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26th ARC Caribbean 1500 & ARC Bahamas Heads Offshore

By World Cruising Club — last modified Nov 12, 2015 12:41 PM
Despite Hurricane Kate weather delay, fine conditions make for an easy departure for two rally fleets from USA, Portsmouth, Virginia.

Published: 2015-11-11 00:00:00
Topics: Rallies
Countries: Bahamas , British Virgin Islands , USA

Thirty four yachts headed offshore overnight and early this morning from Portsmouth, Virginia as part of the combined Caribbean 1500 and ARC Bahamas fleets.

The rally was delayed for three full days thanks to a disturbance in the tropics that would eventually form into Hurricane Kate. But as the fleets headed offshore, bound for the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas, respectively, the skies in Portsmouth had cleared, temperatures had dropped, Kate was headed well offshore and across the Atlantic and crews were chomping at the bit to depart.

"Thanks SO MUCH for everything you've done for us here in Portsmouth," shouted Brian & Barbara from the deck of Resolution as they back out of the slip this morning at 0730. "See you in Tortola!"

Resolution was the last yacht to depart Portsmouth. The rest of the fleet either departed late yesterday evening or before the dawn this morning to get a head start and stretch their sea legs after too many days in port.

Two Fleets

Six boats, half of which were catamarans, started shoving off on Tuesday morning, bound for Marsh Harbour in the Abacos. J/World Annapolis' Kristen Berry is co-skippering the catamaran Libelle on the route. The last two yachts to depart Portsmouth today in the Bahamas fleet were Satori and Jubilee, a Tayan 37 and Ericsson 35. Satori is skippered by Lee & Rachel Cumberland, the youngest sailors in the fleet at 28 and 27 respectively. They are at the start of a long-term cruise. The 650-mile passage to Marsh Harbour 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

For the 4th straight year, weather has affected the start of the 1500. A fall passage south is very challenging to plan weather wise, so flexibility in departure dates is key. Unlike last year's classic nor-easter that delayed the fleet by only one day, rally organizers and weather forecasters WRI were closely watching an area of development in the tropics this year. The decision to delay was made prior to its actual development, but soon after what would have been the start, the disturbance was upgraded to Tropical Storm Kate, and the delay decision was easily justified. Today, as it veers east across the Atlantic, it's been upgraded even further, to Hurricane Kate, with 65-80 knot winds well north and east of the rhumb line. Nonetheless, the fleet is enjoying clear skies and northwesterly winds, which should make for a clean crossing of the Gulf Stream.

Pre-Departure Program

Caribbean 1500 and ARC Bahamas boats again gathered at Ocean Marina Yacht Center in historic Portsmouth, VA for what turned into a ten-day long pre-departure program, thanks to the weather delay. Participants gathered at Still for the first time this year, a local tapas restaurant, for the opening weekend happy hours. Other parties were held at the Bier Garden and Roger Brown's, all on High Street and only a short walk from the marina.

A highlight of this year's pre-departure program was special guest Yves Gelinas, sailing his Alberg 30 Jean du Sud. Yves is known for inventing the Cape Horn windvane self-steering gear, and piloted Jean du Sudalone around the world via the Great Capes in the early 1980s. Participants were treated to a special private screening of Yves' award-winning movie 'Around the World with Jean du Sud' at the historic Commodore Theatre in Portsmouth last Thursday. Lunch was served at the 1940's-era dinner theatre and Yves was on-hand to introduce the film and answer questions afterwards. At 76, Yves is sailing Jean du Sud south to the French West Indies and continues to inspire generations of sailors.

The program in Portsmouth was extended due to the weather delay, with extra seminars and a Trivia Night Happy Hour at Roger Brown's, where yachts teamed up to try their hand at some nautical trivia.

Only one yacht was unable to take the start. Big Frisky, an Outbound 46, remained at Ocean Marine Yacht Center as of this morning enacting engine repairs. Last week on a shakedown sail, they blew a valve on their Yanmar and are waiting on parts and service. They expect to depart in a day or two and should catch up with the fleet on arrival in Tortola.

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/viewer.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 memento of their voyage, engraved rocks glasses this year courtesy of Weems & Plath in Annapolis, 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.

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