Big sea (small boat)

Visit Double Handed Offshore Series

But if you do the preparation correctly then everything is possible

Racing a small boat shorthanded across the Atlantic is one of the bucket list challenges for many amateur doublehanded offshore sailors. Kate Cope looks at the different options from those who have experienced the races.

The RORC has completed its 10th Transatlantic race from Lanzarote to Grenada and if you want to join, the 11th edition starts in January 2025. The race attracts plenty of highprofile mono and multihulls but past editions have had few doublehanders. The timing is perfect for some bucket list Caribbean racing, you arrive in plenty of time for RORC Caribbean 600 (mid-February) and most of the inshore regattas. It’s well organised and good value, with the lowest entry fee of all the races, and complimentary social events.

Cap Martinique started its second edition in April. This relatively new race from La Trinité to Martinique is proving to be very popular with both solo and double-handed boats. Its first edition attracted 35 boats and this one had 80 boats racing so plenty of good quality competition in a narrow rating band. The race also had the advantage of a short delivery from northern Europe to the start, and the ambiance was warm and friendly.

Best Advice
It is important to have back-ups for all critical systems and resources. Many shorthanded boats install a second autopilot on a separate NMEA backbone, as water ingress or a lightening strike can take down your primary backbone and all associated instruments. It’s also critical your autopilot is calibrated to handle the larger waves. For back-up power generation, solar panels are light and efficient in the sunshine and Efoy fuel cells are quiet and work 24-hours.

Main picture: Gavin Howe and Maggie Adamson competed in the 2024 RORC Transatlantic Race in their Jeaneau Sun Fast 3600, Tigris

If you want weather GRIBs for routing then you will need more than an Iridium handheld. At the cheaper end of the scale Iridium Go! is slow but works. For more bandwidth and ability to send out small pictures and blogs then consider the Certus 100/200 or Starlink. Practice before the race to ensure you know how to download the compressed files and how to get the tracker info on the other boats.

There is a high risk of chafe on sails, halyards, sheets and guys so spares are essential and take a good sail repair kit. With the big rolling waves and constant squalls, the risk of a spinnaker wrap is high so consider a netting jib. Gavin Howe and Maggie Adamson who completed the RORC Transatlantic with their Sunfast 3600, Tigris, say they loved their netting jib as it protected them several times from a wrap. For the long downwind legs, a ready-to-go boom preventer is reassuring and a second spinnaker pole could save your race.

Be prepared for a lot more hours of darkness than northern Europe summer races, take high-powered torches and install a mast light for trimming. Sargasso weed levels are increasing, a weed stick is useful for the rudders and expect to round up regularly to free the weed from the keel.

Taking a relatively small boat across a large expanse of ocean may seem daunting, but many have done it. If Christopher Columbus could make it to the Caribbean in 1492 in a leaky old wooden boat, then for sure it’s possible in a modern plastic racing boat!

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