermen are still trying to lure in a catch, we think we are in an area with the wrong type of fish!!  The day was finished off with another great sun-set.  Yesterday we had fabulous oranges and reds lighting up clouds and today the big ball of sun just slowly sank past an un-interrupted horizon.  Truly wonderful and just as the brochure promised.  At last.

Better sign-off quickly. We’re just hearing rumours of a sail change.  Time to get the head down and pretend to be asleep – one of the privileges of being a mother for the day.  Hopefully we have ratcheted up the bar on the grub front so looking forward to tomorrow’s culinary delights.  And some sunshine sailing.

With just a week to go we are keeping spirits high, even the smallest things are becoming more amusing…maybe the madness is starting to set in.

Mother-watch signing off and ready for bed,

Hayley, Bruce and Alan

Entry 10

PARTY!!!!!!!

Today has been an absolute blast! We have officially made it half way across the Atlantic and are closer than ever to St Lucia, which we celebrated in style. Ever since the crew joined the boat the skipper and mates have been going on about the half way party, and how we should all dress up for the occasion. Each watch dressed up together and it was brilliant, we had a selection of pirates, super heroes, hippies and Mary with her three wise men, all coming together to enjoy this wonderful day. Everyone did really well with their outfits considering they were created only out of stuff we could find on the boat.

We couldn’t have asked for a better day for this celebration, it has been completely flat and calm, which normally would be really annoying, but it made life a lot easier for the day. So, it all started out with our lovely skipper making everyone scrambled eggs for breakfast (thank you Sue) After that the mothers got busy in the kitchen preparing for lunch, and the rest of the crew got busy with the outfits.

In the afternoon we had a couple of party games to play organised by Mate Amelia. These included stuffing our faces with Marshmallows and trying to complete a phrase, quick cracker eating, cheesy puff throwing and balloon popping – after this most of crew decided to take the rest of the day off and enjoy lazing around with a nice cold beverage.

As we were chilling on deck and discussing how we hadn’t seen a boat for the last couple of days a super yacht turned up out of the blue and we instantly decided to try and make friends with them, but unfortunately all we got was a couple of waves on deck from them, since they were going a lot faster than us and simply couldn’t stay for our party.

In the evening we decided to observe the heavens for a while – the constellations we saw where Pegasus, Ursa Minor, Grus and Andromeda – we are trying to learn five each day.

Malcolm, Emma and Sam

Entry 9

Finally heading in the right direction….

It’s been an exciting 24 hours here in the mid-Atlantic!  Yesterday we had a beautiful day of sailing and a gorgeous sunset – followed by an evening of squalls, winds blowing from 3 to 21 knots, and even an all-hands call early in the morning to take down our Genoa sail (otherwise known as a cold shower for all).  The night watch was active as we weaved our way through storm systems, saw some incredible lightning (accompanied by no thunder at all) and tried to find a breeze wherever we could. But fortunes change easily on our journey and today turned into a wonderful day of sailing that saw us break out the spinnaker for the first time in five days.  We are now on a south and west heading pointing us directly toward St. Lucia.

As of this post, we have travelled 1,456 NM, which puts us very near the halfway point.  We’re all looking forward to a proper afternoon party tomorrow to celebrate our progress so far.  It’s truly hard to believe our voyage is nearly half over!

Around the boat we’ve settled into our routines and responsibilities, both on and below deck.  We did a targeted search and destroy mission for our “unhappy” fruit and vegetables, resulting in a show and tell of all the strange forms these once fresh items are now displaying.  The highlight is a pear that slightly resembled the beard and hair of our crewmate Sam.

Today was Day 3 of Tony and Bruce’s epic fishing effort, using only rudimentary lines and lures while we travel at speeds in excess of eight knots.  Despite the lack of immediate success, we have been promised “the fish are coming.”

Matt, Nicky and Helen

Entry 8

It was the first Sunday of Advent…. almost Christmas really…..

So……..Amelia gave everyone a chocolate from her Christmas stash…yes she has opened her stocking.

We have hit some much milder conditions, in terms of wind and swell, which provided the crew with an opportunity for a wash and brush up after a reasonably hectic few days. A wonderfully quiet and sunny day today, after a much different evening that saw us surfing down the swells making 14.5 knots at one point (oooh Helen) and reefs going in just before midnight.  The subsequentent watches continued to face some further demanding conditions before the night was over.  Remarkably nobody who was in their bunk fell out.

Both Bruce and Tony had their tackle out over the stern by the midday sun, hoping for a catch, which regrettably never came.  Shame, because the whole crew were looking forward to a fish dinner.  Much more time for luring fish we think.  We also saw some flying fish today, with one springing on board with us tonight.

