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ARC 2016 comes to a close in Saint Lucia

By WCC — last modified Dec 20, 2016 09:15 AM
The 31st Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) came to a rousing conclusion on Saturday 17th December, with the prize giving ceremony held at the Beausejour Indoor Facility in Saint Lucia. Crews, friends and families of more than 200 boats gathered to celebrate a safe and successful crossing with ARC 2016, as the crews joined special band of ocean sailors who have crossed the Atlantic with cruising rally.

Published: 2016-12-18 00:00:00
Topics: Atlantic Crossing , Rallies
Countries: Canary Islands , St Lucia

ARC 2016 comes to a close in Saint Lucia

The crew of yacht Aphrodite celebrate their arrival with Alex the Pan Man

The experience of the past weeks at sea one that few ARC participants will ever forget, and the focus of the night's festivities was not only the achievement of those who were first to cross the finish in Rodney Bay, but everyone who shared in the spirit of the ARC adventure in 2016. The venue was buzzing with conversation as stories were shared, drinks were enjoyed and prize winners were congratulated on their special achievements.

Record-Breaking Rambler 88 arrives in Saint Lucia

George David's super-maxi Rambler 88 added a new accolade to her already enviable sailing reputation as she crossed ARC Finish Line in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia 15:14:15 local time (19:14:15 UTC) on Monday 28 November to break the ARC Course Record. Fellow boats in the ARC Racing Division, including many of the previous record holders sailing on board VO70 Trifork, were left in their wake; even light winds were not going to stop Rambler's mission to claim the record.

The new course record now stands at 8d 6h 29m 15s beating the previous time by 1h 10 minutes and 15 seconds. This is the fourth consecutive year that the Course Record has been beaten; a year ago VO65 Team Brunel claimed the title from Farr 100 Leopard by Finland.  Mike Slade's super-maxi had taken over two days off the previous record set by Caro, a Knierim 65 in 2013. A growing tradition of sleek, high-tech racing yachts joining the ARC seems to have developed, with the rally offering a different environment to sail these impressive machines from the pro-racing circuits.

ARC+ Cape Verdes

Rambler 88's arrival in Saint Lucia not only claimed the course record, but they are also the first yacht sailing under the ARC banner to reach Rodney Bay in 2016. Usually, boats from the ARC+ Cape Verde fleet have begun to make landfall before the first ARC arrivals but the low pressure system haunting the rhumb line this year slowed their progress. As they steadily flowed in to Rodney Bay the atmosphere transformed into a family reunion; greeting one another with great enthusiasm and spending hours comparing stories of their crossings. The ARC+ fleet had their own Prize Giving Ceremony ten days ago, with awards presented from their time on the multi-leg rally sailing from Gran Canaria to Saint Lucia with a stopover in Cape Verde. Many have since stayed in Rodney Bay to share the atmosphere with the ARC arrivals, creating a bumper fleet of almost 275 yachts in the marina.

A crossing of two halves

It is often said that there is no 'typical' ARC as the fleet experience different conditions during their time at sea; this year was true to form with a wide variation in weather along the length of the route. Early on, a developing low pressure system offered the tantalising prospect of a fast northern route, but at a risk of head winds later. Further south the traditional route close to Cape Verde, only gave light winds early on before the trade winds picked up into December. Whilst the rhumb line route is shortest, this year it crossed through a large area of calms, so would mean plenty of motoring.

Some of the faster boats in the racing fleet, including the mighty Rambler 88 and VOR70 Trifork, took the option of going north of the low-pressure system and grabbed the small window weather to benefit from the fast reaching route around the top of the low.  For the regular boats, not capable of such speeds, it was a case of plugging south on the traditional route. Many opted for a pit stop in Cape Verde to refuel or in some cases effect repairs, before pushing on again. Even once in the tradewind zone out from Cape Verde the winds were fickle; boats 50nm apart picking different wind bands, some good - others not so. Light airs brought more squalls than usual with around 30% of the fleet reporting damage to sails, sheets and spars, almost all from squalls, or light airs flogging.

For the cruising boats, it was definitely a crossing of two halves. Having enjoyed or suffered in the calms - plenty of ocean swimming and flat water barbeques were reported in the boat blogs - the trades did kick in, helping push the tail-enders on toward Saint Lucia. Mike Pickering, skipper of Beneteau 40.7 Arthur Logic commented on arrival that "for the last three days we've had the best trade winds I have ever experienced!"

Incidents at Sea

ARC 2016 was marked by several serious incidents involving boats at sea during the crossing. Whilst all crew were safe and sound, one boat was lost at sea, and another suffered dismasting.  Sadly for the five person crew of the yacht Noah, their ARC ended unexpectedly after a serious water leak caused the aluminium hulled BM41 to sink. Having spent several hours combating the water leak, a MayDay was called when pumps were no longer able to cope. Four nearby ARC boats responded to assist, however it was the British Research Ship James Cook (90m LOA) that evacuated the crew, before the boat finally sank.

