The 28th ARC came to a rousing conclusion on Saturday night (21st December) with the prize giving ceremony at the Gaiety Nightclub in Gros Islet, Saint Lucia. Despite the fickle weather, crews and their families enjoyed an evening of celebration as they compared stories about their adventures at sea and congratulated one another as the prizes were presented. The experience of crossing an ocean is one that few ARC participants will ever forget, and the focus of the night's festivities was on the sharing in the spirit of the ARC adventure in 2013.
Before the ceremony starts, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia - ARC 2013
For the first time in its history, the ARC had two starts, with a vanguard heading out from Las Palmas two weeks before the main fleet. ARC+, as the new route is known, lead the way across the Atlantic, with 43 yachts taking the starting line and stopping off in the Cape Verdes before completing the final 2,000-mile Atlantic crossing. ARC+, despite leaving earlier in the season when the trades are typically less established, enjoyed arguably an easier, or at least more consistent, passage across the Atlantic and the route option proved a big extremely popular with this year's pioneers.
Unlike in 2012, when the ARC fleet got off to a fast and furious start, ARC 2013 saw calmer conditions and even headwinds during the fleet's first days at sea. The unpredictable conditions caused several yachts to divert to the Cape Verdes to refuel. The strange weather pattern was caused by an unseasonal low-pressure system that formed just north of the rhumb line, in some cases even giving the lead boats headwinds. But by the middle of the passage, the trades had filled-in furiously. Sustained strong winds and continuous squalls for the past ten days tested boats, crews and gear, and those already in port dodged rain showers on the docks to stay dry.
With 213 boats having crossed the finish line in Saint Lucia (and all bar one in by 22nd December), the prize giving ceremony saw plenty of trophies awarded. What sets the ARC apart from other sailing events is the combination of serious competition and those playful special prizes saved for the end of Part One.
For the first time ever, the ARC awarded prizes for 10th place and fifth place in each class, a way to diffuse the competitive part of the ARC and award what essentially are fun, random prizes.
Another playful prize that happened completely by accident, was the prize awarded to the yacht Magic (GER), which was the 130th yacht to cross the finish line. Their local finishing time was December 15, at 15 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds, and they were recognized for the 'feat' on stage.
Other special prizes ranged from the Double-handed Award, Senior Cup and Family Boat awards, to Manufacturer Awards from Oyster and Lagoon, to website awards for Best Logs, awards for the Fishing Competition and recognition (and a bottle of Chairman's Reserve Rum) for the Radio Net Controllers and Finish Line volunteers. Free Spirit (CYM) was recognized as 2013's 'Most Beautiful Yacht,' as voted by their peers in the ARC fleet.
Part 2 began with the Saint Lucian National Anthem played live on a single steel pan on stage, which finished with a rousing applause from the delighted audience. Opening remarks from Simon Bryant, new General Manager of Rodney Bay Marina and the Honourable Lorne Theophilius, Minister for Tourism, Heritage and Creative Industries followed. They, among other dignitaries, were then invited on stage to present the prizes for the winners of each class.
'Amazingly, only six of the cruising yachts managed to cross this year without using their engine at all,' said Andrew Bishop, Managing Director of the World Cruising Club. A much smaller number than usual, this was a telling sign of the weather at the beginning of the ARC this year.
Every year the Arch Marez Trophy is awarded to the yacht that best displays the partying spirit that Rodney Bay Marina founder Arch Marez embodied. This year the Norwegian yacht Liberté received the award, appropriately enough dressed in Christmas regalia and smiling all the while.
The Spirit of the ARC award was, as usual, saved for last. Each year it is awarded to the yacht that best displays the general spirit of goodwill and enthusiasm that the rally creates amongst the fleet.
'We'd like to honour tonight, someone who year after year has supported the ARC with their enthusiasm,' said Andrew Bishop. 'This year he selflessly racked up a hefty satphone bill, passing weather information on to the fleet, and was on the docks greeting boats long after his own boat arrived.'
A stunned and humbled Ross Applebey of Scarlet Oyster was called on stage to accept the award.
'I don't know what to say,' Ross offered. 'I'm completely humbled by this experience. Thank you so much.' It was all Ross could do to keep from breaking down as he shook Andrew's hand and exited the stage to large applause.
The 'Spirit' award closed the ceremonies for the evening, at which time Andrew Bishop announced the bar was open!
Participants then quickly filed outside into the garden area behind Gaiety for more rum punch. The rain held off for the remainder of the evening, and though the grass was slick and sometimes muddy, it didn't affect the revelry. Crews celebrated their achievements to the sounds of the steel pan players, and ARC 2013 came to an end.