Yachtsmen and visitors to St. Lucia for December’s Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) pumped an estimated $6 million directly into the local economy, according to Rodney Bay Marina General Manager Cuthbert Didier.
The Marina now looks forward to the return last this month of the 32-boat World ARC fleet which started from Rodney Bay in January 2008.
World ARC, also operated by the World Cruising Club, is open to monohulls with a minimum LOA of 38ft and multihulls between 38ft and 60ft, with a minimum crew requirement of two people onboard each yacht. The route circumnavigates via Panama, Australia and South Africa before returning to the Caribbean.
Didier reports that planning is already underway for the first 2009 ARC committee meeting. Several yachtsmen and their families are still spending time in St. Lucia following the ARC, the first to be held since the improvement in facilities at Rodney Bay Marina undertaken by owners Island Global Yachting.
Didier advised that December also heralded the advent of megayachts into St. Lucia, with 13 berthed at Rodney Bay marina from mid-December into January, including the 230-foot Martha Ann, the largest.
“All the captains I have spoken to are impressed with the new look marina and I think mega yachts are going to be a huge market for us and for St. Lucia,” Didier said. “Had the expansion not taken place, about 80 percent of the megayachts would have had to anchor out in Rodney Bay by Pigeon Point, rather than berthing inside the marina. By berthing alongside, they had purchased a number of services from St. Lucia including electricity, water, cable television and provisions.”
“The benefits are definitely much more when these mega yachts are in port and berthed at a dock,” Didier said. “These vessels are like small floating hotels. They need flowers, fuel, provisions, utilities, liquor, in fact everything that a hotel needs. Some of them have 20 to 30 crew members plus guests. So the benefits are enormous. Based on the reaction from the captains and crews, I think we’re going to have a very good season.”
Speaking about the marina’s prospects for the rest of the year, Didier forecast a reduction in the number of yachts coming into the facility in the light of the international financial crisis. “It is difficult to be precise because it’s the first time we’re having a mega yacht facility here so there is nothing to compare it with, but I do think that the persons with disposable income are being very, very cautious. They’re waiting for things to rebound and those who have money may not be chartering as far south as St. Lucia, so I think it (the crisis) will have an impact. It is still early to tell how much of an impact but I think we will see less vessels cruising the Caribbean waters than normal.”