ARC Europe 2019 concluded in style with a packed final prizegiving dinner at Marina de Lagos on Sunday 16th June. Crews enjoyed a celebratory end to a memorable rally that has seen them sail west to east across the Atlantic on the multistage event and created a wonderful atmosphere of camaraderie amongst the mix of international crews. Those who taken part are at the varying stages in their sailing plans, with World ARC circumnavigators completing their trips, several Europeans sailing west to east at the end of a north Atlantic circuit, and Americans just starting out on their adventures sailing to a new cruising ground. Stories and experiences have been shared throughout the rally, and the participants have got to know each other very well, thanks in part to the numerous tours and activities on the comprehensive social programme at each port.
Back at the beginning of May, yachts first assembled at the rally start port of Nanny Cay, Tortola for the pre-departure programme of safety demonstrations, equipment checks, and socials. Right from the start, the mood was set for a fun-filled rally as crews got to know one another and prepared for the ocean voyage. A total of thirty-five yachts departed for Leg 1 from Nanny Cay on 4th May including the ARC USA fleet making their way to America.
Bermuda was the first port of call on the west-to-east transatlantic route. After restocking, refuelling, a little exploring and a few Dark & Stormy's, the ARC Europe fleet were underway to the famed Atlantic sailing hub of Horta, on the island of Faial in the Azores. Leading the fleet into Horta was the Maltese flagged vessel Nika. With only three crew onboard the X-Yachts X65, they crossed the finish line at 0913, having spent just under 9 days at sea since departing Bermuda. They were soon joined by their many comrades to enjoy a trip to the world renowned sailor's haunt Peter's Café Sport, and several boats left their mark by decorating Horta Marina’s sea wall.
Too soon for some, the next stage in the rally saw the fleet slip lines once again to cruise onwards through the islands. With stopovers at Terciera, Sao Miguel and Santa Maria, crews got to experience the diversity of the islands; from beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site Angra do Heroísmo to inland lakes and craters, stunning white sandy beaches with rollers pounding the sand to slumbering seaside villages.
In Santa Maria, there were a few farewells to boats headed to the UK, Ireland and Spain, whilst the majority of the fleet set sail on 8th June bound for Marina de Lagos on Portugal's Algarve coast. Despite a sunny start to the final leg of the passage, a low pressure system developed and gave some challenging conditions for the fleet’s final days at sea as they battled strong winds and large seas. The boats and crews coped well with no significant breakages, although it was rather a wet arrival into the Algarve.
As they dried off, the warm welcome received from the friendly team at Marina de Lagos and rally staff provided an excellent to end their cruise. It didn't take long for crews to settle into enjoying life in the resort and the final days of the rally saw them visiting the many bars and restaurants, relaxing by the pool and exploring the local markets. Living up to their reputation as the infamous party boat, Mad Monkey hosted the crews for drinks on board their Grand Soleil 56 partying late into the night.
It was evident from the atmosphere at the final prizegiving that everyone has enjoyed sailing the Atlantic together, having a very fun time along the way, with plenty of salty stories to share and memories to treasure from their time on the rally. The final prizes were awarded for the Cruising Class A to Nika for first place, Oceanis for second place and Oyster Blew in third. In Class B, German vessel Magneta were victorious much to their surprise, followed by Amari and Ocean Magic. In addition to the competitive sailing prizes, crews were also called up for other triumphs and contributions for the rally including best wall painting, longest and shortest distance sailed overall, most engine hours, youngest crew, best bowler, and best blogger.
Whilst all those involved with ARC Europe in 2019 will be sad that this year's rally has come to an end, crews will no doubt keep in touch for their onwards cruising adventures. Exciting times are ahead for the crews of boats exploring Europe for the first time, and for other's it marks a new chapter cruising back in familiar home waters. Several of the yachts will join previous rally participants and make Marina de Lagos their home for the summer cruising, taking advantage of the great local cruising grounds, easy flight connections and excellent facilities.