USA to the BVIs: The 26th ARC Caribbean 1500 Wraps Up in Tortola.

Fast passage & downwind sailing marks this year’s event, with all boats into Nanny Cay.

Published 7 years ago, updated 4 years ago

After a three-day weather delay thanks to late-seasonHurricane Kate, and a fast passage at sea for most, the 2015 ARC Caribbean 1500 wrapped up in Tortola with the final prizegiving on Monday, November 23, just in time for crews to get home for Thanksgiving.

2015 was a tricky year for the 1500 departure – traditionally the rally heads to sea on the first Sunday in November, but this year that was November 1. The decision was made early on to push the start to November 8 to allow Hurricane season to fizzle out some more. And it was the right one.

Yachts that left from Hampton the week before with the Salty Dawg Rally experienced headwinds and calms, and some indeed saw windspeeds in the 60s as they skirted Kate, which had formed after they’d departed.

The later start date, delayed even more by Kate, allowed for the weather to settle. After departure and a rough Gulf Stream crossing with sustained winds in the 20s, a high-pressure ridge filled in the north of the fleet and made for reaching and running conditions for most of the passage and few motoring hours recorded.

“I only wish we would have rigged and learned how to use a spinnaker pole before the trip!” exclaimed Kirk of Sweet Caroline. “Most of the trip we really could have used it to wing out and stabilize the genoa.”

1500 is unique in that prizes are not only awarded for the first three places in each class of the Cruising Division, based on corrected time, but also for fun and inventive prizes like Best Diver, Best Logs, Best Fishing Story, Youngest Skipper and more. In short, the prizegiving recognizes everything that makes an ocean passage so special.

Barbara Jean, who only the day before had sailed through the cut and into Nanny Cay marina due to an engine failure a few days earlier, won the prize for ‘Best Dressed,’ for their enthusiasm in hoisting their code flags in Portsmouth and Nanny Cay. Mats on Nordic Belle II and Sami on Seahorse shared the Family Boat Award and got $10 to spend on ice cream at the Nutty Banana. Other special prizes included the Endurance Award, the Galley Slave Award, the Best Bruise Award, Female Skipper Award, and the Overcoming Adversity Award.

“Brian from Resolution emailed us a while back, hoping that after their slow passage the crew would be offered not just rum punch but buckets of rum punch!” said Event Manager Andy Schell from on stage. “So Brian, with winning the Endurance Award, your wish has been granted! Come and get your literal bucket of rum!” With that, a liter of Cruzan was presented to the crew of Resolution in a five-gallon bucket, arousing rowdy applause from the rest of the fleet. Resolution recorded the longest passage of the fleet at just over 11 days but still made it in time for the prizegiving.

Each boat also received a custom engraved rocks glass, new for 2015, from Weems & Plath for participating in the rally, and was recognized on stage for finishing the event.

“You’re all winners to us!” exclaimed yellow-shirt Mia from the stage, who was busy taking photos of each crew as they accepted their awards.

The big winners in the Cruising Division were the two Swan 48s Catch 22, the modern, faster Swan who took Class A, and Isbjorn, a classic S&S Swan 48, that took Class B. Seahorse, a Leopard 48 won the Multihulls Division and took Line Honors in the Cruising Division. Moonwave, a Gunboat 60, took Line Honors with no motoring hours and was, in fact, the first boat to arrive in Tortola, but they had departed a day early. Isbjorn also took home the Steve Black Trophy for Overall Winner in the Cruising Division.

Two perennial favorites in the Cruising Division, Altair, a Saga 48, and Avanti, a Hanse 430 that won Class A and the Overall last year, were forced to switch to the Open Class (with no results calculated) after sustaining minor damage offshore. Avanti diverted to Bermuda to fix their rudder bearing, and Altair had to motor more than usual due to a damaged traveler.

Yachts in the ARC Bahamas fleet started alongside the ARC Caribbean 1500 fleet after the week-long pre-departure program in Portsmouth, then diverted south and west once across the Gulf Stream bound for Marsh Harbor in the Abacos and the finish port at Harbourview Marina.

The Bahamas fleet enjoyed great sailing as well, reaching fast down to the islands, a nice change from the ‘waterskiing’ conditions of last year. Traveling Light, an Atlantic 42 catamaran and Caribbean 1500 veteran took the prize for Line Honors in the Bahamas fleet. The group met for dinner at Snappa’s bar and grill to celebrate their arrival.

In the BVI fleet, The Tempest Trophy, Navigator’s Award, and the Hal Sutphen Seamanship Award mark the highest honors. The Navigator’s Award, sponsored by Weems & Plath, was awarded to Free Spirit for their prowess taking celestial sights, while the Seamanship Award went to the crew on Sweet Caroline for their wonderful preparations, including passing the safety equipment checks in Portsmouth with flying colors.

The Tempest Trophy was presented to the yacht that best displayed the ‘Spirit of the Rally,’ and was, in reality, a lifetime achievement award for this year’s participants. Every year Miles and Anne Poor on Karina, their Tayana 55, arguably do more than anyone else to promote 1500, and have done so for years. They are perennial entrants and through their MRP Refits business are firm supporters of the rally and have helped dozens of owners outfit their boats for the rigors of ocean sailing. The Tempest Trophy was given each year since 1990 to the yacht that best-combined seamanship, enthusiasm, and helping others. This year Katrina, in addition to their year-long efforts at promoting the rally and good seamanship in general, came to the aid of Island Tales, a Tayana 48, who needed needle and thread to enact a sail repair.

“We passed them offshore and I packed up the tools in an inflated garbage bag and floated it over to them,” said Jake, a crewmember on Karina.

“We nabbed it on the first pass!” exclaimed a thankful Jose, owner, and skipper of Island Tales.

BVI Program

Yachts began arriving into Nanny Cay on Monday, November 16, with the 60′ carbon-fiber catamaran Moonwave first to finish in just over 7 days. Nearly 24 hours passed before the next yachts arrived. Each night as yachts continued to arrive events were held on the beach in Nanny Cay Marina, including several cocktail hours, a pizza party and a couple of beach barbecues hosted by Peg Legs. Horizon Yachts held a popular and informative seminar on cruising the BVI.

The program of events in Nanny Cay also included a 4-hour round-the-island tour with BVI 360, with stops at the famous Bomba Shack, Cane Garden Bay and a birds-eye view atop the island. The bus was fully packed this year, and the tour proved very popular. So popular, in fact, that the crews were heard singing as they made their return into Nanny Cay Marina in the open-air jitney.

“The rally has more than met our expectations,” said Jeff and Michelle of the Leopard 48 Seahorse. “We’re really excited to do the trip back with you guys in the spring in ARC USA. And Sami, our 7-year-old daughter, already announced that she wants to do the 1500 passage again next year, so I guess we’re in!”

Indeed the impact that this year’s event has had on the participants will be felt throughout the Caribbean sailing season and perhaps for years to come. Yachts enjoyed an informative seminar on cruising the BVI, and already a few have signed up to return north next year with ARC USA.

Several crews are just getting started – Zoom is on their way home to Australia, Misto is prepping for World ARC 2017, and Alcedo of Ryme is already en route to St. Lucia for World ARC 2016, which starts in January.

But when it’s all said and done, what people remember most is just that – the people they’ve met along the way.

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