It's been a nail-biting day at ARC Rally Control and for family, friends and followers watching this year's race leader close in on Rodney Bay. The hotly tipped Rambler 88 steadily approached Saint Lucia and the all important questioned loomed - Would the ARC Course Record tumble for a fourth consecutive year? Adding to the excitement the team at YB Tracking added last year's victor and record holder Team Brunel to the live tracking page, giving viewers virtual reality race down to the final minutes.
At 15:14:15 Local Time (19:14:15 UTC), we had our answer and George David’s super-maxi Rambler 88 crossed ARC Finish Line in Rodney Bay to break the ARC Course Record.
The new course record now stands at 8d 6h 29m 15s beating the previous time by 1h 10 minutes and 15 seconds.
In 2015, Team Brunel sailed 3343.3nm based on the YB track at an average speed of 16.8 knots. Winds have been lighter than last year, however Rambler 88 took advantage of a small depression which formed mid-Atlantic soon after the start, enabling the boat to sail a very northerly route and then have a fast reach down to Saint Lucia. Overall, they have sailed approximately 270nm less than Team Brunel, which has been a crucial factor for this year’s lighter wind crossing.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the Course Record has been beaten; a year ago VO65 Team Brunel
claimed the title from Farr 100 Leopard by Finland
. Mike Slade’s super-maxi had taken over two days off the previous record set by Caro
, a Knierim 65 in 2013. A growing tradition of sleek, high-tech racing yachts joining the ARC seems to have developed, with the rally offering a different environment to sail these impressive machines from the pro-racing circuits. This was the first time sailing in the ARC for Rambler 88
, and before setting off from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Project Manager Mick Harvey commented, “It’s been a really good experience dealing with the organisers of the ARC. Everyone is very helpful and it’s quite an eye-opener for someone coming from the racing side, which can be quite combative. George David, Rambler 88
’s owner really wanted to join in with the ARC because he really enjoys transatlantic crossings and scheduling-wise, this worked well.”
Harvey played down the expectation that the record was a foregone conclusion when Rambler 88 set off from Gran Canaria, “I think every time we go out there with this boat there’s an opportunity to break the record, but the conditions at the start of this race didn’t look like look like they were going to be indicative of breaking the record at all. In Las Palmas, the fastest it looked was maybe 8 days, maybe, and it could easily have been as long as 9 or 10 days. Luckily they managed to hook into a couple of good systems initially and then they were off and running.”
Reaching the dock, Rambler’s owner George David echoed that the main challenge this year was the weather and the lack of wind has kept the crew guessing to the final hours, “Once we set off, we were confident we could make the crossing in 8 days, but the record was less certain, right up until we crossed the finish line really. Two squalls came across us in the morning bringing torrential downpours but no wind so that slowed us down even more. Given the challenges this year, we are thrilled to have broken the record!”
Arriving in Saint Lucia, Rambler 88 received a fitting welcome. Not only did they break the course record, but they are also the first yacht sailing under the ARC banner to reach Rodney Bay in 2016. Usually, boats from the ARC+ Cape Verde fleet have begun to make landfall, but the low pressure system haunting the rhumb line this year has slowed their progress. Sailing from Mindelo in the Cape Verde, they have a shorter distance of 2090nm for the second leg of their Atlantic crossing, and departed on Wednesday 16 November, four days ahead of the ARC boats sailing 2,7000nm directly from Gran Canaria. It’s a testament to Rambler’s navigation and tactics that they have lead the advent of ARC yachts into Saint Lucia and the Rally Control team together with the Saint Lucia Tourist Board and staff of Rodney Bay Marina are looking forward to welcoming the rest bumper fleet in the coming days and weeks.