It was a case of “follow my leader” this morning (Saturday 28th March) as the World ARC fleet gather together for one last time for the journey from Marigot Bay to Rodney Bay and the official finish of World ARC 2008/09. After a journey of over 23,000 nautical miles, the last 10 miles was covered in a spirit of festive fun with a Parade of Sail taking the yachts to their final destination at Rodney Bay Marina, where the rally began back in January 2008.
Falling in line-astern behind Northern Sky, the fleet was joined by local yachts from the St.Lucia Yacht Club to rally the fleet around Castries Harbour and then across a symbolic finish line laid in Rodney Bay. Each yacht was greeted by loud hoots and cheers from well wishers, signifying the end of their world circumnavigation from St.Lucia to St.Lucia. Amongst those enjoying the spectacle was Mr Louis Lewis, the Director of Tourism in St.Lucia, aboard a yacht loaned by The Moorings – the suitably named Finish Line!
Whilst the yachts have been wandering the globe, Rodney Bay Marina has been completely revamped with new pontoons and services laid on, allowing the whole World ARC fleet to dock together at the end of their journey. There were warm embraces and heartfelt emotions as crews greeted each other on the pontoons before transferring to the official dockside welcome party hosted by Rodney Bay Marina and the St.Lucia Tourist Board and sponsored by Heineken and Digicel. Under a blazing tropical Caribbean sun, crews enjoyed ice-cold Heinekens and the uplifting sound of steel-pan music kicking off the final celebration of the rally, which continued on to the culmination of the rally, the final prize giving party.
As the sun set over Rodney Bay, and with the sound of surf breaking on sand, the crews gathered at the beachside Royal St.Lucian Hotel to mark the end of the rally in style. Guests of Honour at the celebration were Mr Laurie Barnard, Chairman of St. Lucia Tourist Board, and Dr James Hepple, Consultant to the Tourist Board. After a delicious Caribbean dinner, Dr.Hepple spoke on behalf of the Tourist Board, thanking the skippers and crews for helping make St.Lucia a premier centre for yachting tourism, and congratulated them on their achievement since leaving St.Lucia in January 2008.
The circumnavigating skippers and crew were then welcomed on stage by Andrew Bishop, Managing Director of World Cruising Club, and presented with a commemorative plaque, a trophy and certificate of achievement to mark their voyage around the world. The final prize of the evening was awarded to David Holliday of yacht Kealoha 8, for winning the overall competition in the rally. In what was an emotional evening for all the circumnavigators, there were hugs and photos to capture the final memory of what has been a wonderful 15 months for everyone involved in the World ARC.