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25th ARC Caribbean 1500 & ARC Bahamas Heads Offshore

By World Cruising Club — last modified Nov 05, 2014 04:16 PM
Despite a weather delay, fine conditions and a full moon makes for an easy departure for the two rally fleets.

Published: 2014-11-05 00:00:00
Topics: Rallies
Countries: British Virgin Islands , USA

25th ARC Caribbean 1500 & ARC Bahamas Heads Offshore

Safety Check on Sunsplash © WCC/Mia Karlsson

40 yachts headed offshore on Monday afternoon from Portsmouth, Virginia as part of the combined Caribbean 1500 and ARC Bahamas fleets. The rally was delayed 24 hours thanks to the season's first real nor'easter. But as the fleets headed offshore, bound for the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas, respectively, the moon was on the rise, the wind was steady and the seas were down.

"We're enjoying a dinner of oven-baked chicken and mashed potatoes," reported long-time rally veteran Ron Horton, crew member aboard the Amel 54 Long Star. "The moon is rising and we're making a steady 6.6 knots towards the Gulf Stream." Horton is sailing his 24th rally as a crewmember with World Cruising Club events.

At noon on Monday, organizers had three starting lines off Hampton Flats to see the fleet off. ARC Bahamas and Multihull Division yachts led the way, followed by Class B and finally Class A of the BVI fleet. 40 yachts exited the Chesapeake on a moderate westerly wind, broad-reaching into the Atlantic with several yachts flying spinnakers as they sailed on into the clear evening. Less than 24 hours into the rally, and despite taking the start over an hour behind the fleet, Lucky Strike, a classic Newick 50 trimaran, had lept into the lead, sailing at over 10 knots as they entered the Gulf Stream on Tuesday morning. It will be a race to the finish between them and the 80' Falcon, a former America's Cup training boat, that was close behind and making 9 knots. The remainder of the fleet is made up of cruising monohulls and multihulls in the 40-60' range.

Two Fleets
Despite a one-year hiatus while the Caribbean 1500 focused on the move to Portsmouth, ARC Bahamas is back on the calendar. Five boats, including 2 catamarans, took the start ahead of the BVI fleet and will cross the Gulf Stream before breaking off and sailing just west of south, bound for Harbourview Marina in Marsh Harbor. Indeed the finish of ARC Bahamas has found a new home in Harbourview Marina, closer to international transportation and in the heart of the Abaco chain. The 650-mile passage should take 4-6 days for most yachts, representing a significant shortcut than the traditional route down the ICW, which can take 2-3 weeks.

Weather
2012 and 2013 were unprecedented in that they were the only two years in the now 25-year history of the event that saw the fleet depart ahead of scheduled to take advantage of a narrow weather window. Traditional sailing directions state to head offshore following the passage of a cold front, riding the northwesterly wind across the Gulf Stream and taking advantage of the fair weather produced by the high pressure that typically follows the front. This year, unlike the recent past, offered up textbook conditions. The strong nor'easter that brought gusts in excess of 50 knots at Ocean Marina Yacht Center in Portsmouth on Saturday night, quickly moved offshore and to the northeast, clearing the way for fine weather and Monday's start.

Pre-Departure Program
Caribbean 1500 and ARC Bahamas boats again gathered at Ocean Marina Yacht Center in historic Portsmouth, VA for the weeklong pre-departure program. It's the second year the fleet has called Portsmouth home, and the events were better organized and more fun for all involved this second time around. The finishing port of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, the historic city is accustomed to hosting sailors. Early-arrival happy hours were held on High Street at the German Bier Garden restaurant. Participants gathered in the outside garden area on an idyllic weekend of fine fall weather. For the first time, the City of Portsmouth, alongside Ocean Marine Yacht Center, hosted a welcome reception at Griff's on High Street last Monday evening, which saw over 60 sailors in attendance. Local character 'Colonel Crawford' was on hand to greet the participants. His companion, 8-year-old Colin, played sea shanties on his fiddle, complete in Scottish kilt. The seminar program was held all week at Roger Brown's, who also hosted the 25th Anniversary Party & Steve Black Tribute on Thursday evening.

Only one yacht was unable to take the start. Rockhopper remained at Ocean Marine Yacht Center and plans on heading south via the ICW instead of making the hop offshore. It looked liked Alchemy, a classic Tartan 41, would also miss the start. On Thursday they noticed a crack in their forestay chainplate. With the help of MRP Refits and Ocean Marine Yacht Center, Alchemy's crew were able to find a local machine shop to fabricate 5 new chainplates. The crew worked day and night to reinstall the new hardware and headed offshore with the fleet, only an hour or so behind. It was a testament to the resourcefulness of the rally fleet and the extensive local knowledge of Ocean Marine, who are indeed a full service facility.

Each boat in the Caribbean 1500 is fitted with a satellite tracker, with positions updated twice daily and displayed on the rally website (www.worldcruising.com/Carib1500/eventfleetviewer.aspx), enabling friends and family at home to follow the boats. Cruisers can also send blogs and pictures direct to the website, and the rally team will post news from the fleet every day on the website and Facebook page www.facebook.com/carib1500.

Every boat receives a plaque as a memento of their voyage, and prizes are given to the first arrivals and fastest boats on handicap, the best boat blog, biggest fish, plus special awards for acts of seamanship and the spirit of the rally. Weems & Plath has signed on to sponsor a new 'Navigator's Award' that will be given to the best-kept traditional captain's log. ARC Caribbean 1500 participants will again support 'Moustache November,' or 'Movember,' an initiative to bring awareness to men's health issues. Nanny Cay Marina is a big supporter.

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