The starting gun fired at exactly 10:00 Eastern Time Sunday morning, the eve of the Summer Solstice, and 19 rally yachts took the start of ARC DelMarVa 2016. With light westerly winds, it was a mellow and easy start for the fleet of boats, many of whom had never sailed overnight before. Slice of Life, a Beneteau 45, was officially first over the starting line, with Su Ching, the big Tayana 55 - the largest boat in the fleet - over a few seconds early.
Sojourner, my dad's boat, the rally committee vessel and also participant in the event, weighed anchor shortly after the fleet cleared the starting area and started playing catch-up. It wasn’t long before the majority of the fleet engaged the ‘iron genny’ and the motorboat ride down the Chesapeake Bay commenced.
In many ways, the slow start with calm winds and even calmer conditions was a blessing. Crews have been preparing for the rally for months, and the stress leading up to the start can be overwhelming. Having such an easy morning certainly took the pressure off and allowed everyone to ease into the trip.
We on Sojourner sailed through dinnertime and enjoyed a short respite from the noise of the diesel, but the wind died shortly after dishes were finished in the galley. But by nightfall, a proper breeze had built from the southwest and a lot of boats finally starting sailing. Sojourner close-reached through the rest of the night under a nearly full moon, the wind varying between 5 and 12 knots all night long, barely teasing us into thinking it might be time to take a reef, only to drop off again but never faltering.
Amazingly the wind actually clocked through the night and into the west-southwest, allowing us to sail all the way into Hampton Roads at Old Point Comfort just around 0800 this morning. We pinched to get around some of the government channel marks near the Norfolk naval base (a huge and intimidating sight!), but finally cracked off as we entered the Elizabeth River and pointed the bow towards Portsmouth. As I write, the crew on deck is lowering the mainsail and we’ve got the city waterfront in sight! Sojourner is about middle of the pack, and all boats will easily be in with plenty of time to spare before tonight’s Leg 1 party at Roger Brown’s.
We couldn’t have asked for a better Leg 1. Now we hope that our fortunes hold and the sailing gods smile on tomorrow’s offshore leg, what everyone has been waiting for!