Laura Hodgetts talks to the skippers of 20 boats on the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), ‘the biggest downwind gear test of the year’, about the pros and cons of the equipment they used and the sailing techniques they deployed
Four Seasons – two steering wire breakages and a wobbly rudder
When a rudder wire snapped aboard the Beneteau First 43.5 yacht Four Seasons, skipper Chris Jackman spent four hours in rolling seas replacing it, using a spare length of Dyneema and bulldog clips.
The lazarette contained two sails, two folded-up bicycles and spare fuel: ‘Everything had to come out, in 2-3m swells.’
Sailing using autopilot, Chris and his wife Caroline took the compass off and the pedestal apart to get to the drive chain and attach the Dyneema. The compass was placed upside down in ‘the safest place’ – the sink.
Once everything was back together and they thought they were on their way, the other steering wire snapped 10 hours later. Chris was six inches short of spare Dyneema.
The pair, who run the Solent-based Black Dog Sailing charter company, were considering using the guardrails when Chris noticed the mainsail outhaul.
‘Out came the bolt croppers. I had to hack off about 9ft. I basically used the whole main outhaul and rerigged it with rope.’
Chris ‘had to redo everything again’: clear out the locker, drop the messenger line again to Caroline who was lying in the aft cabin, and make sure it sat securely on the turning blocks.
In 2,500 miles, ‘we never touched it again.’
Being inside the aft locker in the rolling sea ‘wasn’t very pleasant’, Chris said. ‘I was sweating buckets, but all’s well that ends well: we got here!’
Four Seasons’ new rudder began ‘wobbling alarmingly’ on day five. Chris tightened up the top plate of the bearing, which helped, but by about day 12-13 it was really causing concern: ‘We
were relieved to see dry land.’
Another breakage was the lightweight spinnaker, which ‘just went bang. It was a beautiful sail, but we were just left with three corners and some shreds.’
Their watermaker also ‘packed up completely’ on day 4 or 5.
Chris said: ‘We had lots of bottled water, but we had promised everyone a shower before arrival.’
The Aquair towed generator worked really well, ‘although it did take some speed off the boat.’
Cheap, eBay-bought, flexible solar panels to go on top of the bimini ‘worked a treat’, but four inflatable PVC fenders from You Boat Marine in Gosport were Chris’s best buy. He also recommended an awning and two sets of every spanner, in case you drop one or for when you have two nuts to tighten. ‘We wouldn’t have been able to do the steering without two 19mm spanners.’
Dyneema sleeves on halyards prevented chafing, while an old chopping board made into circular red discs stopped the knots chafing the sheets.
Provisioning tip: Tinned chicken from Costco and curry mix from Lidl. ‘It was delicious.’