Fast internet connection and an innovative TradeWind sail help Oyster 575 take podium position
“Ahlam means ‘dreams’ and this is the dream,” says Lebanese skipper Toni Salame, who’s just taken third place in the ARC+ rally.
His Oyster 575 Ahlam, was the third monohull to arrive in Grenada in the second leg of the rally, which set sail from Gran Canaria on 05 November, and again from Cape Verde on 17 November.
Toni, who runs an investment company, attributes his success to his new headsail and careful analysis of weather data, received using Elon Musk’s high-speed internet service Starlink.
“We sailed south, rather than taking the direct line,” says Toni, who was joined by wife Ana and sons Carlos and Nicholas. “The wind was very fair with us, always downwind, and we paid a lot of attention to our sails. If you damage them you can lose a lot of time sorting things out.”
Along with a mainsail, Ahlam carried a downwind headsail by North Sails, which is flown wing-on-wing, similar to having twin symmetric headsails. “It’s our secret weapon!” says Toni. “It’s made of a lightweight polyester and is great for light to moderate winds.”
The free-flying Tradewind sail is flown independently of the fixed forestay and upwind headsail. It can also be used for closer reaching angles when both clews are sheeted together to leeward.
Toni stresses that he sailed conservatively. “We wanted to enjoy our sail, make a good position but we didn’t want to put ourselves under stress. Safety comes first, second and third.”
The Salame family, who live in Barcelona, have always sailed together on the Costa Brava, as well as further afield in the Balearics, Mediterranean, Sardinia and Ibiza.
Round the world adventure
The family are now relaxing in Camper and Nicholson’s Port Louis Marina, Grenada before heading to Antigua for the Oyster World Rally.
Carlos, a university graduate, will join them on the 16-month rally, whilst Nicholas, an entrepreneur and tech company CEO, will join them for various legs.
“For Carlos it’s an opportunity to generate free time and think about his next steps in life, whereas Nicholas will have the opportunity to carry on working whilst we’re at sea,” explains Toni.
Video conferencing at sea
“Starlink has been the key to keeping us connected. It’s given us a lot of comfort. We communicated with the family onshore, we shared news of what’s happening in the world and managed personal, family and business situations. Nicholas even held a video conference during the crossing. He checked the reports and followed up action plans remotely. The world is changing, and it’s a change for the better.”
Whilst the family have a TV onboard they didn’t use it. “We try to also enjoy the free time to read, and play games together like chess and cards,” adds Toni.
The €280 monthly Starlink contract gives them 50GB of data per month on the ocean, and when they’re on land they can switch to unlimited data for €90 a month.
“We have a sat phone, and we can send and receive messages through a tracker, but frankly speaking Starlink beats them all in terms of quality and quantity of communications,” says Toni, adding, “and in terms of cost there’s no comparison.”
Unlike Inmarsat or Iridium, Starlink uses low-orbiting satellites and shouldn’t be relied on as a sole means of emergency distress signalling. However, Toni was pleased to report receiving a fast internet connection whenever it was required. “You open your application through your iPhone, tablet or PC and I’m not joking, in two to three minutes the receiver turns around searching for a satellite.”