May 29 – and one day remaining of what has turned out to be a truly challenging experience for the crew of Supertaff – with the Azores almost in sight!

We’re following Boatshed CEO, Neil Chapman, Curt Mundy (Boatshed Ireland) and Curt’s niece Shea on the Bermuda-Azores leg of the ARC Europe Rally on board the 41-foot Van de Stadt-Rebel 41 ketch ‘Supertaff’ owned by Neil and his wife Mandy.

Here’s Neil’s report from the penultimate day of their Atlantic crossing as he reflects on the struggles, team effort and commitment that has made the journey so memorable.

May 29th – and 40 miles to go!

By Neil Chapman

“Some of the best and worst sailing I have been through.”

says Neil

Starting to feel confident that I can get us in by tomorrow afternoon, which will be great. Really looking forward to being able to use my own phone as this tiny MotoGP keyboard drives me mad and the predictive text on this thing leaves a lot to be desired!

The penultimate day on this trip I think you would call it. So hopefully we should be into Horta later tomorrow. The past few days have been some of the best and some of the worst sailing I have been through.

Over 70 hours now of close-reaching on the same course with constant 18 to 25 knots of wind and 6 to 8 knots of boat speed. The ‘best’, because it has been an absolute marathon. A marathon from a mental and physical perspective.

I have had to focus fully on the task and concentrate all the time with no let up. Other than writing up a report to you during night watches it has been 100% boat and nothing else. This has been challenging, but I have really enjoyed it as not found the sailing part too difficult despite being essentially single-handed.

Living life on an angle as Supertaff beats to windward!

Too risky and dangerous to do much training or coaching

After the furling clutch scenario, it became evident that any deck work had to undertaken or at least very closely supervised by me. Plus, to be honest, it has just been a bit too risky or dangerous to do much training or coaching in these conditions.

I say ‘some of the worst sailing’ because the pure intensity of the last 70 hours has been too much for the crew and I include myself in this. Curt has been fine in as much as he has functioned and cooked and got about. But with 30 degrees of heel most of the time you can see the physical strain on his face every time he is moving and it upsets me to know that I cannot help.

Shea has done very well and thank goodness she has not been sick – and bless her, she has got stuck in girl power! However, you can see the gradual wearing down of spirit is difficult to resolve as the constant movement and noise has just gone on and on and on.

We all know how unpleasant a beat across the Channel can be, but this one has been nearly 500 miles now: the equivalent of a Biscay crossing hard on the wind. But for your first sailing trip?

Inner strength wins against process of attrition

The gradual ‘wearing down’ process for Shea at times has resulted in her just being very frightened and quiet. From my perspective it is precisely because of these two factors – plus, to be honest, the standard boat worries or even paranoia: ‘What's that noise? Is it too much? Will it break? Can it stand more pressure?’

It’s made the last 70 hours less than enjoyable – not forgetting, of course, that this has only been a small part of the trip so far. This last section comes on top of lots of other challenges and alarming experiences: remember we experienced a full Atlantic gale only 5 days ago?

Team effort pulls through

I hope that the above helps everyone understand a little more about what we have been going through and it is in no way any kind of critical comment on any of us. Curt and Shea are not aware of my thoughts on this blog yet but I wanted to share them here as I think the gravity of the experience and everyone's superb efforts needs this kind of context to understand how amazingly hard we have worked as a team and how much effort and commitment has been shown.

I feel truly humbled and I cannot wait for the stories and banter to start flowing out when we have that first (or several) beers shore side. I have one word to say to the Supertaff crew. Respect!

I am going to sign off here now as my job is still to get us to Horta before dark tomorrow. Still 81.4 miles to my final approach waypoint and wind is up again to 23 knots, so Mizzen needs to come in and headsail a couple of rolls.

Thank you to Curt and Shea for being part of this amazing experience and thank you to you, wherever you’re reading this, for following us on our incredible journey. Neil.

Keep tracking back for more information and updates!