Marking an end to a month's port-hopping in company, World Cruising Club's annual ARC Portugal sailing rally concluded at Marina de Lagos on Wednesday 27th June with a celebratory dinner. Over one hundred crew have sailed with the multi-leg rally which departed from Mayflower Marina in Plymouth on 3rd June crossing the Bay of Biscay, and since explored seven idyllic ports on the Portuguese coast to reach Lagos on the Algarve. Bringing together many different boats from 34-54ft (9.90m - 16m), and crews with a diverse range of experience, ARC Portugal 2018 has united the fleet by sailing over 900nm together and sharing many special memories both ashore and afloat to go with them on their next sailing adventures.
The departure from British waters at the beginning of June is timed to take advantage of favourable winds and weather patterns to guide the yachts to the Algarve. In 2018, the fleet have enjoyed largely text-book conditions for a relaxed passage across the Bay of Biscay and good sailing in the Portuguese trades. For their final passage from Sines to Lagos, the fleet experienced possibly their best day's sailing which provided a real treat for Yachting Monthly's Sailing Editor Will Bruton who joined Elan 340 Boomerang for their rounding of Cape St Vincent. Arriving at Marina de Lagos, a little windswept, but with beaming smiles, crews were delighted to conclude the rally with a great passage. "We have learnt an awful lot about our boat and improved our sailing knowledge throughout the rally," said first-time rallier Graham Giles on board Southerly 38, Sheer Indulgence. "We would not have sailed this route on our own, and found our fellow participants to be a comfort and support. We have met some wonderful people, the camaraderie being like a community, and everyone helping each other out."
The rally has been about more than just sailing though, and time ashore in each port of call has made the trip a real holiday. This year's route has taken them from Bayona onto Povoa de Varzim, Porto, Figuera da Foz, Nazare, Oeiras and Sines. Organised guided tours of historical towns and cultural visits have been combined with free days to relax on the beach, get lost in the boutique high streets and surf the world famous breaks. Evenings have been filled with sumptuous seafood dinners and impromptu pontoon parties. "It's my third time sailing with ARC Portugal and it just keeps getting better." admits Simon Ridley, who sailed with his latest boat, a Swan 46 called Gertha 5. "It's a fantastic coast line and good to have the time to explore. The support and service from the Rally Team makes it great value too."
ARC Portugal 2018 has served as a launching point for new lives afloat for a number of the crews, and all being 'in the same boat' has been a real benefit for first time liveaboards. Several crews joined World Cruising Club's preparation forums and seminars in the lead up to the departure day, with the guidance from seasoned sailors providing confidence for those new to using their boat in blue waters abroad. Seven of this year's rally boats will now be based at Marina de Lagos for the year taking advantage of the temperate climate, good flight connections and multiple sailing opportunities. Others will proceed into the Mediterranean for a summer itinerary of exploring. This autumn, three will reunite in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to join ARC+ to the Caribbean, and are looking forward to continuing cruising in company. Crossing an ocean will be their next major milestone, and, as with all of this year's ralliers, sailing with ARC Portugal has been an excellent way to develop their sea-legs and test the boats.
Looking ahead, 2019 will be a special year for the rally and Marina de Lagos as they celebrate 25 years of operation. "ARC Portugal was started to promote the opening of Marina de Lagos in 1994 and is well established as an event continually introducing yachts to sailing in Portugal." explains Marina de Lagos' manager, Ingrid Fortunato. "The arrival of the rally marks the start of the busy summer season during which we typically welcome in the region of 1200 visiting transit yachts, including many from the ARC on their way to the Canary Islands. As our first and longest running sponsored event ARC Portugal is very special to all of us at the marina, and marking 25 years in 2019 will be an exciting milestone for us. "
Entries for the 2019 edition of ARC Portugal will open in September 2018, and World Cruising Club will be hosting a special seminar on "Cruising in Portugal" to be held alongside the Southampton Boat Show on Saturday 22nd September. Practical weather, training and safety advice will be discussed, particularly for those who may be planning to cross the Bay of Biscay for the first time. Special focus will be given to the ports visited as part of ARC Portugal and suggestions for about further local cruising and the practicalities to consider for basing your yacht in Portugal after the rally. The session is free to attend with advanced registration; click here to sign up.