Racing down the Spanish coast

During our days in Marseilles the forecast predicted mistral winds for the weekend. We therefore set our plans to avoid getting caught in that weather during our crossing of the Bay of Lions, by crossing on Thursday. However, after having left Marseilles mid-day on Thu we realised we had forgotten to check the very latest forecast in the morning. It turned out the forecast now predicted the mistral to start at 20 o’clock on Thu evening.
There were no available spaces back in the harbour, due to an oncoming regatta. We could have opted to delay our crossing and stay in a marina on an island just out of Marseilles, but we decided to face the challenge and deal with the winds on our own.

The forecast was now spot on and the winds started picking up noticeably at the predicted time and gradually increased in the next 3-4 hours to gale winds (Beaufort scale 7, gusting into 8). There was a full moon so we had natural light throughout the night, but it was an intense and adrenaline fuelled night out on a close reach starboard tack with the occasional waves crashing over the aft cockpit. SY Libertad handled the weather like a charm with two reefs in the main and reefed Genoa doing 8-10 knots most of the night. In the early morning 5-6 o’clock, as we approached the coast of Spain, the winds died off to less than 10 knots within 10-15 minutes – again just as predicted by the forecast service.

We arrived to port in Palamos and spent the day sleeping and the evening having a look around the town. The next day we headed off and continued down the coast towards Barcelona and Puerto El Masnou were we had booked 4 nights to visit family (Marco) and receive visiting family (Nina and Joshua) for the last and final leg down the Spanish coast to Almerimar.

Nina, Joshua and Andreas took off on Oct 11 from El Masnou heading for Denia, a nearly 200 nm leg. Motoring most of the way with occasional motor sailing it was mostly uneventful. Arriving next day in Denia in the evening we made it to the marina in time to find a place to eat. The marina was very well organised and in a good state – and not very costly either. The next morning we headed off on yet another 200nm leg to Almerimar with little wind predicted for the day, so motoring again. Some hours after having past Cartagena during the middle of the night, the wind picked up and gradually turned to our stern. We hoisted the gennaker and the boat raced down along the last stretch of coast towards Cabo de Gata.

As we approached the Cabo the gusts were exceeding 20 knots and the skipper (A) debated whether to try to round the Cabo and get the wind on a broad reach instead or whether to take the red giant immediately. Too late! In a gust we broached from which we struggled a few minutes to get out of before starting to douse the gennaker. In those crucial minutes the flapping of the nylon was too much strain on the material and in a few seconds the wind tore a 15m long rip down the length of the red giant sail. We got the situation under control by rolling out the Genoa and then pulling the sock down over the gennaker behind it.

Recovering from the commotion and event we regretted not having been more determined in taking the gennaker down earlier. Better preparation for such situations was also among the lessons learned. Some three hours later, on Oct 14, we slid into Almerimar port and was met by Andreas´ parents. The Mediterranean cruising chapter was now complete.

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