The crew of Bavaria 44 Minerva of Kip had an unexpected journey as part of their ARC following a dismasting mid-Atlantic. Unable to sail in the calm patches, several ARC boats rendezvoused with Minerva to transfer much needed diesel fuel to help them motor towards the trade winds. However, by chance, a connection was made through social media to the crew of a large motor yacht about to depart Las Palmas and a plan was made to them to deliver 400L of fuel to Minerva. The motor yacht - Gene Machine - once on station agreed to tow the stricken Minerva onto Antigua where they made landfall several days later. Now passengers, the Minerva crew joined in the charity cycle event on board Gene Machine, helping the crew complete their fund raising "cycle across the Atlantic" on stationary bikes!

Incredible seamanship and ingenuity was demonstrated by Fredrik Olsson, skipper of L.i.a. of Sweden who diverted to assist Lady Nor, a sister vessel from the same yard that had damaged her rudder having struck an object in the water. Over almost 24 hours, Fredrik and the two boat crews fashioned an aluminium sleeve from floor boards and managed to fit this over the damaged rudder. The result, Lady Nor was able to resume sailing, although Fredrik did comment that the helm was "now a bit heavy" following their mid-Ocean repairs!

Having successfully completed their transatlantic ARC into Saint Lucia, disaster struck several days later for the crew of Pauline af Skanör, a 1980 Swan 76 ketch. A fire, thought to have been caused by an air-conditioning unit, almost destroyed the boat. Around midnight on 9 December, passing ARC crews spotted smoke coming the forward area of the yacht in Rodney Bay Marina, and rallied around bringing extinguishers and water pumps to join with marina staff tackling the blaze. Three fire engines from the Gros Islet Fire Service arrived and still it took over an hour to control the fire and contain it using a large capacity pump to push water into the confined space where the seat of the fire was.

No crew or fire fighters were injured and there was no damage to any other vessels or fuel leakage. The interior of the boat was badly damaged by smoke and heat and a full damage assessment will now take place.  Undeterred by their trials, the crew of Pauline raised their moral by enthusiastically joining in the ARC programme in Saint Lucia, winning the Arch Marez award for "best party boat" as a result!

Prize Winners Announced

With 202 boats having crossed the finish line in Saint Lucia (with the final arrival due to be welcomed on 19th December), the prize giving ceremony saw plenty of trophies awarded. What sets the ARC apart from other sailing events is the special prizes the achievements of the fastest and slowest, the oldest and youngest, and the couples and families that are so much a part of this cruising classic. The ARC awarded prizes for 10th place, 7th place and 3rd in each class, a way to diffuse the competitive part of the ARC and award what essentially are fun, random prizes.

Rogue Trader (IRL) arrived only yesterday into Rodney Bay and received recognition for sailing the longest distance to Saint Lucia of 3331.6NM. Displayed on the big screen behind the stage was the course on YB Tracker provided much amusement to onlooking crews as it showed the zig-zag route they had taken across the Atlantic. It was even commented that they may have been attempting to spell out their boat name along the way having sailed over 500nm further than the yacht Wings, who sailed the shortest distance on the rally this year.

Other special prizes ranged from the Double-handed Award, Senior Cup and Family Boat awards, the two boats who finished closest together, to website awards for Best Logs, awards for the Fishing Competition and recognition (and a bottle of Chairman's Reserve Rum) for the Radio Net Controllers and Finish Line volunteers. Rambler 88 was recognized as 2016's 'Most Beautiful Yacht,' as voted by their peers in the ARC fleet.

Part 2 began with the Saint Lucian National Anthem played live on a single steel pan on stage, which finished with a rousing applause from the delighted audience. Opening remarks from Sean Deveaux, new General Manager of Rodney Bay Marina and the Honourable Dominic Fedee, Minister for Tourism, Heritage and Creative Industries followed. They, among other dignitaries, were then invited on stage to present the prizes for the winners of each class.

Scarlet Oyster (GBR) added their name yet again to ARC silverware as they topped the standings in IRC Racing Class C. The record-breaking Rambler 88 (USA) took Class A and the IRC Racing Overall, with Russian flagged Mobile 53 Anna (RUS) presented with the final winner's trophy in the Racing Division in Class B.

The Swan 90 Woodpeckercube (ITA) took Line Honours in the Cruising Division. Line Honours are determined by the first yacht in the Cruising Division to cross the finish line in Saint Lucia without motoring. Amazingly, only 7 of the cruising yachts managed to cross this year without using their engine at all. A much smaller number than usual, this was a telling sign of the weather experienced during the ARC this year.

In the Multihull Division, Line Honours went to Knut Frostad's Outremer Nemo (NOR), who also took the Multihulls Class A and Overall. The only Ukrainian flagged boat in the fleet, Jolly Dacha, a Leopard 48, went away with the Class B Multihull trophy. Full results of all classes can be found on the World Cruising Club Website.

The Spirit of the ARC award was, as usual, saved for last. Each year it is awarded to the yacht that best displays the general spirit of goodwill and enthusiasm that the rally creates amongst the fleet.

For ARC 2016, Swedish skipper Mikael Ryking from yacht Talanta was awarded the coveted Spirit of the ARC trophy following his single-handed sail to Antigua to pick up the crew of dismasted yacht Minerva, then sail them back to Saint Lucia so that the crew could finish their ARC by crossing the line in Rodney Bay.

The 'Spirit' award closed the ceremonies for the evening, at which time Andrew Bishop gave a final thanks to the Saint Lucia Tourist Board and IGY Rodney Bay Marina who have been wonderful hosts to the fleet of ARC 2016.

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