November is rally month in all senses of the word. Not only do sailors from other parts of the world leave their home ports to join rallies and make the journey to warmer climates, but the locals where they are headed rally to prepare their tropical islands to welcome snow-shy visitors for the winter season. In mid-December, the largest transoceanic sailing event in the world will arrive in Saint Lucia, bringing 225 cruising and racing vessels across the Atlantic Ocean and into the Caribbean.
The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) will leave Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on November 22, and the first boats will arrive in St. Lucia about 14 days later, with the last boats following up to a week after that. Put on by the World Cruising Club (WCC), the 24th annual ARC is so popular that, despite the condition of the economy, the entry list is filled beyond capacity. A waiting list has been running since June for all the hopeful transatlantic sailors.
The passage is 2700 nautical miles, and while the majority of yachts are cruising vessels, there is a separate racing fleet governed by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) in which the boats are rated under the IRC Handicap System.
Clearly the ARC offers something for every type of sailor looking for a little adventure, and as the warmth of a Mediterranean summer wanes and the Atlantic hurricane season subsides, there is no better time to head west for the Caribbean. The rally is open to monohulls between 27 and 85 ft, and multihulls between 27 and 70 feet, though only monohulls may compete in the RORC race. All boats outside race limitations are still welcome to enter in the open division and make the crossing with the fleet. Those competing within the RORC racing class are forbidden to use motors, adding another level of competition to the rally.
For those who may be a little less sure of themselves, there are safety seminars and demonstrations, both before the departure in Gran Canaria and after the finish in St. Lucia, because every crossing is a learning experience. All entrants receive updates on safety requirements, weather forecasts and offshore passage tips in the weeks and even months leading up to the rally. Daily radio nets contribute to the security of all and, thanks to modern technology, each boat will be equipped with a tracking device. Anyone can follow the progress of the boats online at www.worldcruising.com.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a boat race without the customary partying at the end, and, as many of the first boats await the later arrivals, the celebration at Island Global Yachting’s renovated Rodney Bay Marina certainly fulfills that requirement. Rodney Bay is the Caribbean base for all of World Cruising Club’s transatlantic events, including the World ARC—a 14-month round-the-world voyage that begins and ends in the Caribbean—which departs in January. And with support for the ARC from sponsors like the St. Lucia Tourism Board, a warm welcome awaits each arriving boat.
In October, WCC opened the application process for the 2010 ARC, emphasizing the popularity of the event, and assuring that the ARC will be fully-subscribed again next year for its silver anniversary.