Differing concerns have been expressed here, since hosting of the annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC+) was shifted from Saint Lucia to Grenada.
World Cruising Club (WCC), organisers of the ARC+ made the disclosure, last week, amidst new developments projected for the popular long distance oceanic adventure.
But while some yachting critics view this latest development as a loss to Saint Lucia; management of the IGY Rodney Bay Marina that has anchored the race over the past years argue that the marina will benefit from other yachting escapades.
The ARC+ has been making the crossing from Las Palmas, Grand Canaria to Saint Lucia from 2013 to accommodate the final leg of the race ending here, in November.
Maritime consultant Cuthbert Didier reiterates that it is an opportune time for the sub-region to embark on a collaborative front to better manage the yachting sector.
“We keep treating the yachting product as a ‘secondary child’ in the tourism industry. This administration’s focus has been on a particular brand of hotel tourism …and the energy and concern that any country that host the ARC should be investing in the yachting product is not there,” said Didier, as he spoke to reporters recently.
In contrast, he added, Grenada has invested heavily in its infrastructure, yachting policy, guidelines and facilitation “and also it has a very active marine trades association that can lobby the government.”
Didier asserted: “St Lucia needs a champion in yachting in the cabinet …but at the same time it is an opportunity for the southern Caribbean, specifically the OECS islands collectively to start a discussion with World Cruising Club. And see whether we can get a huge ARC, close to 1,000 or 1, 200 yachts that can come down to the southern region and split up.”
He said this would allow all the islands with the relevant infrastructure, including Martinique to be able to host about 300 to 400 boats.
“The time for competition is done and we need to complement … the yachting product has evolved to the point where every island can sustain and accommodate 400 yachts,” said Didier.
Noting it is rather unfortunate that St Lucia lost out on this venture, Didier feels, this uniformity is what’s needed to function efficiently since the OECS as a destination is replete with its requisite secretariat and other amenities.
Meanwhile, IGY Rodney Bay Marina general manager Sean Devaux explained that hosting the ARC+ had its fair share of challenges, which necessitated the WCC having to shift the event to Grenada.
“Unfortunately, the ARC+ grew to levels where it needed its own home…and even last year , the ARC+ was divided into two (sections), with some boats arriving in St Vincent and some arriving in St Lucia,” said Devaux
He added that due to the “sheer challenges of managing that event in two separate locations, it was decided by WCC that they would move it to Grenada, so as to give it (ARC+) its own home , its own identity.”
While Devaux admits it is a ‘sad day’ to miss out on such opportunities, however, he said, on a positive note it allows St Lucia to develop the major annual ARC event.
He explained that the ARC was limited in capacity to accommodate about 180 to 190 vessels, due to the presence of the ARC+.
“Now that we don’t have the ARC+ and it’s in Grenada, we can now allow the ARC to grow to about 200 to 220 vessels in December,” said Devaux. “So we can focus on that event, and give it the best that we have in terms of resources and everything else.”
The IGY general manager added, “Now that the ARC+ has gone to Grenada and in discussion with WCC they have put on a new event, which is ARC January.”
He explained that this new event will follow the same itinerary as the original ARC race from Las Palmas to St Lucia “but it gives those who wanted to stay home for Christmas and New Year but still wanted to cross the Atlantic …it gives them (cruisers) an opportunity to join the WCC and St Lucia and IGY to come across such a prestigious event.”
Despite this setback and with prospects looming for 2021/2022, Devaux feels that “overall it’s a great achievement for St Lucia, because we now have ARC January and from the region generally, we now have a third event bringing boats over.”
He said that while prior to this the local destination accommodated about 240 boats, they would now be able to anchor about “300 up within the region.”
Devaux remains optimistic that the IGY will continue working in collaboration with the WCC and Events Company of St Lucia (ESL) in an effort to improve the overall yachting product.