For the first time in history, a crew of young sailors from Gran Canaria, Saint Lucia and the UK have completed an epic transatlantic journey as part of the ARC 2019 sailing rally. Departing from the Island of Gran Canaria on 24 November, ARC Youth Team sailing on board yacht Challenger 1 crossed the finish line in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia at 20:19:01 local time on Wednesday 12 December, sailing a total distance of 3028nm.
Awaiting the crew on the dockside, over 100 friends, family, media, supporters, sponsors and World Cruising Club staff gathered for a sensational welcome to Rodney Bay. As Challenger 1 made their final approach to their berth on the superyacht dock of IGY Rodney Bay Marina, applause, cheers and horns echoed around the entire lagoon. Lines were made fast and as the crew stepped on land for the first time in 17 days; it was an emotional moment as their achievement of crossing the Atlantic began to sink in.
Crew members from Saint Lucia - Krishna Joseph, Jason Melius, Tyrus Antoine, Gabie Chreiki, Adonai Modeste and Crisanki Flood - were reunited with their families, and joined by project supporters from The Body Holiday, IGY Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia Yacht Club, Spinnakers Bar and Grill, and the Jus’Sail foundation. The Honorable Dominic Fedee, Minister for Tourism, Information and Broadcasting came to greet the crew, having met them in Gran Canaria before their ARC adventure began. It was overwhelming to see the enthusiastic welcome of these young sailors and for the crew arriving in the Caribbean for the first time, the rum punch tasted even sweeter as it was presented by the Events Company of Saint Lucia.
Hugo O’kelly, aged 18 from the UK, said, “Arriving in Rodney Bay to this phenomenal welcome is just indescribable. I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported me. Being part of the ARC Youth Team has been the most amazing experience I have ever had and whilst we came across quite a few challenges, but we have worked as a great team to overcome them. Would I do it again? Of course!” Hugo sailed with fellow schoolmate Lucas Prichard-Jones and have been supported by Milton Abbey School plus raised funds themselves to take part in the ARC Youth Team.
“I’m just so excited to have arrived here; the trip has been wonderful. It has been one of the best experiences of my whole life, and I have to say a huge thank you to Tall Ships, the ARC, my sponsors and everyone who came to give us such an amazing welcome.” said Enrique Diez above the applause as the rum was presented. “It is beautiful to be here in Saint Lucia. To come from my home paradise in Gran Canaria and arrive to this Caribbean paradise is amazing and I cannot wait to explore.” Enrique, and his fellow Gran Canarians, Ada Garcia-Ferrandez Saavedra, Michele Garcia and Ariana Lorenzo Zambrano waved goodbye to Las Palmas with the support of businesses in Las Palmas Marina, Astican and Penisular Yacht Services.
The experience has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for the crew, all aged from 18-25, to compete in the world’s largest transocean sailing rally. Many had never sailed offshore prior to arriving on board the boat, and spending 17 days at sea a 72 foot yacht has been an immense challenge. Learning under the watchful eye of Skipper Gary Rutherford, Mate Sam Morley and Watchleaders Anna Jakob and Alex Monaghan, from the UK sailing charity The Tall Ships Youth Trust, the crew pulled together to keep the boat sailing 24/7 and reached a top speed of 15 knots surfing downwind. The watch system on board, 6 hours on and 6 off during the day, and 4 hours on then off at night was perhaps the biggest challenge for the young crew to adapt to. For the start of the trip, Challenger 1 routed south to pick up the traditional trade winds, before turning west and setting a course virtually straight to Pigeon Island. For their final 7 days at sea, there were steady winds to propel them to Saint Lucia, as they closed down the final miles.
Once ashore, La Mesa Restaurant opened their doors as a space for interviews with the awaiting press, and then it was time to for the real Caribbean welcome and get the party started!
The final word, on this great adventure from 19 year old Adonai, “For me, the best day on board was the night we saw the dolphins. They were glowing in the phosphorescence as we were sailing along. The sunrises and sunsets have been truly amazing. Whilst it is great to be home in Gros Islet, there are for sure these moments I will miss... I may have to do it again next year!