“Spinnaker pole or no spinnaker pole?” here is the long Shakespearean challenge of Paolo Casoni from Parma, 62, cardiovascular surgeon but above all skipper of “Ariel”, superb and multi-equipped 53-foot (17-meter) “Hallberg Rassy”. Question resolved 48 hours after the departure of the Arc Plus from Las Palmas (Canary Islands). With some hesitation, both forward and aft, of the passionate crew (two ex-pilots, a financial consultant and a journalist at the dawn of his retirement) but not used to such complicated maneuvers, the Shakespearean pole was armed to starboard (right) of “Ariel”.
The long carbon arm that starts from the mast to keep the Genoa, the large headsail open, will allow you to make the most of the wind that forecasts give a little downhill compared to the 30-40 knots of the two days just passed in cross the Atlantic.
A grind – “Always better than working” someone will say – made up of a few and disordered hours of sleep and obligatorily cold and almost always solid food which, however, has been amply repaid. During the morning radio check, when the ARC organization provides the positions reached by the 95 boats that are going to Cape Verde before heading for Santa Lucia to the Caribbean, “Ariel” came first in its category, fifth taking into consideration all boats and eleventh if we also consider the very fast catamarans. Compared to the first check it is a jump of nine positions, a sign that the tactic followed by “Ariel” (being able to “skirt” the strong wind that was channeled between the Canaries instead of aiming towards a tamer sea but further away from the goal) she was the one who paid the most.
None of the skippers (there are over 400 with those who will leave on Sunday also direct but without detours to the Caribbean) will ever admit that they are doing everything to win. Yes, of course, someone is sincere and truly disinterested in competition. Among them, certainly the crews of boats flying the US and Canadian flags. Many of them are retirees who have sailed the length and breadth of the Mediterranean and now want to go home. There are those who get help from friends, others from the many young and old who have upholstered the port of Las Palmas, including laundry, with leaflets with their curriculum vitae, photos and who propose themselves as crew members.
The rest of the cheerful fleet, already a few hours after departure, has turned into a large family, all in contact with everyone and the ARC organization to watch over every boat to intervene in case of problems.
To say, on “Ariel”, among those of the boat and of the individual components there are 4 satellite phones as well as all the classic paraphernalia to communicate with the world, from VHF to SSB radio. The first call in the morning about Ariel came from Parma. On the other end of the phone, Cecilia Silva, Casoni’s wife and his second in all the Atlantic crossings made by the surgeon-skipper and collected in a book: ” Atlantic, round trip“(Ed. Nutrimenti mare). The couple will recompose themselves in the Caribbean from where they will then reach the Pacific via the Panama Canal. A phone call with which the woman also told her husband, a convinced Inter fan, that Juve had beaten Milan.
Everything passes through the on-board radios. The other evening, Casoni, who contributes his medical skills to the “Doctor on board” service, responded to a request for help from a US boat with a 7-year-old girl on board (30 children embarked on the sails della Arc) upset by seasickness. Earlier, with a general alarm, everyone had worried about a catamaran claiming to have lost a rudder blade. Fortunately this was not the case and the alarm soon returned, leaving everyone with the comforting certainty that we are not alone out there.