The ARC is a huge achievement for all crews that make the crossing each year, with each person having their own reasons for taking part. Some have dreamt of the making the voyage and are fulfilling a lifelong dream, others have done it many times and may now be joining on their own boat or with family. Each crossing will be unique, but it felt particularly special for a few crews this year on boats who sailed across for the first time as brothers, or fathers with sons.
One of the boats taking part this year is Skyelark 2, skippered by Christian Richings. Christian sailed with his father Michael. They have both completed numerous Atlantic crossings and participated in many ARC rallies, however this was their first crossing together. Speaking about the experience of crossing the Atlantic with his father, Christian said, “My father sailed in the ARC in 1994 when I was 13, and I begged him to allow me to go as well; I knew, even back then, that I wanted to become a professional sailor and was so disappointed not to sail with my father. Since then, I’ve done multiple Atlantic crossings, but never managed to cross as father and son, until now. It really has been very special.”
A recurring theme when speaking to crews, was how much they learned about each other as people on the journey. Abel from Criki Tiki made the crossing with his son, Aaron aged 21. He said, “I think the most important thing is to have all this time with my son, to see how he got organised, how he handled 20 days in the boat and I’m proud to say that he was completely relaxed, enjoyable. I think I underestimated that he could handle something like this, but he showed me that he can handle it very well.” On the experience of this crossing, sailing together as adults compared to sailing with his son when he was younger, he says his son now slows him down, “30 years ago it was go faster, now he’s slowed down!” He plans to continue sailing with his son in the future, “Now I hope he buys a boat and invites me!”
Aaron also really enjoyed the experience. “It was really fun and a once in a lifetime opportunity,” and felt he became closer to his father and understood him more. “I’m really proud of him also”.
Also sailing with his son onboard Floreana was Jeremy Willets from Jersey. This was his first Atlantic crossing and with him was, 16 year old James. He enjoyed it and would love to do more, feeling that it built resilience and was nice to share the experience with his son.
In addition to the journey each participant experiences on their crossings, the feeling when crossing the finish line after two or three weeks at sea, is hard to describe. It is exhilarating and can be very emotional having completed such a momentous journey. Particularly for Abel sharing the experience with his sons, “Wonderful, absolutely wonderful, very special.”
Crews have often overcome obstacles at sea, from technical problems or breakages to very personal journeys. Spending a shared experience of a few weeks at sea surrounded by nothing but the ocean, removed from normal life, can bring crew very close together. On family boats it can also be a chance to reconnect. People often lead very busy lives at home and on the crossing they have plenty of time to spend without many of the usual distractions.
Claus, skipper on Alexa, sailed with his brother Stig, wife Catja and a family friend, Bollette. They chose a watch system, which meant the brothers took one watch, and Catja and Bollete the other, with Claus on call at all times if needed.
This gave them a lot of time to catch up and they really enjoyed the extra time together. Claus said, “we discussed stars, Stig is very interested in the whole universe and the sky and all the constellations, so we had a lot of discussions about – is that Mars or Jupiter – it was quite funny! We are both over 50 now and it’s a completely new way of being together with your brother. After so many years, you are living your normal lives and suddenly you have all the time in the world.”
“We have always been close, but of course it’s always nice to be a little bit more intimate and being away from all the daily lives with all the turbulence and stuff you need to take care of back home…. it’s something we haven’t done for many years and we felt like went back to being boys together –we guessed music, had playlists running and we looked upon the sky and remembered all the stupid things we have done in the past, so that was quite nice.”
They both have families back home, who followed their trip and the boat across the Atlantic with the YB tracker and they kept in touch via the iridium to send email updates, particularly letting their mother know they were all ok. With both sons and her daughter in law on board, she was extremely happy when she got the call that they had crossed the finish line and were safely in Rodney Bay.
Brothers Howard and Michael Linton sailed across on their Oyster 56, Lillie Mae. They completed the crossing with a university friend on their previous boat on ARC 2019. This time they crossed with the same friend and Howard’s son and his partner. They found it more comfortable with five. It gave them the chance to get a bit more rest and a bit of a break.
They sail together a lot as brothers and find the main time they get together is when sailing. They have worked out an unspoken system of working together in a joint effort, although playing to their individual skillsets, Howard takes the lead on general planning and comms, and Michael focusses more on the practical engineering side.
Of course the moment everything is building up to is crossing the finish line in Saint Lucia, and the atmosphere and welcome on arrival. Often friends or family have flown out to greet boats as they arrive and there are many happy reunions on the pontoons.
The atmosphere and welcome here in Rodney Bay is was amazing, Claus said “it was so fantastic to be welcomed by the other sailors with a lot of noise and clapping. Definitely very emotional after a long journey, we came early in the morning on Saturday so just thought we would find our dock and settle in but then suddenly everybody was shouting and sounding horns so that was so nice.” They were also met by his brother’s wife on the dock with flags which was “quite emotional. Its special to have my brother with me, it has only been Katya and me sailing the boat the two of us as husband and wife so we are close but it is also special to have my brother with me so that was nice.”
Lillie Mae also enjoyed the welcome, slowing down to cross in daylight. Having sailed a lot with his brother it was a different experience with his son also onboard. He said “In many ways it isn’t always the case you get to share this experience with families and kids. I think it will be one of those things that they’ll talk about and we’ll talk about in years to come. It was nice to have the crossing and spend time together. And for them they’re young and have never had such an experience so it was quite a thing doing an Atlantic crossing.”