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Atlantic Rally for Cruisers is The Great Equaliser

What do a five-year-old, a 79-year-old, an investment banker and history students all have in common? The answer: The 26th Atlantic Rally for Cruisers which goes from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and finishes in St Lucia. The ARC left the Canary Islands on November 20 2011 and the first to finish, the super-maxi Med Spirit, completed the course in just over eleven and a half days.

Crossing the finish line is a small part of this event. The sailing experience, and what to indulge in once across, takes front and centre for the sailors.

“The participants by nature are explorers,” says Andrew Bishop, Managing Director of the World Cruising Club. “They have just sailed across the Atlantic, they are adventurous, they want to learn about the culture of the country they are visiting, they don’t necessarily want to stay in the marina, they go out and explore.”

The Elan 37, Diamonds Are Forever, was the only all-female crew competing this year and it marks the seventh time that the organisation ‘Girls For Sail’ of the UK, have taken part in the ARC. The organization, whose mandate is to encourage girls to sail, entered in the racing division, which means they never motored. They also had no auto helm and water maker. From the get-go there were challenges. One of their steering cables broke, forcing a stop in Puerto Morgan on the south coast of Gran Canaria. However, the biggest challenge was getting stuck in a ‘wind hole’ for three days. The six women, ranging in age from 21 to 53, ran a tight ship and split the watches taking three hours on and six off.

With everyone on top of their duties there was plenty of time for shenanigans, whether it was having a heart to heart chat, recreating a talent competition American Idol style, taking in the sunrise and sunset and painting each other’s toe nails.

“Of all things you could call our trip, I don’t think boring comes into it, we even got hit by flying fish in the night. This is a 37ft boat and you are living in each others pockets.” said First Mate Harriet Mason of the 23 day voyage.

Having written about the all female crew it only seemed fair to include an all male crew. But which one? What is unique about Tur-bo, an OksÆ 32, is that it is the smallest boat in the fleet and was recognised for this at the ARC Awards. Furthermore, the crew are all over 6ft tall!

“The biggest challenge is the short beds on board, there is only one bed that is long enough, so every Saturday we are changing beds so we can stretch our legs, one week at a time,” explained Martin Duaas, the First Mate.

What kept the crew of Norwegian history students making their first visit outside Europe motivated? Well, their girlfriends were waiting for them in St Lucia when they crossed the finish line. For their stay, they booked hotel accommodations and later planned to sail through the Caribbean before returning to Norway.

“It is my understanding that we had a larger contingent of persons who have come across to welcome the participants and it looks from all indications that the length of stay in St Lucia will be longer than the average nine days,” noted Louis Lewis the Director of the St Lucia Tourist Board. He added that the ARC was beginning to expand in ways that they had always envisioned.

Though the finish line is in St Lucia the ARC has been described as the gateway to the Caribbean and many islands benefit as sailors go on to cruise during the season.

Adam Foster, General Manager of IGY Rodney Bay Marina praised the ARC for its diversity. “I think it represents such a broad spectrum of the community. What makes this event unique is that you have the twenty-year-olds, who want to party hard, and then you have the sixty-year-olds who don’t like loud music, so you have to find a happy medium, and I think we did.”

Christy Recaii is a journalist based in St Lucia who has a passion for sailing. She is a Hunter College graduate with a BA in Media Studies. You can find her either on the water or the docks seeking out the next marine scoop! Email: sailingonthebrain@gmail.com

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