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Sailing "Ineffable" across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean, Pt I

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

Stephen Bourne is the owner of Ineffable, the Rapido 60, which he sailed from Las Palmas, Canary Islands to St Lucia in the Caribbean. from 1-15 December 2018 with his crew. Below, Steve shares his fantastic story and adventure in Part I (for Part II, click here).

Stephen Bourne, owner of Ineffable, writes on their crossing of the Atlantic Ocean aboard Ineffable.
Stephen Bourne, owner of Ineffable, writes on their crossing of the Atlantic Ocean aboard Ineffable.

Crossing from a monohull to a trimaran

When you put your life savings into a luxury floating home that is capable of doing 30 knots, preparing for an Atlantic crossing takes on a whole new meaning!

My own experience from childhood had been monohulls, including helming a 70’ racing sled for several years. The inevitable monohull experiment of being wet, cold, tired and stiff from four hours on the helm or sitting on the rail was what I believed was the norm for sailing.

I have now sailed my Rapido 60 trimaran, Ineffable, for four months around the Canary Islands and then across the Atlantic to St Lucia in the Caribbean. In all conditions, the Rapido has more than proven itself to be eminently fast, stable, safe and remarkably easy for two to sail.

Standing upright making coffee and cooking at 22 knots without having to brace yourself, while fighting a 30 degree heel, is quite a mind-opening experience as to how sailing should be!

And on top of that, one is warm, dry and relaxed!!

Preparing to cross the Atlantic

Notwithstanding these favourable experiences and coffee cups not sliding off tables, careful preparation for a 3,222 nm crossing of the Atlantic Ocean is critical. Preparation has to cover all aspects of the voyage including the rig, fittings, safety gear and provisioning and, of course, crew training!

Our beautiful new Hall Spars high modulus mast, new North 3Di sails, new Future Fibres standing rigging and all running rigging had to be fine-tuned and checked to be fail-safe. The B&G navigation system needed to be programmed for the rotating mast. A couple of hiccups were discovered and we flew in a rigging expert to sort out the new halyard locks and make some other adjustments. We didn’t want to be mid Atlantic with the reacher or the spinnaker locked up and not being able to drop them!

The Team

Critically, crew work had to be “spot on”.

Prior to our departure, we made several return training trips of more than 300 miles from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria to other islands including La Ventura and Tenerife. We practised our reefing and furling, as well as putting up and taking down sails, during the day and at night time. All this was done while wearing safety gear and being attached to the jack stays.

All crew were trained in safety procedures including “man overboard”, launching the rescue pod etc.

 Ineffable's workaholic and meticulous Captain, Mark Haswell.
Ineffable's workaholic and meticulous Captain, Mark Haswell.

We were so fortunate to have our workaholic Captain, Mark Haswell, on board who had sailed the Rapido many miles before. He was meticulous and disciplined in preparation of both the boat and us. Mark took whatever time was needed to explain details and procedures.

One can think one is a good sailor whipping fellow competitors on an “around the cans” race but it is not until you run a big boat that you realize just how much there is to learn.

As a watch leader, we had young Wedolin Schor, an Austrian who took everything in his stride and became very good at holding both course and speed. He steered us through the largest squall of the trip at over 35 knots wind speed.

Naturally, we had to have two beautiful French girls on board including my crew on Magic Sailing, from when I lived in Hong Kong.

Elodie Cavernes turned up the morning of our departure without bags! After some pretty anxious calls to the airline which admitted that the bags had been carefully stowed somewhere else on the planet, she did a quick shop for the voyage. Her only hand luggage was a few odds and ends but, thankfully, she had also packed some important spares in it. What a star!

Luna, an adventuresome teenager, only joined us a few days beforehand but even with very limited sailing experience she was competently steering in 20 knots of wind along with Elodie. Few boats can match Rapido’s ease of sailing with such exhilaration. A very forgiving, well-honed, machine!

A setting sun aboard Ineffable mid Atlantic Ocean, December 2018.
A setting sun aboard Ineffable mid Atlantic Ocean, December 2018.

Provisioning and fuel

Provisioning is quite a task as you need to allow for contingencies. This, I can assure you, makes you think very hard!

There has to be enough fresh water if the water maker becomes inoperable. There has to be enough tinned and dry food to survive if cooking becomes unavailable and until the situation can be safely resolved.

Checking out at the supermarket in Las Palmas was quite a sight. It took us a full two hours!

The R60 has a combined huge storage / safety survival area under the cockpit which can be accessed from the cockpit or through an external hatch in case of an emergency situation. As such, all of the long term provisions and emergency water were stored there.

The fuel should be enough for about 1,400 miles which is not so bad on a Rapido 60 given its light weight (in race mode, it weighs just 9.6 tons. The floats and beams weigh only 1,000kgs each). The Rapido can easily be driven with a Yanmar 53 HP engine. While many people have described this small engine as “cute”, we could actually do up to 9 knots!

Training alongside ARC racers

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of our training was when one of our sessions coincided with the start of the 2018 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the ARC, which races to Saint Lucia in the Caribbean.

Although we missed the start by about ten minutes, we quickly caught the leading catamarans with our big blue spinnaker driving us through the fleet. The cats had gone offshore so we gybed back in and hugged the coast and soon overtook the craftier monohulls who were taking advantage of the stronger off shore breeze near the airport.

We were having a tremendous time (relaxing) doing 13 knots while the rest of the fleet were maxing out at 6 to 10 knots. Rather delightful!

Eventually we had to head back to the marina and beat through the fleet at 13-15 knots, which surprised many participants as they altered course to miss us when they didn’t need to.

To put it mildly, a very pleasing day!

  • PART II - In Part II, Steve and his crew set sail from Las Palmas on the big adventure to St Lucia. Click here.

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