Sojourner departs Portsmouth in the pre-dawn darkness, bound offshore for Cape May.

It was a nighttime mission for the ARC DelMarVa fleet leaving the dock this morning. Just before the dawn, 22 boats of the 24 boat fleet fired up their diesels and prepared to cast off the dock lines to head out on this, the most exciting leg of the ARC DelMarVa. As of 0830 Wednesday morning, the fleet is strung-out at the mouth of the Chesapeake, poised to head through the Bay Bridge-Tunnel and out into the Atlantic. Scarecrow made their arrival into Cape May early today after having departed on Tuesday from Portsmouth, while Ginny opted to cruise back up the Chesapeake and will rejoin the fleet at Saturday’s prize giving in Annapolis.

Crews were up and about by 0400 this morning, ready to leave early to take advantage of a tight weather window between cold fronts. While it appeared that Scarecrow would have sailed through a line of heavy squalls yesterday evening off the Delaware coast, by dawn those squalls were well offshore and skies were clear in Portsmouth. But another weather system is on it’s way, bringing rain to the midwest and marching ever east. The time between the fronts is our window.

"We made it to Cape May," Scarecrow said this morning. "We did sail through some storms along the coast, but they were mostly uneventful and we're tied up at the marina now! Safe sailing to the rest of the fleet!"

At least one boat is sailing the leg shorthanded. A crew member from Reverie, a Jeanneau 39, wound up in the hospital yesterday with what was initially thought to be food poisoning. Turns out it was more serious than that, and he’ll remain in the hospital for the rest of the week, though will make a full recovery.

“We’re just glad we didn’t leave on time on Tuesday,” said Reverie’s skipper. “The weather was a blessing for us, and who knows how it would have gone had this happened offshore.”

Kudos to them for taking the illness seriously in Portsmouth, especially for an offshore passage. To fill in, ARC DelMarVa organizer Isabelle Tremblay hopped onboard this morning and will sail to Cape May with Reverie. Isa has already crossed the Atlantic - twice - on Morning Haze, sailing with ARC Europe and the ARC Rally with her partner David and their daughters Rebecca & Demi. Mia Karlsson, the other ARC DelMarVa organizer, is sailing on Sojourner with her father-in-law Dennis Schell. Mia has been across the Atlantic three times on two different boats. In fact, Mia & Isabelle undoubtedly have the most sailing experience among anyone in the fleet, and they’re excited to share it with their respective crew mates on the way to Cape May. Rally Manager Andy Schell drew the short straw and will be driving to Cape May today, arriving in time to greet the fleet as they come in from offshore.

The 160-mile route should take the fleet between 24 and 36 hours to complete. The morning dawned with brisk southwesterlies, which should make for great sailing today, though the wind looks to drop off overnight, when the fleet will want to motor to keep the average pace up. By Thursday it’ll be blowing again from the WSW. 

Follow the fleet via their YB Trackers by clicking here.

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