Deciding to sail the Atlantic as part of an organised fleet brings support, learning advantages and of course entertainment and great camaraderie. It has been said on many occasion that members of previous fleets remain sailing friends for life and the first edition of ARC January has proved no exception.
As a smaller fleet, it was quickly apparent that crews shared the same excitement and for many postponing their crossing for a couple of years now, they were thrilled to be taking part in the event. “I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to realize my biggest dream in life: to sail the Atlantic Ocean!” beamed octogenarian Gina from Friendship on arriving in Saint Lucia. “The ARC flag will be hoisted on the flagstaff at my home in France and will always remind me of these 24 days of a lived “spirit of the sea” and the big family feeling both in the Muelle Deportivo in Las Palmas and Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia.”
It was hoped that crossing the Atlantic in the new year would bring perfect, established trade winds. However, after a fluky winter season for all transatlantic sailors, sadly the lack of winds continued throughout the month of January, we ask ourselves is this just a one-off anomaly or is this a trend to continue as the world’s climate changes? Having experienced a breezy start it was a low pressure to the north once again which caused problems. This in turn expanded and created a very big hole of extremely light winds northwest of Cape Verde just as the fleet were passing through. Not really experiencing proper trade winds until the last week or in some cases just days before their arrival into Saint Lucia, it meant some of the fleet were crossing the finish line later than expected.
Beginning with a fleet of 47 boats in this new rally for World Cruising Club it was with great regret that some boats had to start late or withdraw. With local restrictions and strict protocols remaining in place in Las Palmas during the start programme, sadly the Omicron variant caught a few of the crew members out and it was with great sadness that journeys for some were delayed or diverted. We are however reminded that it is a great privilege to be able to travel in extended uncertain times and we congratulate the 40 boats who will complete ARC January 2022.
In celebration of their momentous achievements, the prizegiving took place in IGY Rodney Bay Marina. Using the same format as the two previous ARC ceremonies, the marina docks became one big theatre, and crews were able to join in from the cockpits of their own boats. The 80ft catamaran Go Tango became the backdrop, with screens and sound system erected to ensure all the boats could take part. Party-bags were delivered to each crew, and participants from other docks were able to buddy-boat and watch the show as well.
ARC January 2022 Event Director, Andrew Pickersgill, opened the evening, praising crews for their achievements for crossing an ocean under challenging conditions. With the whole dock as an arena, winners then were invited from their boats to the podium to receive their awards. Mowgli, owned and skippered by Slaven Fisher from Croatia, were the first boat to arrive in Rodney Bay and were also winners of monohull Class A crossing the line some 300 miles before the next boat to arrive. Continuing for the monohulls, Class B winners were the elegant Franchini 53, Rhapsodie VI, skippered by owner Jean-Jacques Godet. Winners of Class C were family boat from Norway, En-Deilig. The Multihull division was won by American flagged boat, Volare, a brand-new Neel 51.
Because ARC January is a cruising rally, there were awards presented for categories not related to the competition but celebrated the unique ambience of a shared ocean crossing. Biggest fish, oldest participant, oldest skippers and longest and shortest distance to sail were amongst the many prizes. One of the bigger cheers was for the ARC family boats – 12 young sailors, aged from 8-months to 16 years sailing on 5 boats in the rally. Each young sailor received an award to recognise their achievements.
Friends and family following the boats at home have been able to get a flavour of Atlantic sailing from the blogs sent in from the crews during their crossing. Prizes were awarded for the best non-English log to the Friendship (in German) and best photos while at sea was won by Oyster Belle. For their amusing daily logs, the creative crew of What’s Next were presented with the Best Overall Logs prize for their humorous scripts.
Members of the ARC January fleet were personally welcomed and guided through the finish line by 7 volunteer boats from ARC and ARC+ who manned the final leg of the rally throughout the day and night. Ensuring each boat received a wonderful welcome the following boats were thanked, and each awarded a bottle of rum; Pippin, Idalina, Mary Doll, Cesarina, Orion, Khamsin and Restless of Stornaway.
As in previous rallies and keeping to tradition, the highlight of the awards evening was the presentation of the converted ‘Spirit of ARC January 2022’. Saved for last in the proceedings, this is given to the crew, or crew member, who, through their extraordinary actions, have demonstrated the spirit of what the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers is all about - safer and enjoyable longer distance cruising, in the company of others. To delighted applause, the crews of What’s Next & Rhapsodie VI were called on stage to receive this year’s award, recognising their selfless support of turning around to pick up the crew from Brainstorm who were forced to abandon ship following rudder damage.
Participants have enjoyed a fun programme of events in Saint Lucia, organised by World Cruising Club, the Events Company Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority and IGY Rodney Bay Marina. During the prizegiving participants heard from General Manager of IGY Rodney Bay Marina, Sean Devaux, Chairman of the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, Mr Thaddius Antoine, and Saint Lucia’s Minister of Tourism, The Hon Dr Ernest Hillaire. Sean Devaux welcomed the participants and said, “We are very proud to be part of this debut event and congratulations on making history as the first ARC January arrivals.” Mr Thaddius Antoine continued “We wish you a heartfelt welcome to Saint Lucia and we celebrate your bravery, we applaud you.” Handing out the award for Class A, The Minister said “I congratulate every one of you and I am glad you have joined us and are celebrating in Saint Lucia.”
Wrapping up the evening, World Cruising Club’s Andrew Pickersgill, thanked all the crews for making ARC January 2022 such a special event, and praised the Yellow Shirt team along with the island of Saint Lucia and WCC Partners for their welcome and support for all the ARC crews. World Cruising Club will be back in Saint Lucia again in November with ARC 2022. Until then, farewell and congratulations to all the ARC January crews.