For sailors on the ARC+ route of the 2019 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, this evening’s Prize Giving Ceremony in Saint Lucia marked the end of their Atlantic adventure that began in Gran Canaria some six weeks ago. The ARC+ route took sailors from the port of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on 10 November to Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands for the first leg of the crossing. Blessed with great winds and a quick trip for the first 865nm passage south, they spent 4-5 days exploring, before restarting for the big stage across the Atlantic on 21st November.
From the Cape Verde, 69 yachts made Saint Lucia their destination with over 320 crew sailing the 2150nm course to Rodney Bay. The first arrival, Minimole, was welcomed to IGY Rodney Bay Marina on Tuesday 3 December, and ever since the docks have been filled with rapturous welcomes for the arriving sailors. From groups of friends, parents sailing with children, full time liveaboards and amateur adventurers, the crews on this year’s rally represented all walks of life, 24 nationalities, and participants of all ages. The ambience at last night's prize-giving reflected a large family party, everyone knowing each other so well within the fleet and an ocean crossing community well and truly established.
At sunset, crews gathered on The Green at IGY Rodney Bay Marina for a customary rum punch as the proceedings began. Welcoming them to the ceremony, World Cruising Club's Andrew Pickersgill and Suzana Tetlow recounted a few tales from the fleets’ time at sea as they worked their way through numerous awards.
Sadly the crew of Line Honours winner Minimole, who also topped the Multihull Division on handicap, had departed Rodney Bay, but sent a video from their native Italy to thank their fellow participants and the ARC+ team for their great experience on the rally. Those visiting the stage to collect their prizes included the Australian crew of Wild Spirit winning Class A, the X-yacht Xplorer from Denmark for Class B and Neverland sailed double-handed by Americans Monica and Michael Gould to top Class C.
As is traditional in the ARC too, it was not just crews who were successful in the competitive side of the rally who received prizes; there were many other awards given out for happenings at sea, successes and achievements as well as recognising the SSB Radio-Net Controllers and double-handed crews who took part. It was a special moment as the youngest members of the ARC+ family arrived on stage. 22 children who have sailed with the rally bounded up to receive their special certificates with great cheers echoing from the crowd.
The last participants to be called to the stage were the crew of Yolo, who were presented with the Spirit of ARC+ award. Each year, this prize recognises the crew who contribute in a special way to the rally, and this year Yolo provided assistance to a fellow ARC+ yacht following a tragedy on board. It was a powerful moment for all the gathered crews to reflect on the emotional journey that the rally has been for them.
After the awards were complete, concluded with a great round of applause, the bars were opened and ARC+ participants celebrated together to the rhythm of a steel pan band. But the evening's excitement did not end there as participants from 55 boats sailing with the ARC direct route started to arrive for their Welcome Party. With the fun set to continue long into the night, crews have been well and truly embraced the Saint Lucian party spirit and all agree it is well worth crossing an ocean for!