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Exploring the Atlantic islands with ARC Europe

With starts from Nanny Cay, Tortola in the BVIs and Portsmouth, Virginia on the East Coast of America those sailing with ARC Europe may be heading to Europe for the first time to explore new cruising grounds, or on a homeward bound passage, returning after a winter of Caribbean cruising. Usually around 20 boats the rally have sailed with the ARC and ARC+ previously, but ARC Europe is much more than just a transocean delivery, as the crews from more than 20 nations will find out during the 6-week adventure in May 2017.

ARC Europe enables you to explore Bermuda and the remote Azores islands en route. As well as enjoying the natural and architectural delights of the islands, the time ashore allows you to prepare for the ocean crossings and perhaps to change crews; involving more family and friends in your Atlantic adventure.

Highlights in Bermuda include touring the historic St Georges Harbour (a UNESCO heritage site), and climbing the 200 stairs to Gibbs Hill Lighthouse to view the astonishingly beautiful landscape. Crews can also spend a day relaxing on some of the world's best beaches, or play golf on one of the six perfectly maintained golf courses. In 2015, the ARC Europe fleet were in good company during their visit, with Academy Award winning director Steven Spielberg’s luxury yacht Seven Seas moored just along from the rally.

The Azores Cruise covers the two middle weeks of the rally. Located 850NM off the Portuguese coast this archipelago is not somewhere easily sailed to and their green, unspoilt beauty is a welcome landfall. The ARC Europe fleet sails to four of the nine islands: Faial, Terceira, São Miguel and Santa Maria, with the opportunity to visit Pico by ferry. Each island is very different to the next and it is great to explore these islands rather than see it as just a re-fuelling stop part way across the Atlantic.

On arrival in Horta on the island of Faial, plenty of sailors are more than ready to be ashore and head straight for Peter Café Sport to celebrate! The tradition of ocean sailing is alive and well in the pretty town and each year sailors add to the colourful harbour wall as it is considered bad luck to leave without first having painted your boat mural. A tour of the island takes in sights such as the ’Ponta dos Caplinhos’, site of the most recent volcanic eruption in 1957, and the ‘Caldeira’ an enormous crater at the top of the island.

Looming on the horizon across from Horta’s marina, Pico ‘s summit at 2,351m offers incredible views for those adventurous enough to join a guide for the climb. Offering a more sedate excursion, the vinyards, cheese factories and whaling museums make the 30 minutes by ferry ride across to Pico more than worthwhile.

The next stop is Angra do Heroismo, Terceira, a day sail from Horta. Crews can enjoy a guided walking tour around the UNESCO World Heritage listed city, shopping at the many boutique stores and a chance to see one of the traditional street bull running fiestas in a nearby village.

An overnight sail takes you to Ponta Delgada, the bustling capital of the Azores. With a population of 50,000 it’s often the first city visited by participants in a while, all the trappings of which are a short walk from the marina.

A short day sail takes you to the small fishing village of Vila do Porto on Santa Maria, the final port of call on the Azores Cruise. Known locally as the ‘sunny island’ it is the southern most island and the only one with white sandy beaches. There is often a large fishing competition and other festivities during the ARC Europe fleet visit.

From Santa Maria, the majority of boats elect to sail to Marina de Lagos, perfectly situated and with ample facilities to prepare for a summer of Mediterranean cruising. A number of boats will sail straight to their home ports across Northern Europe, to the UK or into the Baltic Sea.

Entries are open for 2017 set to depart Nanny Cay on Tortola BVI and Portsmouth, Virginia on 5 May 2017. 

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