It’s clear when walking around the docks in Las Palmas marina that there’s a hugely diverse fleet taking part in the ARC, as usual, but there’s also several newly-built boats that participants have had to wait patiently for before taking ownership, due to the pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions on travel. However, for the owners of the 12 boats built in 2020 and 10 in 2021, the endgame of crossing the Atlantic is in sight. Having made it to Gran Canaria and able to fully appreciate their new boats, they are in full preparation mode with just over a week to go until they can finally begin their bluewater cruising dream.
One such boat is John and Lucy Strachan’s Allures 45.9 Broadsword from the Isle of Coll, Scotland, which arrived in Las Palmas a couple of days ago. They finally took delivery of their new Cherbourg-built boat in September 2020 and sailed her up to Norway to winter in Bergen, but due to the pandemic, it remained there for the next nine months. John has more or less retired from his events business and previously took part in ARC+ in 2017, but for Lucy, this will be her first ocean crossing.
They were eager to return to their new boat so they could head down to the Canaries: “Once restrictions were lifted this summer, we managed to sail from Norway to Oban and then took her back to Cherbourg to do some servicing,” says John who only learnt to sail 10 years ago. “I know it is going to be an adventure,” says Lucy, “but I am slightly overwhelmed at the moment with everything we have to do before the start and with being away from the family for so long.” The Strachan’s will be joined by two other crew for the ARC crossing and are on a three-year circumnavigation, with a plan to get to New Zealand by November 2022 and then South Africa in 2023 to visit Lucy’s brother.
Kitty Cullina-Bessey and David Bessey from Montclair New Jersey, USA were also scheduled to take part in last year’s ARC and were due to pick up their brand new Hallberg-Rassy Ithaka (USA) from Sweden in April 2020. However, three weeks prior to leaving, with the boat already in the water, they realised that the EU was closed and that that wouldn’t be able to get there.
“We kept changing our tickets and in August 2020 we had to alter our plans. We’d already retired and so we started thinking the same thing might happen again, but in talking to people we discovered that delivery crews were getting into Europe with a Seaman’s exemption, so we hired a delivery crew with PYD.” The Bessey’s were also able to join the crew themselves after ensuring they had the right paperwork and were delighted to be able to pick up their boat from the shipyard in Ellös. “After a very quick turnaround, putting things together because it was a new boat, we sailed through the North Sea to get to the UK in six days just as it opened up in May.
Their new plans then gave them the opportunity to enjoy getting to know the boat, sailing along the south coast of England, the Scilly Isles, Wales and to spend a little time in Scotland. “We talked to lots of different people and they were wonderful. We were the only US boat we saw. We then did ARC Portugal and had a wonderful time getting to know Ithaka and how she sails.” For the Atlantic crossing they will be joined by two friends from New York City who are also Hallberg-Rassy owners, who wanted the chance to do a crossing and they have a lot of experience. “We don’t really know what we are doing after. We will spend the winter in the Caribbean and then we will sail to Bermuda and the north east. We will either spend half the year sailing and half on land, or thinking about going back to all those places that we didn’t visit in Europe!” says Kitty.
Claire Padillav from Chile and Oliver Vauvelle bought their Sun Odyssey 410 Amanaki (GBR) ‘on a whim whilst visiting a boat show in the UK in 2020,’ but due to the lockdown they were unable to get much sailing experience, however with their changing plans they did manage a circumnavigation of the UK which was a big step up for them having never left the Solent. They are new to sailing, so learnt how to sail, avidly read many books, and are mostly self-taught, although over the last 12 months they have notched up significant sea miles getting to Las Palmas. They decided to join the rally after quitting their jobs in finance and tourism and recently, a Chilean TV channel aired an interview with them about the ARC and their sailing adventures. They are excited to take part: “We signed up so we had a deadline to leave our jobs and the UK, as well as the social aspects and safety parameters that the ARC offers. We are glad we are doing this while we are still relatively young and recent changes in work make it even more accessible,” explains Claire.
The benefit of the ARC starting from Las Palmas is these new boats and their crews have already been able to gain experience on the shakedown sail to get here. It really helps to get to know a new boat for a good few months, or longer, before undertaking an ocean crossing like the ARC. In addition, the ARC’s list of safety equipment is an important consideration when taking on a new boat, and commissioning her for long-distance sailing. World Cruising Club’s Bluewater Weekend and ARC Bluewater Cockpit Conversations events held annually in May are ideal for those purchasing a new boat – whether direct from a manufacturer or second-hand. See the Training Page of the World Cruising Club website for details of the next events.