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

Fishing line for a windvane fuse

Skipper Sean O'Donnell and his fishing line-inspired windvane fuse

Skipper Sean O’Donnell and his fishing line-inspired windvane fuse

Innovative DIY features aboard Raw and Wriggling, a Gambler 38 yacht, included a fishing line fuse for a windvane and a fishing rod for a shortwave radio antenna.

Skipper Sean O’Donnell sailed the ARC for the first time with his girlfriend, their five-year-old son Rasmus and one crew. He said: ‘The Sailomat windvane has a lot of force if something was to get jammed, so rather than break a rope, steering wheel or windvane, we break the fishing wire.

‘It happened twice in the middle of the night, of course. Two of us were up, one person handsteering while I got the fishing line and retied the block in place. It took about 15 minutes, I reset the steering and away we went.’

Sean used fishing wire to make a 'weak link' for the steering vane

Sean used fishing wire to make a ‘weak link’ for the steering vane

As regards using a 7m fishing rod as a shortwave radio antenna, engineering designer Sean said: ‘The company I bought the radio from suggested I could do with a whip antenna, so I cobbled this together for about £30. It’s a simple wire and a fibreglass, telescopic fishing pole from Amazon.’

TOP KIT: Sailomat self-steering (‘We connected that a couple of hours out from Las Palmas, and it steered us all the way’) plus an Icom shortwave radio, on which Sean received weather forecasts via his sailing club in Sweden.

‘We bought an Inmarsat satellite telephone but it was difficult to get a connection and very expensive, in the end we didn’t use it.’

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Four Seasons – two steering wire breakages and a wobbly rudder
  3. 3. Slipper 1 – disillusioned with electricals
  4. 4. Inua – autopilot and windvane broken in a squall
  5. 5. Fishing line for a windvane fuse
  6. 6. About St Lucia
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