Whilst many people are packing away the tinsel, wrapping up the Christmas tree lights, and saying farewell to the festive holidays for another year, the air of excitement and anticipation is just beginning as 23 yachts gather for the start of World ARC 2023 at IGY Rodney Bay in Saint Lucia. Family boats, cruising couples and groups of friends will be setting out on a long-held dream to set sail around the world, navigating the oceans together on the ultimate sailing adventure. Crew onboard come from 17 different countries, our youngest participant is just 3 years old, and there are three generations onboard the boat Blue Sunshine taking on the circumnavigation as a full family affair.
The World ARC office opened this morning, Monday 2 January, whereupon the team of enthusiastic yellow shirts welcomed the first participants to the rally and commenced safety equipment inspections. Each boat collected their World ARC flag to proudly fly during their voyage as well as their welcome pack with rally information for the exciting months ahead. The crew of Misty, the British-Flagged Island Packet 445, were first to check in, with skipper Mark Henley arriving promptly for the first slot at 0900. By the end of the day, just over half the fleet registered with the team and safety checks are well underway.
A fun and informative event programme starts this evening with World Cruising Welcome Drinks held poolside at the Sea Salt Restaurant. This is the first opportunity for all the crews to meet each other as the rally begins with a nice sundowner and a chance to ‘break the ice’ for those new to World Cruising Club events. Several of this year’s circumnavigators left Europe with ARC+ and the ARC over the past two years, and so there is already a pleasant feeling of reunion as they meet back in Rodney Bay after cruising independently, swapping stories of where they have spent Christmas and seen in the New Year. Those arriving in Rodney Bay for the first time have been warmly welcomed too and Wednesday’s Tree Top Canopy Adventure Tour with be a fun opportunity to get to know one another and see some of Saint Lucia’s beautiful rainforest.
During the lead up to the start on Saturday 12 January, there’s also plenty of information shared by the World Cruising Club team to put participants in good stead for the adventure. A number of useful briefings and seminars include an introduction to the Rally Route, giving a place-by-place look at the destinations on the whole rally and especially the first few stopovers taking the fleet to Colombia and San Blas then through the Panama Canal to Galapagos. Meteorologist Chris Tibbs will also be giving a Weather Briefing looking at typical weather patterns on the tradewind route. On Friday, the day before departure, there will be a comprehensive Skippers’ Briefing for the exciting first Leg to Santa Marta.
In the evenings, the social programme is a nice way to build the rally community and provides a great Caribbean send-off from Saint Lucia. There’s the IGY Marina Managers Party on Wednesday evening hosted by Sean Deveaux and his team here at Rodney Bay Marina, and the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, and Events Company Saint Lucia will be hosting a smart-barefoot bash on the beach of the Bay Gardens Resort for the Farewell Party on Thursday.