ON Saturday 21st December hundreds of sailors from the 2019 edition of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) came together for a night of celebration to mark the end of the world’s most popular sailing rally for another year. ARC crews, friends and families joined rally supporters at the Beausejour Indoor Facility in Saint Lucia just before sunset to enjoy an evening of festivity, not only to recognise the achievements of those who placed well in their respective classes but everyone who shared in the spirit of the ARC adventure this year.
Twenty-nineteen is the 30th year of the ARC arriving in Saint Lucia. With the stage adorned with decorations to mark the anniversary and with the rum punch flowing and a steel pan band providing the perfect soundtrack, the evening was a classic Caribbean party to round off the adventure that began in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in November. As the home of the ARC in Saint Lucia, IGY Rodney Bay Marina has welcomed 188 yachts with the final arrival, XC38 Milena Bonatti, making landfall just hours before the prize giving ceremony.
Since their departure from Gran Canaria on 24th November, ARC crews have formed a unique ocean crossing community representing 53 different nations and sailors of all ages. The diversity of the ARC is unlike any other sailing event, with yachts large and small carrying experienced crews and first time Atlantic crossers who participate to be part of this special sail to the Caribbean.
The route this year saw sailors on a classic ‘south until the butter melts’ passage before turning west and point towards Saint Lucia’s famous Pitons. Light winds for their first days at sea provided a gentle introduction into the 2,700 nautical miles ocean crossing for the cruisers, but once found, the ENE trade winds remained steady for great downwind sailing. With the exception of a few squalls on their final approach, it has been a year of plain sailing on the classic route and on average boats arrived one or two days earlier than usual, eager to stretch their land-legs and explore Saint Lucia.
At the prize giving ceremony, as is customary for the rally spirit of the ARC, prizes were awarded to yachts finishing 7th and 10th in their Class, as well as the top three performers. In total crews of over 90 yachts were called on stage to be recognised for their rally achievements. Each received great applause from their fellow crews and some of the biggest cheers of the night came for crews who were recognised for their achievements and contributions to the overall rally atmosphere with special prizes awarded including the Double-handed Award, Senior Cup and Family Boat awards, along with accolades for Best Logs, the Fishing Competition and recognition for the Radio Net Controllers and Finish Line volunteers. Forty four children sailed with the rally this year and many have already vowed to return to the ARC to skipper their own boat one day!
Whilst not a record-breaking year, it has been a tactical one for yachts in the IRC Racing Division. Volvo 65 Austrian Ocean Racing Project claimed Line Honours, despite sailing the most miles of any ARC yacht to reach Saint Lucia. Both Class Winners for 2019 were defending champions; French sailing legend JP Dick retained the title for topping IRC Class A with his yacht The Kid, and perennial IRC Racing Class B Winner Scarlet Oyster were delighted that their performance was enough to top the Racing Division overall for a second consecutive year.
For the Multihulls, an ever growing division in the ARC, it was the first yacht to arrive in Rodney Bay who topped the overall standings. French flagged Marsaudon TS5 Hallucine skippered by ocean sailor Régis Guillemot, took 11 days and 16 hours to arrive in Saint Lucia; a sterling performance to see them come first in Class A and overall. Decked out in coordinated crew shirts, the crew of Multihull Class B winner Seabra, rallied up the crowd for three cheers as they collected their silverware.
Taking home the biggest prize in the Cruising Division, the Jimmy Cornell Trophy for placing first overall in the Cruising Division, was Sea Change, a Norwegian flagged Farr 50, and silverware was awarded to the seven class winners; Kathryn del Fuego (Class G), Finnor S (Class F), Hello World (Class E), Sea Change (Class D), Tetina (Class C), Vahine (Class B) and Fatjax (Class A).
The ARC’s presence in Saint Lucia has been firmly felt around the Caribbean island and the Prizegiving Ceremony also gave the opportunity to thank local supporters who have provided an exceptional welcome to participants. IGY Rodney Bay Marina General Manager Sean Deveaux and Tessa Joseph for Events Company Saint Lucia both said a few words to thank their teams’ for all their hard work over the past few weeks, and also share their praise of the participants themselves who of course make the rally possible.
Another special feature of the 2019 edition has been the participation of the ARC Youth Team for the first time in the rally. Aged 18-30, young people from Saint Lucia, Gran Canaria and the UK were given an amazing opportunity to take part. They received an unbelievable welcome and a fitting round of applause from their fellow rally participants as they were called on stage.
The Spirit of the ARC award was, as usual, saved for last. This year it was awarded to Manfred Kerstan, who participated in his 25th ARC in 2019. There was a huge standing ovation as the 83 year old arrived on stage to collect the momentous prize from World Cruising Club’s Managing Director Andrew Bishop. It was an emotional moment recognising the support the ARC gives to participants, but also how it is the sailors themselves who contribute so much to the rally’s enduring success.
After thanking the dedication of the helpers from the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, Events Company Saint Lucia, and the staff at IGY Rodney Bay Marina, plus all the ARC sponsors, Andrew Bishop and his team were offered a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd. Providing a fitting end to a hugely successful rally, the steel pan band rounded off the evening playing classics and Christmas carols as crews said their farewells to ARC 2019.