We knew this would be a fast leg being only 144nm but we didn’t think we’d get here in 17 hours! We had bags of wind. It blew from the SE at an average of about 26 knots the whole time. We saw 38 knots which was fine. The thing that made this leg a challenge was the sea state. We had 3 to 4 m waves on the beam and from the port quarter most of the way which was also fine. The larger sets that came through (especially at night) were the ones that made the trip quite tiring and required total concentration on the helm. We stayed two up in the cockpit from 6pm until 11am the following day. No sleep, life jackets on, double tethered, both washboards in and the hatch closed. It was wet, bumpy and fast! We averaged 8.5 knots which meant a lot of time also spent sailing at double digit speeds. It was exciting and challenging. We overtook some of the late leaving ARC boats that left 4 hours ahead of us and were in La Reunion 2 hours ahead of them. One boat thought that we were a tanker as they saw a boat on AIS approaching them from behind at 10.0 to 11.0 knots (until they read the name 😊). As far as passages goes this was one of the best I’ve ever sailed. We got into Le Port in La Reunion. Rafted up beside one of the ARC boats and both went into a deep sleep. We woke up in the early evening, showered and had dinner with friends at the restaurant in the marina. We swapped stories and told of our passage across from Mauritius. We were on average 5 to 6 hours faster than the ARC boats who had a very quiet passage across with much less wind. Clearing customs was a painless affair that was conducted a day after we got here. Sunday being a public holiday. La Reunion is a beautiful island. It is a large shield volcano that peaks at over 3000m. It is surrounded by the Indian Ocean and has the highest occurrence of shark attacks in the world! No swimming signs in the marina and at every beach! Pity because the water is absolutely beautiful and the waves are awesome! We picked up our newest crew member, Ariana Bionda who joined us on the 7.11 and will travel as far as Cape Town. Ariana is a friend of Loic’s and comes from Milan. She has a PhD in yacht design, some great sailing experience and is also quite handy with repairs and maintenance. She has a bubbly personality and should fit in with the rest of the crew just fine.
With swimming off our agenda we headed to the mountains on the other side of the island. We drove to Piton de la Fournais which is an active volcano and at over 2500m quite impressive. The landscape looks like the surface of Mars, red dust and rock cover much of the top of the volcano. The caldera has subsided about 300m and is full of black basalt. We didn’t actually see the cinder cone and the top of the volcano as it was shrouded by cloud.
La Reunion has a great feel about it and this is definitely a place that I could come back to and spend some more time. It has rainforest and canyons, deep valleys and is a mecca for cyclists, climbers, paragliders, (very brave) surfers, hikers, canyoners and more. Being part of France it’s also very well organized and well serviced. We spent a couple of days getting the boat ready (including a boom repair) for the next leg of the journey over to Richards Bay, South Africa which lies across some of the most dangerous waters in the world, the Mozambique channel.