First across the line, Guyader Gastronomie
The 186 yachts taking part in this year’s Atlantic Rally for Cruisers left from the port of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria on November 18. They left on a stunning day – a ridge of high pressure provided plenty of warm sun and delivered an east north easterly breeze of 8-12 knots winds for the start.
However, an intense low-pressure system forming towards the west of the Canary Islands, before moving east, created an unusual challenge and interesting routing options. As a result, only 20 hours after the start the fleet’s north-south spread extended more than 120 miles, with courses varying between 187 degrees and 320 degrees.
Guyader Gastronomie crew
Some participants started out heading directly south, clearly aiming to get away from the low and reach the steady tradewind belt as early as possible, at the expense of extra distance. Some in the racing division set out on a west-north-westerly track, hoping to get into strong favourable winds to the north of the centre of the low to give them a fast sling-shot in the early stages of the race. However, there was little certainty in exactly where the centre of the depression would track and for those that didn’t get above it they faced strong headwinds and a lot of rain.
This year there was an unusually wide range of entries from just 30ft up to almost 100ft, plus 27 boats in a racing division. Among them were participants that have come full circle, following in their parents’, or grandparents’ footsteps by sailing in the rally with their own families, in some cases on board the same boats.
ARC at sail
Most boats were expected to take 18-21 days to complete the 2,700-mile voyage. Whatever time they eventually made landfall at St Lucia’s Rodney Bay Marina, every boat was met at the dock by Saint Lucia Tourist Authority and World Cruising Club staff bearing rum punch to welcome them ashore.
Rodney Bay Marina, Saint Lucia welcomed the first arrival of the 2017 ARC fleet on Sunday December 3 when Guyader Gastronomie crossed the finishing line after fourteen days at sea. Close on her heels just six hours behind was the largest multihull in the fleet, Saudade who had battled all the way with the eventual winner. The changing weather patterns, a mixture of fierce headwinds and light airs made for some interesting tactical calls as the two battled for top honours.
ARC route map
The first monohull, Enigma VIII arrived around lunchtime on Monday December 4 together with a gaggle of quick catamarans. The flow of arrivals increased over the ensuing days until on December 10 the crews of over 100 yachts were in town to enjoy the festivities. The party vibe is an important element of the rally and there were plenty of organised social activities in the two weeks leading up to the start, in addition to a series of organised seminars and safety briefings. Similarly, at the finish there was a full schedule of events in Rodney Bay for all crews and friends and families and an abundance of rum punch.