Over half the fleet has now taken the finish line here in St. Lucia. Rodney Bay Marina has become a hive of activity, as the official ARC programme gets under way.
On Wednesday, crews were treated to a welcome cocktail sponsored by the Saint Lucia Tourism Board and hosted by the Royal by Rex Hotel on the beach in Rodney Bay. The event is annually a popular one, kicking off the programme here in Saint Lucia, but was especially so this year due to the fast passages the first half of the fleet has experienced. Nearly 100 boat crews were in attendance.
As we approach the halfway mark in the fleet, more family boats and smaller boats are arriving, and more and more first-timers are excitedly sharing their tales of life at sea. For Mark McCauley on the Lagoon 440, Elektra I, the experience fulfilled a lifelong dream.
“This is on the list,” he said with a big smile. Mark completed the crossing on his brother’s boat, but is already looking ahead. “I’m looking at retiring and buying a boat and doing it myself in a couple more years.”
His recollections of the crossing echoed a similar sentiment shared by other crews. “The speed and the noise,” he said were the most memorable. “For probably 12 days we were onboard a freight train. The only way you were going to sleep was with ear plugs.”
Joe from Kantara, a Dufour 40, likewise agreed. “At the start,” offered Joe, “I really struggled to sleep. And I had earplugs and a mask. But in the last three days I could just sleep anywhere. I could have slept on the bow. After a while your body just changes, you say ‘I’m not gonna get 8 hours sleep, so I’m just gonna sleep whenever I get the chance.’”
All the crew from Adrienne could muster on stepping on the dock for the first time in 18 days was a big “Yeee Hooooah!”
For Susan Parker, on Skyelark of London, ARC 2011 was her first real ocean passage. “We had a very good crossing,” she said. “It was wild, for me, I’m a nonsailor, never done it before.”
Tom Sykes, also on Skyelark of London, was equally excited. “It’s been good fun.” When asked what he was most looking forward to now that he was back on dry land, he said with a smile, “A few rums and a bit of sleep!”
Thursday afternoon was a busy one in the ARC office, with boats piling up on one another as the wind continues to be light near the finish line. In the stretch of only an hour, the ARC berthing team accommodated half a dozen boats, all who received their rum punch and Heineken from the Tourist Board.
The programme continues tonight with ‘ARC in the Park’ sponsored by Digicel. Billed as ‘loud and late!’ it promises to inject a bit of local flavor into the marina atmosphere. The ARC Village is also now set up in the marina. Colorful huts house local vendors, offering everything from handmade crafts to local fruits. Stay tuned to the ARC website for further updates as the programme continues here in Rodney Bay.