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Changes to ARC Europe and Atlantic Cup in 2011

This spring marks the first time that the World Cruising Club (WCC) will head both the ARC Europe, which they have traditionally done, and the Atlantic Cup, which was under the domain of the Caribbean 1500 Cruising Rally Association until last year. The result appears to be a well-orchestrated and dual set of opportunities for sailors to cruise north and northwest for the summer. In addition, there are several new features for both events such as a common location for the start, sailing in stages rather than one long passage and a new fleet messaging system.

The British Virgin Island of Tortola, specifically Nanny Cay Marina, marks the launch destination for both of these spring rallies this year.

This spring marks the first time that the World Cruising Club (WCC) will head both the ARC Europe, which they have traditionally done, and the Atlantic Cup, which was under the domain of the Caribbean 1500 Cruising Rally Association until last year. The result appears to be a well-orchestrated and dual set of opportunities for sailors to cruise north and northwest for the summer. In addition, there are several new features for both events such as a common location for the start, sailing in stages rather than one long passage and a new fleet messaging system.

The British Virgin Island of Tortola, specifically Nanny Cay Marina, marks the launch destination for both of these spring rallies this year.

"Being further north than Antigua, the previous starting port for ARC Europe, allows for more cruising through the northern Caribbean en route to the start," says Julie Palm, the WCC's Maine-based communications manager.

The Atlantic Cup fleet will depart May 1, while the ARC Europe fleet will leave May 5.

"Due to the limits on docking in Bermuda," says Palm, "we can't run the two rallies together, but instead have staggered the starts and arrivals, to ease the pressure on dock space. However, for 2012 we are hoping that the situation will have changed and we can run the two together – making for more and bigger parties."

Unlike the fall rallies such as the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) and Caribbean 1500, these spring rallies will leap-frog cruisers to their final destination.

For example, the Atlantic Cup, says Palm. "We have found that the best way to return to the U.S. from the Caribbean in the spring is to split the return trip into two legs. Two shorter weather windows seem to be easier to find during unsettled May weather than one long one. The first leg from Tortola to Bermuda is generally a comfortable reach with light to moderate trade winds. Once in Bermuda, skippers wait for an appropriate weather window to cross the Gulf Stream for Hampton, Virginia, or their desired East Coast port of call.

"The same concept applies to those heading to Europe by way of Bermuda and the Azores," Palm continues. "The idea of dividing the passage into multiple legs like this seems to be gaining momentum. The passage to Bermuda is a more comfortable point of sail than the direct route and there is definitely an advantage to waiting in Bermuda for a good weather window to cross the Gulf Stream or head to the Azores."

The Atlantic Cup is expected to continue as an intimate event drawing 15 to 20 yachts. In addition to the usual fleet of former Caribbean 1500 ralliers, the Cup will likely draw sailors from the Caribbean and those from the ARC that plan to cruise the U.S. in the summer.

"Some who came over in the ARC like the idea of joining the Atlantic Cup for their trip back to the US," says Palm. "They find it fun to meet North American cruisers and find out about East Coast cruising grounds from US and Canadian cruisers before reaching the North American shores."

Better food, better weather forecasting and more opportunities are built into the event that allows cruisers to get to know each other faster and better.

"These are the three main themes related to areas of improvement that emerged from a survey of event participants last year," says Palm.

The program at Nanny Cay Marina will include a farewell dinner and cocktail party, as well as a pre-departure skippers briefing. The pre-departure weather forecasting package will include a five-day planning forecast complete with charts. Each yacht will be fitted with a satellite transponder that sends regular position reports to the rally website. Each boat will be inspected to be sure that the required safety equipment is on board and that the crew knows how to use it.

"In addition," says Palm, "this year we will have a new fleet messaging system that works with our satellite yacht trackers, enabling information on yacht positions to be sent back out to the boats within minutes of the reports being received."

Both the Atlantic Cup and ARC Europe are open to all sizes and types of vessels and crews of two or more people with varying experience levels. For more information, visit: www.worldcruising.com

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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