World ARC: Rally fleets set sail from Saint Lucia and Cape Town

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ARC World Rally 2017
Twenty-six boats sailing as part of World ARC 2017-18 departed Rodney Bay Marina in Saint Lucia on Saturday 7 January for the start of an epic 26,000 mile adventure around the world. For many crews and owners, Saturday's start has been the goal of many years of thinking, hoping, planning and preparations and the anticipation around the marina was palpable for the eager crews who have come together. 

"We are very happy - all the work is done and we can't wait to get started and head towards Colombia!" said Nejat and Melieke from Hallberg Rassy 43 North. "We have had such a nice time here thanks to the amazing World ARC team and really enjoyed meeting the other boats."
During their time in Saint Lucia, the fleet have been hosted at IGY Rodney Bay Marina providing excellent facilities for the crews to prepare for their departure supported by numerous marine businesses and suppliers. Many have also spent the festive season in Saint Lucia before the World ARC programme began on Monday 2 January.  "Saint Lucia is a nice place; it's been 23 years since my last time on the Island but it was like coming home!" Said Henning Simon who is crewing on board Garcia 43 Hanna. "The people we have met during our time here have been very friendly and it's a great marina that we are in." 
World Cruising Club's organised programme of briefings and seminars coupled with safety checks and social activities has ensured crews are prepared and excited for their adventure. Before departure, crews enjoyed Welcome Drinks at Buzz Restaurant, zip-lining as part of a Tree Top Canopy Adventure Tour, a welcome party hosted by IGY Rodney Bay Marina Manager Sean Devaux and a Farewell Party hosted by the Saint Lucia Tourist Board to wish them fair winds.
Slipping their lines to begin their adventure at sea, the yachts headed out in perfect sailing conditions to start the first leg. Wind conditions on the line gave 15-18 knots from the East-North-East making for a fast reach down the South West coast of the island to Castries. The first yacht across the start line was the Hallberg Rassy 43 North, followed by Sergey Eriskin's Dufour 525 Arabela, and Wauquiez Centurian 40s Taistealai owned by Chris and Helen Tibbs. The rest of the fleet followed in close succession to parade along the coast, waved off by supporters, press and local dignitaries including Hon. Dominic Fedee, Minister for Tourism, Information and Broadcasting from onboard a flotilla of spectator boats.
World ARC is a circumnavigation rally for cruising boats, with a mix of organised stages and free sailing periods, providing a safe and social framework for an adventure of a lifetime. Leg 1 of the circumnavigation sees the fleet bound for the port of Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.  Following time to discover the dramatic landscapes, wild coastlines, and Spanish heritage of the surrounding area, the fleet continue on to Shelter Bay to prepare to transit the world famous Panama Canal at the beginning of February. The voyage continues on the Pacific side of the Canal as the fleet make their way to Australia stopping at some of the most idyllic Pacific islands en route, including Galapagos, Hiva Oa, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Niue, Vava'u, Fiji and Vanuatu.
Some boats will leave the rally in Australia, with more joining for the restart of the second half of the adventure from Darwin in September 2017. Avoiding the troubled areas of the Indian Ocean, the World ARC route takes in Lombok, Cocos Keeling, Mauritius and Reunion before enjoying Christmas and New Year in South Africa.
Spectacular backdrop for the start of World ARC 2016-17's final ocean crossing
Boats in the World ARC 2016-17 fleet also set off on Saturday to start their final ocean sailing leg from Cape Town to Salvador da Bahia via the remote island on St. Helena. Marking a year to the day since many off them began their circumnavigation, 2017 continues to be full of adventure; by April they will sail almost 6000 miles, across the southern Atlantic, up the Brazilian coast and back to Saint Lucia in the Caribbean to complete their round-the-world voyage.
Around 70 crew members currently involved in the rally have spent the last 2 months exploring South Africa since they arrived in Richards Bay in early November. During their stopover in Cape Town, the fleet has been berthed at the V&A Waterfront and utilising boat yard facilities in at the nearby Royal Cape Yacht Club. Many spent the festive season on board with additional friends and family flying in to visit them to welcome the New Year, whilst others took the opportunity to fly home, or explore South Africa and beyond. The pre-departure programme in Cape Town included briefings for the ocean crossing and a farewell party at the Maresol Restaurant on the water front. The World Cruising Club team also assisted with clearing Customs & Immigration and negotiating VAT claims.
Starting from the Royal Cape Town Yacht Club Line at 1100 local time, Paul, Gareth and Peter of Firefly,  observed that, "This departure is probably one of the most spectacular one can make in a yacht with the backdrop of Table Mountain, blue skies, breeze behind us and passing close to Robben Island."
The forecast promises some strong winds for the first few days to propel the fleet to the remote island of Saint Helena and the fleet are expected to arrive after 11-12 days at sea having covered 1700NM. From there, the yachts will continue across the South Atlantic to Salvador de Bahia in Brazil arriving in early February. Their progress can be followed online via the Fleet Tracker.

Join the Fun!
It is still possible for boats to join the World ARC fleet in Australia in late August 2017 for the Indian Ocean crossing to South Africa, and onwards to the Caribbean. This route keeps well away from areas of hostility, and allows the participants to enjoy experiences as diverse as the remote atoll of Cocos Keeling and the great animals of South Africa.
World ARC sets sail from Saint Lucia every year and so far 23 yachts are set to join the next edition of the rally departing from Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia in January 2018. 
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