As the festive season approached, Tony Walker was invited to travel to Lanzarote for the start of the Christmas Caribbean Sailing Rally.
As someone almost completely in the dark about matters nautical and yachting in particular, I didn’t really know what to expect when I accepted an invitation to travel to Lanzarote to witness the start of the 2013 Trans Atlantic Christmas Rally. Little did I know when I boarded my flight in Seville, what an amazing weekend I was about to have.
Sailing Rallies, a company specialising in trans ocean crossings had organised the event. Entries included a range of sailing vessels with crews of various levels of experience. With all of the entries managed by experienced skippers. I was amazed to learn that some of the crew members had no sailing experience whatsoever! I suspected that they were going to endure a steep learning curve as they crossed the wide expanse of the Atlantic to land ultimately on the island of Antigua.
In my nievity, I had expected to see large boats, perhaps only a little smaller than cruise liners that would be capable of making such a voyage. How wrong could I have been ? I was invited onboard Southern Child, a sleek racing yacht – a mere forty feet long. With a crew of eight, including the skipper, accommodation was going to be cosy. Four main berths available to the two ‘watches’. Four of the crew sleeping for four hours at a stretch with others on deck, taking care of sailing the boat.
The skipper Mark Barton, a highly experienced seaman based in Antigua explained how all the available space was to be utilised for crew and essential supplies during the voyage. ‘It a bit tight, but we manage to sleep comfortably and even cook substantial meals in the galley’ He said.
The young, multinational crew, was made up of six females and just two men. including the skipper; Debbie (UK) Charlie (UK) Helen (UK) Annette (New Zealand) Marta (Russia) Marina (Russia) and Heike (Germany). An enthusiastic bunch, who had mustered in Lanzarote over the previous few days. They were raring to go !
Activity was frantic during the few days before sailing. Supermarket shopping trolleys laden with provisions being pushed along the dock by various members of the crew. I was astonished to see where all this stuff was stored on board. Every nook and cranny stuffed with essentials and treats for the voyage. The expected duration was set at around twelve days, but this was very much dependent on weather conditions throughout the trip. Judging by the amount of provisions that I witnessed being stored, there looked as though there would be enough for a return trip ! The skipper assured me that only essential items would be carried, apart from treats and goodies that would be produced when the crew celebrated Christmas whilst mid Atlantic !
Eventually everything was ready to go. Throughout Monday morning the crew made their last preparations, called their loved ones and boarded Southern Child. As I stood on the dock, watching the mooring ropes slip away, the excitement and anticipation of the crew as they took their positions was palpable.
After many hugs, kisses and tearful goodbyes, Southern Child left her moorings and gracefully slipped out of the harbour to join the other six boats at the start line in the bay. Next scheduled stop would be the island of Antigua, some 2,800 nautical miles away on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
What an amazing experience for these young people as they embarked on what for most of them, would be the adventure of a lifetime. For me, I found that the excitement experienced by the crew was infectious and I found myself wishing that I could join them as they undertook their trip of a lifetime ….oh to be 20 again !
Sixteen days later, on New Years Day, Southern Child arrived at Jolly Harbour on the Isle of Antigua. The exhausted, triumphant crew stepped ashore celebrating their achievement with champagne, hot showers and fresh food !
For your voyage of life time, please email us for more information about the TransAtlantics opportunities that Performance Yacht Charter have available.
Tony Walker. January 2014