Down on Mother Watch ‘do nothing Dave’ sprang into action and made some bread  (for which he provided a photography opportunity) whilst Alison, Paul and Tony trawled through preparing lunches and dinners fit for Columbus himself.

We all ended the day up on deck watching a beautiful sunset, followed by a spectacular lightening show, listening to music, drinking tea, and eating Amelia’s chocolates…yum…..shame you didn’t make it Columbus…would love to have seen you.

Entry 7

The day the sun shone…

After last night’s drama, our Yankee 2 was fixed just after midnight by the North Atlantic division of the W.I. 4 hours of sewing and patching, and a great team effort to keep the yacht going and spirits high.

Night watches then commenced with some precarious helming and a lot of tired bodies. This didn’t detract from the fact that at 02:30 we hit the 1000 mile mark, a milestone we celebrated as a team after lunch with a (cold) can of fizzy pop.

Today’s motherwatch was the Italian team of Bruno, Alesandro and Helena, who spent the day kneading pizza dough for lunch and preparing spaghetti Bolognese for dinner which went down exceptionally well with the crew.

After deep cleaning the worlds smelliest cool box and the rest of the yacht we spent a little time with the rest of the crew up on deck, who were enjoying the first proper day of sunshine we have had on the water. We must be getting further south as the first flying fish has been spotted and the bananas are going ripe.

Bedtime now but we have a happy crew, enjoying life aboard Challenger 4.

Bueno Notte

Bruce (Bruno), Alan (Alesandro) and Hayley (Helena)

Entry 6

Wet & windy – what’s that all about…..?

After last night’s dinner we went upstairs to get some fresh air and for the first time we had clear sky and no moon light to block the view of the heavens. We managed to see Shooting stars, Satellites, Venus, Mars and some constellations with the help of Sam’s app. Since the cloud held back all night we managed to navigate using the stars which was really great.

First thing next morning Amelia came on deck and announced that her launderette was one officially open and ready for her first customers – she was mostly busy with Matt’s pants. The price for 3 pieces of clothing is one “Rum and Coke” when we reach Saint Lucia – which David is a bit worried about.

First day all the crew felt well, no one was throwing up – well done guys! especially Bruce and David – it’s nice to have you back.

Throughout the day the crew has improved helming – Skipper and Mate are really pleased and to celebrate that the mother team decided to bake a multilayer cake however, nobody has had a piece yet. Boom!

Feeding 13 kids in the galley is a full time job – good thing we have four days off from mother duties after hangry crew members we almost held up for their dinner.

Just before we started writing this we didn’t think we had any interesting things to write about until – DUD DUD DUD!!! All crew were rushed up on deck the reason being we crashed gybed and ripped our Yankee 2. After a sail change in the dark the Yankee 2 is currently on the saloon table and being stitched and estimated time for fix is 4 hours.

Entry 5

Rolling in the Deep!

 Hello to friends and family of Challenger IV crew!  Today was another wobbly day in the North Atlantic, but we continue to make good progress, completing nearly 200 nautical miles in the last 24 hours.  The good news is that the wind has swung behind us and we’re starting to do a bit more of the downwind sailing we all expected.  At present we are 730 NM into the race and located north and west of the Cape Verde Abyssymal Plain.

Working both on and below deck presents challenges in heavy seas and doing 10 knots – and in fact it makes you appreciate the simple tasks we all take for granted in life: showering, cooking, doing basic tasks on deck.  The team has come together to accomplish a great many things, including multiple sail changes, cooking a delicious Paella for dinner, and just keeping each other entertained.

The crew of Challenger IV also helped our American teammate, Matt, celebrate Thanksgiving with a homemade apple pie expertly baked by Nicky67. Matt would like to say Happy Thanksgiving to his family back home in Tampa, Florida and Happy Birthday to his Dad.

A message from Nicky: Spoke to Dad / Bob on Challenger II by VHF and all is well.  Love to all the family.

 Many happy returns of the day to Jessica and Richard Bendell whose birthday it is today.  Love from Tony on Challenger IV.

Matt, Nicky and Helen

Entry 4 

 No sail change since breakfast….

 Subsequently Yankee 1 changed for Yankee 2

The sea is fairly rough just now – an ARC yacht has recently sunk – all the crew were picked up by a nearby British survey vessel.

I spent the day in the Galley with Paul and Alison catering for thirteen other hungry

Sailors?

We served a great minestrone soup for lunch and Thai green curry for dinner.

Cooking and washing up was quite eventful with various kitchen items and bodies flying about from time to time!

