IN an emotional evening focussing on the achievements of the crews taking part in the 32nd edition of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), the traditional ARC prize-giving party last Saturday marked the end of the trans-Atlantic sailing rally for another year.
Held at the Johnsons Centre in Rodney Bay, the evening provided a rousing conclusion to the annual ARC, and a chance to recognise the achievements of the fastest and slowest, the oldest and youngest, and the couples and families that are so much a part of this classic sailing rally.
It was an evening of celebration and a chance to cheer on friends and family members in the spirit of the ARC, one of camaraderie and adventure, which makes every one of over 1,000 ARC sailors a winner, not just those on stage to receive awards.
Six weeks ago, 186 yachts gathered in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to begin their Atlantic sailing adventure with ARC 2017. The cosmopolitan fleet, representing almost every sailing nation, over 70 different boat manufacturers, and crews aged from 3 years old to over 80, have grown together to become a band of ocean sailors, now united by a wealth of memories and experiences from their time at sea.
Departing Gran Canaria on Sunday, November 19 was a special moment for the crews; whether they were experienced ocean sailors, or heading off on an extended passage for the first time, the prospect of spending several weeks at sea and realizing a cherished dream of sailing to the Caribbean made for an emotional sendoff.
Pre-departure weather forecasts created a dilemma for navigators this year; whether to take the faster direct route and risk dropping out of the trade wind belt due to a building low to the north and west of the rhumb line, or settle for the slower, but more reliable southern route passing close to the Cape Verde Islands.
Around half the fleet were tempted by easy sailing on the rhumb line early on, only to be stopped at the end of week one, as the predicted low caused head winds, pushing away the early north easterlies. Those who headed south had to cope with lighter breezes for 700 nautical miles to the latitude of Cape Verde, before plunging into reliable northeast trades all the way across to Saint Lucia.
Whilst some of the race boats and longer, lighter waterline fast cruisers pushed on with the rhumb line course, saving several hundred miles of distance, most boats opted to dive south, crossing a void with little wind, to join the trades in lower latitudes. Once again, the ARC has provided a routing challenge, and a complete range of ocean sailing conditions along the way.
On Sunday, December 3, Saint Lucia joyously welcomed the first arrival of the ARC 2017 fleet, TS42 Guyader Gastronomie (France) after the 2900-nautical mile passage taking just over 14 days. Ever since, yachts have steadily arrived in Rodney Bay Marina, comparing tales, triumphs and testing times during their passages. Each emotional welcome has been followed by much talk of how each boat has coped with their navigational choices and weather encountered along the way, as well as open-ocean moments that have made for an unforgettable crossing.
Many boats supplemented their provisions with freshly-caught fish, others encountered mesmerising whales and dolphins, or daring crews opted to take a mid-Atlantic swim. Jubilation of reaching land after a tougher, or longer, crossing than anticipated has created an exceptional atmosphere, particularly evident at the prize-giving ceremony concluding the rally.
World Cruising Club’s Andrew Bishop led proceedings for the evening, welcoming almost 80 crews on stage to receive awards. The biggest cheers came for crews who were recognised for their achievements and contributions to the overall rally atmosphere.
Special prizes were presented, including the Double-handed Award, Senior Cup and Family Boat awards, along with accolades for Best Logs, the Fishing Competition and recognition for the Radio Net Controllers and Finish Line volunteers.
A mention was given to the ARC yachts still yet to arrive in Saint Lucia after delaying their departure or returning to land following the start after encountering boat problems. The volume of the applause as their names were read out may well have been heard out in the Atlantic.
Awards were also presented for line honours and class winners, including Enigma VIII (NOR), who took Line Honours in the Cruising Division, and Hallberg Rassy 37 Thyra (DEU), who won their class (H) and Overall in the Cruising Division.
In the Multihull Division, GuyaderGastronomie (FRA) topped the standings for Multihulls Class A and the division Overall. In the IRC Racing Division, Ross Applebey skippered Dufour 45e Scarlet Island Girl (GBR) to victory in Class B and the Overall standings; Italian Nautor 78 Southern Star (ITA) claimed line honours; and Mikael Ryking’s Pogo 40 S2 Talanta (SWE) received thunderous applause to collect the prize for winner of Class A
The ARC’s presence in Saint Lucia has been firmly felt around the Caribbean island and the prize-giving ceremony also gave the opportunity to thank local supporters who have provided an exceptional welcome to participants.
IGY Rodney Bay Marina General Manager, Sean Devaux, and Tessa Joseph for Events Company Saint Lucia, both said a few words, and Dominic Fedee, Minister for Tourism, Information and Broadcasting, gave an enthusiastic speech to acknowledge that the crews will forever be welcomed to enjoy the many delights of Saint Lucia and encouraged them to return.
The Spirit of the ARC award was, as usual, saved for last. Each year it is awarded to the yacht that best displays the general spirit of enthusiasm that the rally creates amongst the fleet. For ARC 2017, two young participants were chosen: Hampus and HilmerHellner, aged 9 and 10, from family boat, Indian Summer.
During their time in Las Palmas, the brothers showed great passion for joining in ARC activities, and could not wait to take ARC Mascot Sailor Ted on board as an extra crew for the crossing. Whilst at sea, they kept up with their school work as well as maintaining Ted’s log book, and since arriving in Saint Lucia they have been keen to welcome every boat with their infectious smiles, whatever the time of day or night.
As Hampus and Hilmer arrived on stage to collect their award, the crowd erupted in a standing ovation to congratulate the boys for their contribution to the rally.
With the last prize presented, the 2017 edition of the ARC was formally brought to a close, and the bars were opened. The rally this year has been one of great rewards for overcoming the weather and navigational challenges encountered along the way; unique friendships have been formed, special memories have been made and the ocean sailors of ARC 2017 can all feel proud of their achievements to reach the shores of Saint Lucia.