Con­trary winds and slow pas­sage times couldn’t dampen the ap­peal of the ARC

SAIL - - March 2018 Vol 49, Issue 3 - By Peter Nielsen

The ARC may not have been very fast, but it was still a blast

In the cur­tain call of an At­lantic cross­ing that had proved frus­trat­ingly slow for many of the 186 par­tic­i­pants in the At­lantic Rally for Cruis­ers (ARC), the 37ft clas­sic wooden sloop Trim­ley Maid crossed the fin­ish line in Rod­ney Bay, St Lu­cia, on Christ­mas morn­ing, over a month after the start from Las Pal­mas in the Ca­nary Is­lands. The Hill­yard 9-Ton­ner had been de­layed more than a week by rig­ging prob­lems and her dou­ble­handed crew pushed the ven­er­a­ble ves­sel as hard as they dared. In the mean­time, she had been voted Most Beau­ti­ful Yacht at the ARC prize­giv­ing, a fine con­so­la­tion prize.

For most of the other boats in the ARC and ARC+ (Las Pal­mas-Cape Verdes-St Lu­cia) fleets, ar­riv­ing had been con­so­la­tion enough. A low­pres­sure sys­tem camped on the rhumb line dam­aged sev­eral boats early on and made nav­i­ga­tion some­thing of a lot­tery, and those who headed south found that the ex­pected north­east Trades took their sweet time in ar­riv­ing.

The early lack of wind af­fected the Bri­tish-flagged Malo 46 Shimna more than most; an en­gine bay fire in mid-At­lantic left them with­out any means of charg­ing the bat­ter­ies. “On the pos­i­tive side, we have the sat­is­fac­tion of know­ing we sailed the At­lantic with­out burn­ing any diesel, using elec­tronic nav­i­ga­tion equip­ment or an auto helm,” said the ship’s blog.

A glassy-calm At­lantic pro­vided the perfect ex­cuse for the crew of the Catana 62 Gust of Wind to break out the toys: “Six of the crew added their names to an ex­tremely short (pre­sum­ably) list of peo­ple who can say they’ve wake-boarded 1,300 nau­ti­cal miles from the near­est land­mass.”

But that’s ocean sail­ing for you. A half-dozen boats turned back early on with tech­ni­cal is­sues, in most cases to restart later, but the rest per­se­vered, though more boats than ever re­sorted to en­gine power, as much for the

psy­cho­log­i­cal value of mak­ing progress in a calm as the ac­tual mileage gained. Those who sailed the rhumb line had to con­tend with head­winds as the low pres­sure sys­tem built to the north, while those who went south had light winds for the first 700 miles. The first boat to fin­ish was the per­for­mance cruis­ing cata­ma­ran Guyader Gas­tro­mie, a TS42, whose French crew did ev­ery­thing just right to sail 2,900 miles in just 14 days.

For those who went south, the even­tual ar­rival of the Trades on what was dubbed “Tradewind Tues­day” more than two weeks after the start was cause for cel­e­bra­tion. After 10 largely wind­less days, the crew of the Oys­ter 47 Ju­bi­late Mare, tak­ing part in the ARC+ with a stopover in the Cape Verdes, ex­ulted in the fresh breeze: “We are now wing-on-wing on a direct course to our des­ti­na­tion. Av­er­age speed now in the high sixes and lots of sevens. After the ini­tial ex­cite­ment of our fly­ing start, for the next 10 days we were lucky to see threes!”

Among the Amer­i­can yachts tak­ing part in this 32nd edi­tion of the clas­sic rally was the Shan­non Pilot­house 38 North Star, out of West­erly,

Rhode Is­land, with a crew of three sep­tu­a­ge­nar­i­ans. Skip­per Ted Rice de­scribed a solid two weeks of sail­ing fast un­der main and poled-out genoa, with his Auto Helm trim-tab wind vane steer­ing “like a champ,” though plenty of en­gine hours were needed to push through the light air in the early stages. There were nig­gling prob­lems with the charg­ing sys­tem and fresh­wa­ter pump; they were pooped once in fol­low­ing seas and a knock­down to­ward the end pro­vided an un­wel­come fi­nal dash of drama, but other­wise it was an un­event­ful cross­ing.

The small­est—and ar­guably the old­est—boat in the fleet this year was the well-trav­eled 1966 Van­guard 32 Blue Mist, whose skip­per David Ni­chols hails from San Fran­cisco. He’s owned Blue Mist for 15 years, com­pet­ing in the Pa­cific Cup to Hawaii sev­eral times be­fore sail­ing her down the Pa­cific coast to the Panama Canal and across the Pond in the 2016 ARC Europe, from Portsmouth, Vir­ginia to the Azores.

He and his pickup crew en­joyed a slow but re­lax­ing pas­sage, once they’d got through the early dol­drums en route to Min­delo in the Cape Verdes. “We did a lot of mo­tor­ing be­cause of the lack of wind, and re­ally en­joyed our stopover in the Cape Verdes,” he said. “Once we found the Trades we had some good sail­ing. We saw lots of other boats en route, traded tacks with one of them ev­ery day for two weeks!”

There were no ma­jor gear fail­ures dur­ing the cross­ing, ex­cept for the riv­ets hold­ing the goose­neck fit­ting to the mast work­ing loose. Ni­chols soon cured that with an ap­pli­ca­tion of his Ban­dit tool (“ev­ery boat should carry one!”)—that, his Wichard Gyb’Easy boom brake and his AIS transpon­der were the most in­dis­pens­able items on board. A rope around the prop, soon sorted,

was the only other hic­cup.

As al­ways there was an air of rest­less­ness among the fleet as the reality of their ac­com­plish­ment set in and thoughts turned to the next ad­ven­ture, with some boats staying in or near St Lu­cia for the start of the world ARC, others head­ing down the is­lands to the Gre­nadines, others mak­ing their way north slowly to­wards the Vir­gin Is­lands, Ba­hamas and Keys and still others await­ing haulout in the full-ser­vice yard next door for es­sen­tial main­te­nance.

No one was in any par­tic­u­lar hurry; World Cruis­ing club had laid on plenty of events that made the most of St Lu­cia’s nat­u­ral and man­made at­trac­tions, from the old Royal Navy for­ti­fi­ca­tions on ad­ja­cent Pi­geon Is­land to is­land tours and vis­its to the Soufriere vol­cano. The re­laxed at­mos­phere around the Rod­ney Bay Ma­rina had its own ap­peal too. It was not sur­pris­ing to see so many boats sport­ing sev­eral ARC bat­tle­flags. It ap­pears that for some sailors, one ARC is just not enough.

*For full re­sults from the 2017 ARC, go to world­cruis­

The Du­four 45 Scar­let Is­land Girl charges to­ward the ARC fin­ish line in St Lu­cia’s Rod­ney Bay

Rhode Is­lan­der Ted Rice was wind­ing up an At­lantic cir­cuit on his Shan­non Pilot­house 38 The small­est boat in the ARC was David Ni­chols’s Pear­son Van­guard 32, Blue Mist

En­signs of many na­tions fly proudly at Rod­ney Bay Ma­rina

ARC yachts moor up in Rod­ney Bay Ma­rina; St. Lu­cian street food is de­li­cious; hap­pi­ness at the prize­giv­ing

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