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Sunshine and Seamanship in Saint Lucia

Basking in the Caribbean sunshine on the docks of Rodney Bay Marina, the ARC yellow shirts and fellow participants continue to welcome new arrivals by the hour. Bouncing onto the dock after 24 days at sea, the smiles of the crews are infectious as they are greeted with an ice cold rum punch and met by friends and family. The crew of Norwegian X-yacht Solskinn couldn’t hide their joy as the lines were made fast to the dock, “I can’t believe we’ve made it!” cried Espen, “It’s great to be in Saint Lucia! What a welcome – we feel like rockstars!”

Once the rush of the arrival fades, crews head to the cafes and bars around the marina which are a daily hub of international conversations. In matching crew shirts, it’s time for some boats to debrief and reflect on the crossing; others scatter to speak to loved ones back home after once again being connected to the outside world on their tablets and mobile phones.

It’s not just the restaurants that have seen the influx of ARC participants; the marine businesses in Rodney Bay have been on hand to assist with helping with repairs sustained during the 2700nm sail from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Overall, ARC boats have suffered more breakages during the crossing than might have been anticipated on what was for many a light wind year for the rally. Six boats had broken or damaged gooseneck fitting requiring running repairs at sea; usually with webbing straps or tensioning straps. Three boats had broken boom vangs that needed to be jury rigged at sea with ropes and blocks and one broken boom due to incorrect preventer location. One boat lost their rig and two others limped in with broken shrouds. Such incidents do bring to light the remarkable seamanship skills of the ARC crews finding workable solutions to get them to the Caribbean safely and the offers of help and advice from fellow yachts at sea. The other significant area of failure was in sails and poles with ripped spinnakers/gennekers and pole or mast track fittings. Whilst the winds for much of the crossing the squalls encountered this year were significantly stronger than last year. Chafe and flogging in light airs is also a probable cause of many failures.

Meanwhile, those who have been in Rodney Bay for several days and found their ‘land legs’ again have been exploring the island beyond the marina. Each day, a zip-line adventure to Saint Lucia’s rainforest is proving a popular activity, and there was a good turn out of crews to plant trees in the ARC forest on Saturday.

Looking beyond their time in Saint Lucia, Caribbean cruising guru Chris Doyle has also been giving talks for participants to help them plan their season’s sailing. Chris’s cruising guides have almost biblical status in the Caribbean for sailors and his enthusiasm for cruising the islands has inspired those attending his talks over the past two days.

In the evenings, there’s also been plenty of entertainment for ARC crews to enjoy. On Monday, Caribbean Cinemas hosted the premier of Vanishing Sail, an award winning documentary about the last boat builders of the West Indies as a fundraiser for the local Jus' Sail Youth Training Programme. Showcasing traditional music and culture of the Caribbean at their beach front club house last night the St. Lucia Yacht Club laid on an 'Exempto Calypso' night for both ARC crews and local sailors.

There’s plenty more fun in store too before the ARC Prize Giving on Saturday. Tonight, Wednesday, is the IGY Rodney Bay General Manager's Cocktail in the marina, and local nights promise a true taste of Caribbean parties at Anse La Raye and Gros Islet on Thursday and Friday night. So far life in Saint Lucia is proving that it was well worth crossing an ocean for!

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