As the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) left Las Palmas de Gran Caneria, bound for St. Lucia, 50 local vessels marked the occasion with a rally of their own. Yachts, dinghies and even a barge participated in the 5th ARC Flotilla, as it sailed north along the coast of St. Lucia, from Castries Harbour to IGY Rodney Bay Marina. Increased local participation showed that St. Lucia recognizes the value the ARC brings to the island and participants were delighted to help celebrate its 25th birthday.
Fourteen days after the start in Las Palmas, the first yacht, Berenice, an Italian Swan 80, crossed the finish line where her crew of 12 were greeted by Andrew 'Mr. ARC' Bishop, Managing Director of World Cruising Club; Adam Foster, General Manager of IGY Rodney Bay Marina, and Louis Lewis, Director of the St. Lucia Tourist Board. A large number of reporters were also on hand to record the moment.
"We had some tough conditions with six hours of 35 to 40 knots of wind early on in the trip, but the last three days have been fantastic down wind sailing," noted Berenice's skipper Marco Rodolfi. Adding, "We are all very pleased to be here in St. Lucia."
This year's challenges focused around the unusual weather conditions, the fleet suffering from light winds, or strong winds from the wrong direction. The conditions put Rodolfi's yacht four days behind the rally's only motorboat Wind Horse, sailed by American yacht designers Steve and Linda Dashew. The 83-foot motorboat set a new reference time for the course.
The ARC is the brainchild of author and veteran sailor Jimmy Cornell. From 1986 to 1989 the rally finished in Barbados, before moving to St. Lucia in 1990. This year marks the 25th ARC, and the 21st time the event has finished in St. Lucia; a milestone in every sense. With over 250 yachts from 26 nations taking part, the ARC is truly an international event.
This year the only St. Lucian sailor was Captain Nicholas 'Nico' Philip on the Oyster 70 Apollonia, which arrived in the IGY Rodney Bay Marina on December 9.
"The first nine days the wind was very light," says Philip. "We went north but it was too rough, so we sailed south where we got light wind. We motored for 100 hours and then picked up the Trade Winds." Although this was his first ARC, it marked Captain Nico's fourth Atlantic crossing.
The ARC marks the start to a busy yachting season in St. Lucia and the Caribbean, and all businesses stand to benefit. This, combined with St. Lucia's reputation for friendliness, was evident in the success of the ARC village.
"The great thing about St. Lucia is the welcome that the yachtsmen get from the people of St. Lucia," says ARC's Andrew Bishop. "We have been working very hard over the last few years to improve the programme of activities that the participants enjoy. It's a public and private sector partnership."
The improvements were obvious by the hustle and bustle in and around IGY Rodney Bay Marina. Sailors had lots of activities to choose from, whether it was live music from a host of different bands, shopping from vendors offering local crafts and souvenirs or, in true Caribbean and sailing spirit, good old fashion bar hopping. The popular ARC Village was the place to be for sailors and locals alike.
"One of the major changes this year was relocating the ARC village to the waterfront side of the property," says IGY's Foster. "It has a really nice ambiance and it's more encouraging for local vendors who see more traffic from the ARC participants."
Bishop says he believes in the importance of a good atmosphere at the start in Las Palmas and the finish in St. Lucia. Organizing partners, the St. Lucia Tourist Board, St. Lucia Yacht Club, World Cruising Club and IGY Rodney Bay Marina, agree.
With ARC camaraderie and St. Lucian spirit, the ARC sails on!
For full details of the ARC winners (and there are lots), visit: worldcruising.com
Christy Recaii is a St. Lucian journalist 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.