In the largest-ever ARC Europe rally, 28 yachts from 12 different countries crossed the start line in Tortola today at 1200 (local) just outside the entrance to Nanny Cay Marina, BVIs. Amongst the 28 strong entry, 8 are double-handers. The biggest yacht in the fleet, a Dixon 72 Gray Lady is sailing with six crew, whilst the Halberg Rassy 36 Zephyr is the smallest boat in the event, being crewed by three.
For the first 24 hours the event’s official forecaster Bruce Buckley predicts ESE to easterly winds 18/23 knots once away from the protection of the islands. Gusts close to 30 knots are possible, particularly near showers, with winds close to due east at times. Showers are likely to be in lines oriented from the ESE to the WNW. Whilst at-sea the fleet are issued with a new forecast each day.
The 845nm passage to Bermuda was started by crossing a line between a Horizon Charters catamaran committee vessel and a large orange Nanny Cay race mark close to the shore to the north. Crossing east to west the course led the fleet to the southwest of Tortola, leaving Little Thatch and Great Thatch Islands, and Jost Van Dyke to starboard, ensuring plenty of sea room.
First across was Pierre Caillault’s Grand Soleil 37, Earendil, followed by the Swan 44 Nyaminyami II, and the X-612 Nix. One to watch will be Stefan Schollmayer and crew on a Dufour 44 Carpe Diem, who made a very clean spinnaker hoist moments after the start was signaled. Daily progress of the yachts can be seen on the Fleet Viewer at the event website. A good number of the boats are capable of 200 mile plus days, so a fast passage to Bermuda is expected. Rally officials fly into Bermuda Sunday afternoon, with first arrivals expected Monday 11th.
Spectator and press boats bid them a safe farewell for the first (and shortest) leg of the three-leg ARC Europe rally. The Atlantic crossing is via Bermuda and the Azores to the finish in Lagos, Portugal.
Nanny Cay Marina, port sponsors, gave the fleet a terrific send off from the marina by hosting a farewell party and dinner for all the crews last night. Many will be sorry to leave ‘Nature’s little secret’ as the Islands are billed by the Tourist Board but for several of the ARC Europe participants they are homeward bound, completing the Atlantic circuit after either time in the Caribbean, or in the case of the ten World ARC boats, it’s the last part of nearly 19 months continuous cruising. Several other yachts are entering World Cruising Club’s event for the first time and this will be the start of their own cruising circle to Europe.