Year after year, it is the welcome that boats sailing with the ARC receive that sets sailing with the rally apart from other ocean adventures. The finish line is manned 24hrs a day by volunteers, the majority of which have taken part in the ARC in previous years and can remember how special their own arrival in Rodney Bay was after their time at sea. Once sails are stowed, and fenders are found, each boat contacts ARC Berthing for directions to their slip in the marina. Met by a smiling ARC Yellow Shirt to take their lines, it’s time to celebrate making landfall in the Caribbean with a rum punch and basket of island produce presented by a representative from the Saint Lucia Tourist Board.
At the weekend, ARC+ Rally Control arrived in Saint Lucia, ready and waiting to welcome arrivals in to Rodney Bay - however it looks like the first boat they’ll be greeting in the marina won’t be an ARC+ boat at all! George David’s super-maxi Rambler 88 is set to come in ahead of the entire ARC+ fleet – despite starting 3 days later and sailing over 500nm more from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on the ARC route, rather than the shorter distance from Mindelo, Cape Verde. The big question on everyone’s mind today will be whether Rambler 88 can break the ARC Course Record for a fourth successive year; it’s likely there will only be minutes in it and to beat the record set by VO65 Team Brunel in ARC 2015 of 8d 7h 39m 30s, Rambler 88 must cross the line by 16:24:30 local time (20:24:30 UTC).
Light winds along the rhumb line are keeping the ARC+ boats at sea a little while longer. It's good practice for the laid back culture - “We are doing it the Caribbean way to the Caribbean – slow and easy!” says Michael Von Pilar on board Wethomi.
Meanwhile the weekend saw the ARC fleet marking one week at sea, many celebrating with a special sundowner, or dip in the Atlantic. “The first week has been characterised by cloudy skies, rain on and off, and variable winds. Most days the weather has resembled a summer day in the English Channel.” Wrote Peter Bamford in his Sunday update from on board Xplorer of Hamble. “We’ve all got soaked at some point and had resort to foul weather gear. We’ve had some great sailing in 15-25 knots of wind and several patches of very light wind. Yesterday was very frustrating with the wind even going round to the West so we had to go close-hauled and even tack a few times. Yesterday evening it all changed. Finally a patch of blue appeared, the clouds parted and we had a magnificent night sky with stars as I’ve never seen them before. Today was been clear, warm and sunny, and it feels like the tropics at last.”
As is relatively common in a light wind year, a number of ARC Boats have decided to stop in Cape Verde to take on fuel as their passage south in search of the tradewinds takes them past the archipelago. After hosting the ARC+ fleet, Marina Mindelo have warmly welcomed these latest visitors, even if only dropping in briefly to refuel.
Keep up to date on the progress of both fleets on the Fleet Tracker and YB Races app.