ARC+ - sailing south 'until the butter melts'

ARC+ Start Mindelo photo by Kieren Higgs
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First there was the ARC, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, running now for over 25 years and consisting of a simple hop across the Pacific. But the good oil always said that to cross the Atlantic you should 'sail south until the butter melts' and then turn west. Now the World Cruising Club is heeding that advice and offering 'ARC+', adding a Cape Verde stopover, and the first, very successful ARC+ is just finished.

So the new route option came to an official end last night at the Royal by Rex Resorts in Rodney Bay Saint Lucia, the final formal occasion of what has been a tremendously successful first edition.

ARC+ - new route
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ARC+ participants left Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on 10 November, pioneering the new route for the ARC to Mindelo in the Cape Verdes before sailing across the Atlantic to Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia.

Just under 200 crew members on board 43 boats have enjoyed over a month of spectacular sailing, ocean adventures and rally camaraderie which have all contributed to make the first ever ARC+ a wonderful adventure and a rally that is sure to be remembered for many years to come by everyone involved.

A Stopover to Remember:
Following a week long programme of seminars, social activities and preparations, the ARC+ fleet left Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for the first leg to Mindelo, Cape Verdes with a brisk north Easterly wind. Great sailing conditions for a downwind start and a swift departure for the first part of their Atlantic crossing meant several boats completed the 850nm passage in just over five days. On arrival, crews received a warm welcome from the local people of Mindelo, with marina staff on hand to help them prepare for the trans-ocean passage ahead.

Visiting the Cape Verdes was clearly a highlight of the trip for many crews - several of whom had transferred from the second ARC start once the new route choice was announced. 'The Cape Verdes stopover for us was what it was all about,' reflected Katherine from La Rochelle (AUS). 'The picturesque surroundings, unspoilt landscapes and complete mix of cultures were like nothing I have experienced before.'

ARC+ the stop in Cape Verde
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During the stopover, ARC+ crews enjoyed a tour of neighbouring island Santo Antao, a bus tour discovering Sao Vicente including stunning views from the highest peak and a beach BBQ at Praia Norte. Having all the boats berthed side by side in Mindelo Marina made for a very sociable atmosphere and allowed crews to share their advice and experience about exploring the town and the island. As one skipper said, the rally format allowed crews to do more in four days than they would have achieved in more than a week.

Trade Wind Sailing on Leg 2:
Conditions for the re-start of Leg 2 again provided a downwind start as the fleet sailed West from Mindelo on 20 November. Many of the logs sent in from their first days at sea reflected on how much crews enjoyed their time in the Cape Verdes, but the attention soon turned to settling back in to life at sea and delight in some great trade wind sailing.

ARC+ Great camaraderie photo by Jeremy Wyatt
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ARC arrivals always receive a warm welcome to the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia and the ARC+ fleet have each been guided to their berth and presented with a welcome hamper of local produce. 'It's so nice to be here!' said Mogens and Dunja of Jen, the smallest boat in this year's fleet, who arrived in Rodney Bay on 8 December after 17 days at sea. 'And this rum punch is a nice breakfast to start the day!'

Prizes Winners Announced
All ARC+ boats arrived in Saint Lucia for last night's prize giving ceremony.

Awards are given for a wide range of achievements during the rally, not just for sailing performance. Amalie II and Ninfea both received a prize for being the closest arrivals to make landfall in Saint Lucia, arriving in Rodney Bay just 10 seconds apart. Joy of Shamrock Quay were also recognised for sending in the most amusing logs during their voyage, and yacht Solo won best photo for their image of Bella the dog enjoying life on the ocean.

A Successful First Edition:
ARC+ Event Manager Paul Tetlow summed up the atmosphere in Saint Lucia after what has been a hugely successful first edition of the new route choice, 'On arrival here in Rodney Bay, it's clear that the relationships between crews have become stronger than I have experienced on many previous ARC rallies. Waiting for the later boats to arrive you see several crews hosting other crews on board for drinks or a meal. There was always much interest about the ETAs of the next boat and a huge cacophony of cheers and horns as the later arrivals came into the marina. This was beyond what I had previously experience and I think this is an indication of how the well the crews have 'bonded' during the last five weeks.'

Colin and Gilly Nobbs from Resolute of Thames were one of the first boats to sign up for ARC+ when the rally was announced. Following yesterday's prize giving ceremony, Colin concluded, 'If nothing else, this trip will give us endless anecdotes and photographs with which to bore our grandchildren and help us to remember, in our dotage, that we were once capable of doing something adventurous, brave and out of the ordinary.'
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