When we think about island archipelagos in the Atlantic the first vision that springs to mind is probably the white sands of the Windward Islands that demarcate the Caribbean. In fact the islands of rum punch and reggae music are accompanied on the eastern edge of the Atlantic by the Cape Verdes, Canaries, Madiera and finally the Azores.
These island chains marked, and sometimes stalled, my progress southwards in November (remember the wind hole around Madiera!). Now I'm excitedly checking them off my route as I head the other way. The latitude of the Cape Verde is in my wake, I should cross the level of the Canaries tonight and I may well pass between the islands of the Azores on the 8th of February as I meet up with a big depression that will carry me back to Europe. In the meantime I am skirting the edge of the Azores high pressure cell and am appreciating a brief respite from the constant banging and deluge on deck as the wind reduces and the skies return to blue after a few days under a blustery grey blanket.
The Azores marked an important moment in this Vendee campaign because it was leaving the small port town of Horta in April that I was finally completely solo on an IMOCA 60 for the first time in my career. Following an intense winter refit and a crewed sprint from Lorient as a shakedown voyage my first solo trip was transatlantic to Newport RI, USA to prepare for a transatlantic race back the other way only days later. This campaign has been one huge marathon at sprint pace since January 2016 and while I have been too breathless to absorb most of it, I will always remember the immense pride I felt leaving Horta, going solo and then taking a moment to drink a cup of coffee while watching the island of Faial slip into the sea while I set my sights on ever farther foreign shores.