Yachting World



generally hold (although they tend to back) all the way past St Helena to Ascension Island. The winds tend to be quite strong in the south but will ease further north, and can be very steady in speed and direction.

North of the Ascension Islands is the ITCZ; precisely where depends on the time of year but tends to be north of the equator. On the eastern side of the Atlantic this can be a wide band of variable wind sometimes from close to the equator to 10°N or even further north in midsummer. Statistics show that close to the African coast the wind can come from any direction and there is likely to be some thunder.

As we move into the ITCZ it’s worth trying to set up for the north-easterly trade winds; the further east, generally the better the wind angle as you leave the ITCZ. However, this will be restricted by how comfortabl­e you are in closing to the coast in this area. Personally I’d stay at least 200 miles offshore.

Once out of the ITCZ the approach to the

Cape Verde Islands will be hard on the wind on starboard tack. A few port tacks may be necessary depending on wind angle and how hard you beat! The Cape Verde Islands are realistica­lly the only place to refuel and provision. Then you are ready for the hardest part, heading into the trade wind belt.

The trades do vary and it may be worth waiting for them to ease, but if you delay for perfect conditions you’ll be waiting a long time. Although you could find lighter wind close to the African coast, from the Cape Verde Islands to Europe will entail a long starboard tack towards the Azores some 1,300 miles away. I’ve had some yachts make for the Canary Islands, but this generally entails a lot of motor-sailing into the trades and


A shorter distance and faster passage

Allows a wider departure time from Cape Town with the main risk of hurricanes reduced to a few months near the Cape Verde Islands Arrival in the northern hemisphere winter can be managed by staying south of the Azores


Hard on the wind from north of the ITCZ, to probably near the Azores

Beating into the trade winds is never easy You will sail against the Canaries current in the north Atlantic

A lot of motoring through a wide ITCZ

There is the alternativ­e of passing west of the Cape Verde Islands, heading north-north-west towards the centre of the Azores High, but this will give a long passage without breaks and would require greater care for hurricane season.

The real question is how will your boat, and crew, take to a hard beat?

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 ??  ?? Right: infra-red image of the ITCZ seen from space
Right: infra-red image of the ITCZ seen from space

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