The ARC: Yachting’s `bucket list event’
LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA _ The 2012 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers left Nov. 25, a fresh southwesterly win giving the event a big push toward the turquoise waters of Saint Lucia. Since the inaugural ARC in 1986, thousands of boats have done the world’s largest trans-ocean sailing event. First to arrive in the 2012 edition was the Class 40 Vaquita. She covered the 3,300 NM from Gran Canaria in just over 12 days _ a magnificent performance for a 40 footer _ clocking speeds of up to 25 knots during the crossing.
In all, 226 boats and 1,269 people took part in the 27th Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. Crews came from 32 nations. Rachel Hibberd, spokeswoman of the Cowes-based World Cruising Club, the event’s organizer, says an expansion of marina space means the ARC can now accommodate 270 entrants. But be quick. In March, 2012, 9 months before the start of the 2012 rally, the event’s website advised in red letters: ARC 2012 – FULL! NOT ACCEPTING ANY MORE ENTRIES.
Registration for the ARC-2013 opened Sept. 14, 2012, weeks before the start of the 2012 edition. Each year, yachts from all over the world gather _ in something of a party atmosphere almost_ in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The rally heads for Rodney Bay in Saint Lucia, in the Lesser Antilles. It’s a 2,700-nm passage in which very doable NE trade winds of up to 20 knots nudge the yachts forward across the cobalt-blue Atlantic.
The ARC blends racers and cruisers in several categories. It mixes old and young, monohulls (8.23 to 25.91 m / 27 – 85ft) and catamarans (8.23 to 18.29 m. / 27 to 60 ft). There are pre-start parties, safety checks and weather briefings. At sea, a radio net and satellites track participants. Saint Lucia offers post-event partying under swaying palm trees.
The ARC is one of several yachting events organized by the World Cruising Club. ARC crews range from two to 12. ‘We see crews averaging about five,’ says Hibberd. “Most participants sign up for the security and peace of mind of an organized trans-Atlantic event. The ARC has become a bucket list event for many who seek the camaraderie of a group of like-minded people. It’s as much fun for experienced sailors as those new to ocean sailing.”
The ARC cuts no corners on safety. No boat leaves without a safety inspection. Boats must have lifejackets, radar reflectors, a lifeboat, an EPIRB and a VHF radio. Captaind are expected to have had training in seamanship, safety, first aid and communications.
The broad, generous trade winds will push your boat, in the safety of a convoy and sorted in different categories, in 2 to 3 weeks across the ocean. The record is held by the maxi-yacht Capricorno. In 2006 it rushed to the Caribbean in 11 days. A late November departure means ARC participants arrive in the Caribbean as the hurricane season there has just ended.
Then what? Many stay in the Caribbean. Others sail or fly back. Or ship their yachts home. Or take the eastbound ARC leaving the Caribbean or the US eastern seaboard each spring. “The eastbound voyage is different altogether,” cautions Hibberd. “Unlike the westbound trip, there are no kind trade winds, so going back to Europe is not always a comfortable broad reach.”
Yachting Wold’s 10 common sense tips for Atlantic Ocean crossers:
-- 1. There’s no secret to sailing 3,000 miles downwind. The toughest part of an Atlantic crossing is getting across Biscay.
– 2. Keep it simple: Don’t fiddle with twin headsails. A main and poled-out genoa are just fine.
– 3. Rethink energy: Whatever you think you’ll use, add more power. Nav lights, radar, radio, autopilot, water maker, fridge, freezer, computer, fans – it adds up.
– 4. Get extra training: Seamanship is also about fixing things, managing problems. Engine maintenance, sea survival, first aid and servicing courses are invaluable.
– 5. Enjoy your time out: Enjoy cruising to the Canaries. Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and Madeira could be some of the best places you visit.
– 6. Take ample crew: Ocean sailing can be tiring. Consider being two-handed if the autopilot goes kaput.
– 7. Take the long way: The most reliable passage plan is the simplest: Go 20°N, 30°W before turning right so you’ll get to the trade winds earlier and it gets warmer faster.
– 8. It takes around three days for a crew to get their sea legs and into a routine.
– 9. Count on key equipment to fail. If you normally rely on, say, an autopilot or water maker, have a contingency.
- 10. Don’t let crew book flights right after your ETA. Nothing sours the mood more than a crew member eager to be on land.