A major treat today was our first showers, a process that we generally take for granted but which becomes quite challenging with the boat jumping around. It was certainly worth the effort.

Yesterday we covered 220 miles, 530 odd in total from Las Palmas.

We look forward to another action packed day tomorrow!

Good night from Tony and the crew of Challenger 4.

Entry 3

Upwind sailing? On the ARC? They didn’t mention this in the brochure…

 And today we shall mostly be…eating fruit. Pineapple – to be precise, and quaquis (pronounced kakis) an unfortunate and unromantic sounding name for a tasty little number looking a lot like a tomato but tasting a pit peachy…a bit melony… Anyway – they were starting to drip on people’s heads so forced fruit salad eating it was. The pineapples, which had to be moved because of David’s fear of spiders, were also ready for consumption before they inadvertently become pina coladas. No scurvy on the good ship Challenger 4.

So, finally we have some breeze. After a frustrating day of flapping around somewhere off Africa, trying every sail that we have on board in order to keep moving, the breeze kicked in early this morning – a whole 40 minutes before the weather forecast had led us to expect it to. Life at an angle, with added bouncy castle effect, has taken some by surprise and resulted in a widespread redistribution of partially digested food. Alan, however, the sole survivor of mother watch, has proved himself bomb proof and Emma – now an old sea dog – even managed to have a shower

We’re currently heading west, doing 10kts with the wind on the beam, 1 reef in the main (it is 2300), a yankee 2 and staysail and the sea has flattened off for now. Long may that continue, although some proper downwind sailing would be nice….

For those of you wondering how your loved ones are getting on, living in a wobbly 72ft sardine can with 15 complete strangers – Challenger 4 is a very happy place to be right now. People have bonded over tales of why they wanted to spend 15 days living in a wobbly 72ft sardine can with 15 complete strangers, marvelled at the acrobatics of the following dolphin pack and laughed out loud at the 2nd mate’s obsession with biscuits, American fridge freezers and doctor’s coats.

Goodnight from The Management and lots of love to all

Sue xxxxx

Entry 2 – we flapped around somewhere off Africa and didn’t catch a fish….

This is mothers watch reporting in for today Challenger 4 blog.

A very light day of wind but this gave everyone a chance to settle in and get on with the tasks in hand. It was also the crew’s first night sail which was enjoyed by all. Everyone was impressed by the phosphorescent and some of the crew managed to see some shooting stars.

We tried fishing but we think the fish were going too fast for us to keep up with them. Hopefully we will get a chance to catch some on our crossing.

This was our first day of not seeing land and we won’t see any land until we reach St Lucia.

Hot day for the mother watch working down below with our cleaning duties – our first baking attempt proved a success with the crew even though we almost set the kitchen on fire.

Highlight of the day included watching about 20-30 dolphins swimming along our starboard side.

Bruce is still trying to use the sextant to work out our position using this ancient method. We hope to have this figured out the end of the ARC, however there are some members of the crew that don’t think this will be possible.

We would never want to gloat but are delighted that our skipper’s cunning plan has put us ahead of Challenger 2 and 3. Result!

Our Spinnaker rig was setup and deployed today and it looks quite spectacular we must say! We will now have fun tonight trimming it!

All the voyage crew send their love and best wishes to family and friends – we are all well and having a great time.

Sam, Malcolm and Emma

The Journey Begins

Finally, the big day that we have all been waiting for has arrived!!! Majority of the crew were even too excited to manage a full night’s sleep and were up and about long before sunrise. But that was all good since we did have a couple of things on our to do list before leaving the marina to get a good spot as close as possible to the start line. Between 8am and 11am we managed to complete the last minute shopping, storing and organizing and we all went to put on our brand new crew shirts, to get into proper racing mode. To complete our look Bruce had brought sombreros for everyone, which was not only a fabulous complement to our outfits, it might also have confused our competitors into thinking we are heading for Mexico instead of the Caribbean. Tactical move by Challenger 4.

As all of the boats were leaving the marina people were lining up on the breakwaters to wave us all good bye, along with a local band that joined in with a nice bit of music to wish us all a good and safe crossing. The closer we got to 12.30pm, which was the time for the first division to cross the start line, the busier it got with all of the 200 something boats joining the ARC. With two out of three sails already up, we were ready to cross the start line at 12.45, and officially kick off the race and set off towards St Lucia. It was a rather spectacular sight looking back at all the other boats with all of their sails and colourful spinnakers up.

The time is now 19.35 and we have officially been racing for almost 7 hours, so far all is very good. We have managed our first watch, had our first off shore dinner and are all very happy about being at sea.

Emma