The world’s largest annual trans-ocean sailing event is expected to be even bigger this year. Over 234 boats will take their start November 25th from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria en route to Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia, on the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, or ARC for short, thus breaking past entry records.
“The ARC is the one rally on most sailors’ bucket list,” says World Cruising Club communications executive, Rachel Hibberd. “Since 1986, it’s been the one to do for family cruisers and serious racers. There are three categories which enable sailors of all persuasions to enjoy the rally: Open Division boats just cruise in company; Cruising Division boats use our in-house handicap system for fun competition which still allows motoring, and Racing Division boats sail with IRC racing certificates.”
Two weeks of pre-start activities begin November 12th in Las Palmas and are packed with opportunities for the more than 1200 cruisers to meet and mingle. There will be talks and lectures from experienced cruisers including Jimmy Cornell and a full morning of safety demonstrations which include the chance to try a life raft, as well as the famous ARC parties, including the annually anticipated costume celebration.
This year’s record fleet will see more multihulls, which reflects the general trend in cruising and passage making. In 2011, there were 31 multihulls, the largest-ever ocean crossing by a fleet of cruising multihulls, and this year 23 catamarans were already registered by mid-September. There will be plenty of monohulls too. These range from the smallest, a Rival 32 named Troskala, as well as some 37 other boats in the 40ft or less classification, to the largest, the 92ft CMB/Frers, Bristolian. The largest catamaran is the Privilege 65, Sagittarius. While the average boat transiting is nine to ten years old, there are two classics both launched in 1936 which will take part: the wooden yacht Peregrine and steel yawl Peter von Seestermuhe. As always, there will be boats sailing under the flags of more than 20 countries.
Crews represent a mix of age and experience. For example, there are at least 16 boats sailing with children under age 16, which adds up to a total of over 30 children. Interestingly, one of these is Norwegian Marius Larsen, who sailed with his parents in the first ARC in 1986, and he is returning as captain of his own boat, the Hanse 320 Quickie. Likewise, the UK’s Gill Duncan sailed with his parents in 1991, and is now taking his own children across the Atlantic on his Grand Soleil 52, Fabiola. Organizers are running a special ‘kids club’ for children aged six to 16, which allows parents to get their boats ready without worrying about their children getting bored and this is included in the entry fee. On the experience front, most ARC participants are taking part for the first time. There are some repeat cruisers. One is German sailor Manfred Kerstan, who is known as ‘Mr ARC’ and is back for his 18th year and will be sailing aboard the Swan 62RS, Albatross. Lastly, some crews are fundraising for charities as they cross the Atlantic. One of these is the crew aboard the Beneteau First 40, Lancelot II, which will raise money for the Ellen MacArthur Children’s Cancer Trust.
“The route is the same as always,” says Hibberd. “Start off Las Palmas, sail south till the butter melts then turn west for Saint Lucia! The boats all receive special weather information to help them plan their route, so quite often the fleet spreads out across the latitudes.”
Shore-side activities in Rodney Bay improve every year as the Marina and local business folks make the boardwalk swing and really put on a show for participants in ARC Village. This year, there will be talks on Caribbean cooking from St. Lucian celebrity chefs; author Chris Doyle will give lectures on Caribbean cruising and there will be lots of music, rum punches and cold beers. The highlight of the arrival period is the ARC prize-giving on December 21st. Awards will be given for the fastest boats in each division, plus special awards for seamanship, safety and the ‘Spirit of the ARC’.
Rally participants who’d like the fun of cruising in company again can sail back on the ARC Europe, which departs from Nanny Cay Marina in Tortola and Hampton, Virginia, in May 2013, with the two fleets joining in Bermuda before heading across the Atlantic to explore the Azores, then on to Portugal.
“This opens the opportunity to carry on into the Mediterranean for a year or more, or to explore Europe for five months before coming back across the Pond with the ARC rally in November just in time for Christmas in Saint Lucia,” says Hibberd.
For information, visit: www.worldcruising.com/arc/index.aspx
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.