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Whimbrell II – Last Guest at ARC’s 21st Party

It’s Christmas day, 2006 and the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) offices are closed in St Lucia’s Rodney Bay Marina. The 21st birthday party is more or less over, with all contestants safely gathered in after Whimbrel II crossed the finishing line after a mammoth 27 days at sea.  In total, 225 yachts took part in ARC 2006.

Like any birthday party the ARC’s 21st was a mixture of old friends, emotions, surprises, and a couple of gatecrashers in the guise of the two trans-Atlantic rowing brothers who overturned in Martinique and put into St Lucia for spares . . . and a bit of a party of course!

The party began when the 24 meter Maxi Capricorno, captained by Rinaldo Del Bono, set a new course record with its 11 days, five hours, 32 minutes, and 30 seconds crossing a full week before the ARC’s welcome party! Spectators gathered at The Eagle’s Inn (well-placed at the mouth of the channel) in anticipation of the grand craft’s entrance. Sadly the boat’s draught proved too deep and we had to make do with an elated crew member flashing past in a rubber dinghy waving a clipboard . . . we cheered anyway . . . but it wasn’t the same.  The boat checked in, then out, and duly sailed to Antigua.

The gate-crashing trans-Atlantic rowers appeared shortly after. Michael and Rolph Tuijn of the Netherlands had set off September 27 in the 23ft Zeeman Challenger which had taken two years to build. Constructed of plywood and designed by Rowsell and Adkin, it was capsized by force eight winds and eight meter waves 150 miles off Martinique.

“We capsized at night,” said Michael who’d done this before five years ago. “It was like being in a washing machine; due to the weather we were both sleeping; there was little we could do.” The self-righting boat was brought into St Lucia for repairs before the brothers continued and finally moored up at 15:45 local time on December 22 in Curacao.

Ted (Ski) Allen had also done the ARC before, well, seven times actually. Nicknamed Ski by the renowned Northern Child skipper Julian Sincock, he took up sailing back in 1993. You have to remember Ted is 72 years young and he was born in the UK’s Wolverhampton which he described as “about as far from the sea as you can get!”

Julian Sincock is a favorite of Ted’s. The story goes that Ted spent some time in a Bermuda hospital after shattering four vertebrate whilst sailing with Sincock and duly flying home with his neck in a brace. “The skipper never left my side and we promised to sail together some time in the future." A promise kept when the two reunited with the Spanish built boat Quadrilla of the Isles in an earlier ARC. Sincock was named the 2006 Spirit of the ARC and continues sailing Northern Child on a regular basis.

Ted also collected donations for St Lucia’s underprivileged youngsters, and, sadly, the donation box went missing. A visibly upset Ted said, “It’s such a disappointment after going cap in hand to the ARC competitors…
I feel like going home."  He’s glad he didn’t! After ARC director Andrew Bishop, MD of World Cruising Club, gave a speech at the prize giving, the competitors and families once again dug deep into their pockets and collected EC$9,000, with a further EC$2,000 promised, making it the largest donation to date.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing  The strong winds and Atlantic swell took their toll with major breakages such as the Canadian yacht Mustang, a Camper & Nicholson 25m sloop, who suffered a break in her mast; a broken boom was also reported aboard the Lagoon 440, Maverick Dream.

At least two boats were abandoned, the Compromise and the French boat Arnolf. Both crews were safely picked up with fate playing no small part.
The yacht Be-bop-a-Lula was three days late in casting off due to the owner’s wife suffering a sprain after a fall.  Being the last to leave Gran Canaria, they were the closest to the stricken French craft Arnolf. She’d apparently struck an object and lost her steering in heavy seas and the two elderly French crew could do little to steer the craft. Be-Bop-A-Lula’s skipper, Trevor Goodson, and his wife Norma took the crew on board their Bavaria 47 and carried on to St Lucia. The Compromise skipper suffered a mental breakdown and the crew of the Mirabella V, previously the largest-masted sailing boat afloat, picked up the crew and dropped them off in Antigua.

One of the biggest catamarans in St Lucia, if not the world, was the impressive Catman II. Her stern steps resembled twin Hollywood staircases descending from the polished deck. Owner Austrian businessman Rupert Rothmayr shared a coffee and Atlantic experiences in the impressive cockpit (replete with radio controlled tables) with All At Sea.

“There was little wind for the first three days but after that, the wind really picked up—our top speed was 20.2 knots and we just went with the flow," said Rothmayr. And for anyone who thinks a sense of humor is somewhat lacking from Rupert’s neck of the woods . . . this is for you.
“At one time the wind was blowing so hard we couldn’t get the Spinnaker down so we just went with the flow, I think we were on our way to New York!" Manufactured by Alliaura-Monue, the 2002 Privilege 585 has to be the top cat of this year’s ARC.

The venue for the prize giving ceremony was the same as last year’s, Gros Islet’s Gaiety nightclub. Organizers recognized yachts for class placement from 4th to 2nd, youngest and oldest crews, a fishing competition winner and best dressed crew. ARC yachts involved in the camaraderie of sailing were also on the trophy list. 

Winners of each Division and Class were presented with trophies, and the Spirit of the ARC winners, the crew of Flying Start, were given a standing ovation after their victory. In what is considered true ARC spirit, they participated in programmed activities, assistance at sea, and supported fellow participants. Welshman and Skipper Nick Lewis, dubbed “The Welsh Ambassador” regularly distributes Welsh flags with an invitation on the reverse to come aboard Flying Start…for Welsh lessons presumably!

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