Three weeks to the day since the ARC fleet slipped their lines in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and a steel drum serenade is continually echoing around the docks of IGY Rodney Bay Marina. The initial trickle of arrivals has now become a constant stream, with the berths, bars, restaurants and marine services steadily filling up as ARC yachts flow in. Friends are reunited, families greet their loved ones, and the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority are keeping the arriving crews in fine fare with a welcome rum punch on the dock and a basket of goodies for them to enjoy.
The ARC 2017 fleet has had a particularly challenging year to reach the Caribbean, with the crossing taking longer than anticipated for many yachts. Arriving in Rodney Bay feels like an extra special achievement as crews have seen ‘a bit of everything’ in terms of weather, and some serious seamanship has helped them reach the Caribbean shores. Daily chats on the SSB Radio Nets have provided plenty of entertainment and competitive banter and each arrival is emotionally greeted by fellow windswept, sunkissed sailors before the conversation inevitably moves to the Boardwalk Bar to compare top speeds, fishing triumphs and breakages along the way over a cold beer or two.
Aside from a snapped halyard or shredded spinnaker, a small number of boats have had particularly tough incidents during their crossing requiring assistance from ARC Rally Control, and fellow yachts in the vicinity. The story of Challenger 2’s on board medical incident, available in full here on the First Class Sailing Website, is one of the more serious episodes to have occurred in 2017, prompting them to go in search of ‘a Floating Pharmacy’ to replenish their on board medical kit supplies to treat a crew member suffering from an acute infection. “I did the sums, we were going to run out of the essential medical supplies in two days and we were at least five days from a rescue. The coastguard had since ruled out a commercial or military ship evacuation, none were in our vicinity.” Explained Challenger 2’s skipper, Ricky Chalmers “We needed to go shopping, quickly. The only shops around were the other 192 boats taking part in the 2017 ARC. One of them may have the kit we desperately needed. Time to “google” the shops and fine the best one. The ARC Rally Control team were fantastic in putting out the message requesting medical stores on our behalf. We were flooded with offers of help.” Thanks to assistance received from Tallulah Ruby, Challenger 2 will be conveying the casualty ashore this afternoon, with the hospital services in Saint Lucia ready to assist.
Meanwhile for the vast majority of the fleet, days have been filled with the happier hallmarks of ocean sailing. Those still at sea are embracing the extra days on the ocean; “Three weeks in. We thought we would be at St Lucia by now, but with just under 350 nautical miles to go, I, for one, am glad of an extra few days to sit out at the helm and commit to memory the ever changing, yet constant, view.
” Wrote La Cigale
’s crew. “The sun has been shining all day, and charging our solar panels nicely (for once!), without a shadow of a squall to be seen. We cruised along, with the jib out, at somewhere between 6 and 7 knots for most of the day. As the wind dropped by late afternoon, we enjoyed a beautiful comedy of dolphins at dusk - a good few dozen, perfectly synchronised, played at the bow. We can't yet smell land, but for us that is the first tangible sign that we are growing ever closer to shore...
For the crews of almost 100 yachts who will be in by this afternoon, this evening’s ARC Sundowner – Saint Lucian Style – will be an excellent opportunity for the arrivals to come together to enjoy a rum punch or two; a throwback to the nightly pre-departure sundowners in Las Palmas. It’s a new addition to the ARC programme laid on courtesy of the St Lucia Tourism Authority, and is one of several social events giving the ARC programme a distinct Caribbean flavour this year. During the rest of the week, crews can look forward to the IGY General Manager’s Cocktail on Tuesday, a Beach Funtastic Day at the St Lucia Yacht Club on Wednesday and an authentic Caribbean experience at the Anse La Raye Fish Fry on Thursday. From the latest YB Tracking information, it looks like almost every boat who left Las Palmas with the ARC start three weeks ago will be in for Saturday’s Prize Giving, set to be a huge celebration of all their achievements sailing with the rally.