by Des Ryan
In a rally that is now annual and has multiple starts and finishes depending on where you join, the World ARC Rally, run by successful rally organisers the World Cruising Club who run the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), 31 boats have set out on the first leg this week.
The World ARC fleet moored in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia before the start
The boats in the World ARC fleet departed Rodney Bay Marina in Saint Lucia on Saturday, at the start of an epic 26,000 mile adventure around the world in 15 months. World ARC is a circumnavigation rally for cruising boats, with a mix of organised stages and free cruising.
The preparations programme in Saint Lucia before the start has ensured crews were prepared and excited for their adventure. 'The crews have had a busy but enjoyable programme in Saint Lucia,' said World ARC Event Manager Paul Tetlow, 'They represent different nationalities, ages, motivations, and crew dynamics and so, in between the serious preparations such as safety checks, seminars and briefings, this week has been about getting to know new cruising friends, who'll be together for the many months ahead. The start from Rodney Bay was a spectacular end to that programme.'
On the start line, there was bright sunshine mixed with a few squally conditions, making for an exhilarating start. 18-25 knots of wind from the East-North-East provided perfect conditions for a fast broad reach down the North West coast of the island to Castries. As first leg of this circumnavigation event got underway, supporters, friends and family came out to cheer the fleet across the line from their tenders including many previous ARC and World ARC participants.
The first yacht across the start line was one of the smallest boats in the fleet, the British flagged Firefly owned by Paul Ellis. This 42ft Humphries Yachting designed boat was once owned by Yachting World Editor Andrew Bray who sailed the ARC in 2001. Firefly glided effortlessly down the coastline before heading West once passed the turning marker off Castries. Second across the line was the Discovery 55 Hebe (GBR) sailed by Andrew and Jane Lax followed by the X-612 CHIKA-lu (GER) owned by Hubert Hirschfeld. The remainder of the fleet followed in close succession creating an excellent display. Joining them out on the water, committee vessels carried local and international press, as well as local dignitaries and supporting family and friends creating a fitting atmosphere for their departure.
The boats have 1100 miles ahead of them before exploring the San Blas islands of Panama, where another 9 boats will join World ARC.
World ARC Route: Classic Tradewind Sailing:
The 40-strong fleet will then transit the Panama Canal before setting off across the Pacific for Australia stopping at some of the most idyllic Pacific islands en route, including Galapagos, Hiva Oa, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Niue, Vava'u, Fiji and Vanuatu.
Some boats will leave the rally in Australia, with more joining for the restart of the second half of the adventure from Darwin in September 2014. Avoiding the troubled areas of the Indian Ocean, the World ARC route takes in Bali, Cocos Keeling, Mauritius and Reunion before enjoying Christmas and New Year in South Africa.
From Cape Town the boats will visit St Helena, before enjoying carnival in Brazil and then heading back into the Caribbean via Grenada to finish in Saint Lucia in April 2015.
World ARC Fleet:
In total 43 boats and over 300 people will take part in World ARC 2014-15; some sailing the full 26,000 miles, others joining for a stage. The largest boat is 19.60m Amel 64 Tulasi (GBR), and the smallest is 10.66m Manta 40 Free & BrEasy (CAN).
The fleet includes six catamarans, three of which started in Saint Lucia. The oldest boat is the beautiful Swan 51 Alpheratz (USA) built in 1982 whilst the newest is the brand new Lagoon 620' NDS Darwin (ARG) which came out of the shipyard in June 2013. A varied fleet as ever but these differences will lose relevance over time as all crews get to know one another better and all live through this experience together.
World ARC is an international event, with boats sailing under the flags of 13 nations, and crews coming from more than 20 countries. Ten children aged under 18 are sailing in World ARC, and the crews are a mix of families, people taking a couple of years away from work, honeymooners and those who have sold businesses or taken early retirement.
Join the Fun!
It is still possible for boats to join the World ARC fleet in Australia in late August 2014 for the Indian Ocean crossing to South Africa, and onwards to the Caribbean. This route keeps well away from areas of pirate activity, and allows the participants to enjoy experiences as diverse as the remote atoll of Cocos Keeling and the great animals of South Africa.
For the first time, World ARC is now an annual event organised in consecutive years and so far 24 yachts are set to join the next edition of the rally. There's also the new route choice of a southern 'cold water route' taking on the adventure of cruising the Chilean canals and rounding the southern tip of South America.
For more information go to the World Cruising Club website.