by Mark Burton, ARC Europe Rally Control
Sailors always talk about the weather. Before you leave a port all you hear is whether the weather will be windy or whether the weather will be wet. As sailors, we all watch the weather from wherever…
I have visited Horta by boat on various transatlantic trips, but this time I was watching the weather for my flight’s arrival into the remote island chain. The advice I received before leaving the UK to meet and greet our weather beaten ARC Europe participants was, “take a rain coat it always rains in the Azores!”
Well guess what, “not this year mate” as my trusted friend and colleague Manuel would say!
And it wasn’t only pleasant sunshine that greeted my arrival - several World ARC veterans were already in Horta – and this meet up was very special; Sandvita, Take Off, Skyelark of London, Tulla Mhor to mention just a few were all lined along the docks. After 15 months sailing round the world greeted by yellow shirts, it was their turn to greet Rally Control as we ventured down to the marina and it was a delight to see them again. Horta is a hub for cruising yachts on the passage to Europe and familiar faces are great to see, not least to catch up with in the renowned Peter’s Café Sport, a bar on every sailors bucket list.
Ready for our own arrivals, the ARC Europe office was set up on Saturday, with flags hoisted and notice board filled with all the information we could find. After a busy day of walking and talking to everyone important supporting the stopover and a few friendly faces who just want to know why we are here, we settled in to wait for the first arrival. Position monitoring is a full time occupation when your fleet is at sea, and some days I feel like mother hen rather than Rally Control. Refreshing the ETAs, looking at the polls ever increasing in regularity as they approach harbour and remaining in close proximity to a handheld VHF at all times.
At around 0100, the VHF crackled to life on Channel 72. Finnish double-handers on the beautiful Swan 48 Lumikki announced that they were approaching the finish line at Horta.
With a couple of Sagres beers in hand (for the awesome couple of course), Manuel and I stood waiting on the customs dock. It was an elegant arrival as the beautiful Swan was expertly manoeuvred in on the dead calm night.
Wearing big smiles, Jukka and Jaana gently moored up with the coolness and control of seasoned sailors, and commented on how “Lovely it is to be met by a yellow shirt or two in a strange harbour where you don’t really know where you’re going.” During their passage of just under 11 days from Bermuda, the couple initially enjoyed some good spinnaker sailing days and nights, but the wind grew light with the Azores high so it was “on with the iron sail and in we came.”
After a brief stop on the fuel dock Lummiki moored alongside the world famous painted wall, meeting up with old friends of Tulla Mhor with tears and hugs all round - such a great World Cruising Club family to see reunited at this remote harbour.
Ever since, the ARC Europe fleet has steadily multiplied; Devona and Templars F joined the fray on Sunday and Spindrift, Aurelia, Blonde Moment and Makara are all in at the time of writing. By Monday night we’ll have a dozen boats alongside.
I’m off to warn Peter’s Cafe Sport that ARC Europe’s in town; it’s going to be a busy week!
Rally Control listening out on 72.