There are at least two categories of sailing competitions: the ones that get you out of bed on Saturday and Sunday and back to your family in a few hours; and the Races, the ones you dream about, study, prepare for and try to take part in for a lifetime (as a sailor). The ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) definitely falls into the latter category and, as you read this three-part interview, you will find that you have one more chance to take part.
My guests join me on time on Zoom. They are Stefano Palumbo (World ARC Event Manager) and Jeremy Wyatt (Director of the World Cruising Club) who will tell us in detail what it means to take part in an Atlantic crossing, how to prepare and how to continue (for the lucky ones) the adventure.
Jeremy, what’s ARC?
The ARC was born in 1985 when Jimmy Cornell, a reporter from Yachting World, went to Las Palmas to watch the boats leave for the Caribbean and had an intuition to create an event that would allow participants to cross the Atlantic together, safely and having fun. He didn’t waste any time and the following year, 1986, the first edition of the “ARC” was launched with 200 boats.
Why does the race take place in November?
Let’s dispel the false myth that the best time to leave for the Caribbean is in November, as the trade winds (which blow from east to west) are often not well established. The reason for November is quite simple, since it allows owners to arrive safely at the end of the route for the Christmas holidays.
The ARC is always referred to as a rally, what does that mean?
Let’s take stock of what a Cruising Rally is, the idea of the ARC is to cross the Atlantic in company. The organisation makes sure that all participants have high standards of safety on board and that once they have set off, the boats can rely on each other when sailing across the sea.
What route does the ARC take?
The event starts in Las Palmas in the Gran Canaria, the first four editions came in Barbados. Then St Lucia, due to the fact that there is an equipped marina there. For the same reason the crossing starts from Las Palmas, the city and port have been improved over the years to become a perfect place for owners. The race has two main legs, during the first editions we noticed that some boats due to the very light trade wind would stop in Cape Verde because they couldn’t get up high enough to stay on course, so over the last few years we have created a new route with an intermediate leg, Cape Verde.
What kind of crews take part in the rally?
There are a wide variety of boats at the start, and therefore of crews. The rally is divided into two classes. IRC, a real race with ex-vorts and very high performance boats, and cruising, for the more cruising boats. The direct route is preferred by racing boats, because it is a navigator’s route, you can climb more, try to take full advantage of the sails (especially Code 0, Reacher and Gennaker) and the degrees in the wind. The one-stop route is good for smaller crews and families, because even though it is longer in terms of total time, it allows you to spend less time at sea.
What’s new this year?
The news is great, we have added a date for a further departure, there will be an “ARC2” in January 2022. We are very happy with this initiative, which we hope can be repeated for the next few years, because it will give owners and crews the chance to sail the Atlantic with stable trade winds with a constant 25-knot average downwind, so it will be a rally for real sailors. We came up with the idea of a second start for two reasons, firstly because the event was not held last year due to the covid and secondly to give owners who have bought new boats (or refitted) the opportunity to prepare for the event (making up for delays in the yard and equipment). Lastly, entries are still open!
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