ARC Europe starters from both Nanny Cay and Portsmouth are expected to arrive in St. Georges, Bermuda in 5-7 days time and will be sure to enjoy a few customary dark n' stormy drinks on arrival. On 17 May they restart for Leg 2 sailing approximately 1800 nm to the famous mid-Atlantic rendezvous point of Horta in the Azores. Rather than sprinting across the Atlantic, the rally visits four of the islands over a 12 day period, with the option of visiting a fifth. After almost two weeks cruising the Azores archipelago, boats either sail on with the fleet to Marina de Lagos in Portugal, or make their own way north towards the UK and Ireland. ARC Europe will come to a close with a final prize giving ceremony in Lagos on 19 June 2016.
Yachts sailing under the flags of sixteen different nations set sail on Saturday 7 May for their offshore adventures as part of two World Cruising Club Spring rallies; ARC Europe and ARC USA. Venturing west to east across the Atlantic, thirty-one boats will sail with ARC Europe this year; twenty-six departed from Nanny Cay, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, and three from Portsmouth, Virginia, USA. Both groups will converge in Bermuda with a further two boats joining to continue their ocean adventure to Europe and enjoy a cruise through the mid-Atlantic Azores archipelago en route.
As part of ARC USA, eleven boats sail alongside the ARC Europe fleet to Bermuda, and then on to the US East Coast meanwhile seven boats sail from Nanny Cay directly to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, via the Old Bahama Channel and departed a day ahead of the Northern bound group. The route will see them sailing close to the north shores of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba, sheltered from the Atlantic swells by the Turks & Caicos and Bahamas, should take approximately 7 days for them to arrive in Bahia Mar Marina in the Sunshine State.
Whilst the fleets are sailing an eclectic mix of routes, some homeward bound and others to new cruising grounds, they have been sharing the fun of the pre-departure programme in Tortola together. It was a reunion atmosphere on the docks of Nanny Cay with many boats returning to Europe after a winter of Caribbean cruising including twelve who sailed with the ARC and ARC+ in 2015. Nine boats who circumnavigated the globe in World ARC 2015-16 are continuing with rally life, the homeward stretch for many towards Europe, some sailing the long way via the US and Artic.
New faces have been warmly welcomed with a social program in Nanny Cay quickly building friendships that will inevitably grow stronger still over the voyage ahead. Enjoying the Farewell Party at Peg legs on Friday, Jean and Christiane Metz on A Plus 2, an Amel 54, said as far as they are concerned, “You do not come on any ARC rally if you do not want to have fun!” This is their third WCC rally and after spending 15 months sailing with World ARC they are well placed to know!
On Saturday 7 May, sunny skies and a strong south easterly breeze of 15-16 knots set the stage for an exciting start. Sylvie Adillon on an Etap 38 called Allegria was overcome with emotion as they prepared to leave the dock, “We've been working on this adventure for so long that I can't believe our dream is finally here!” Crews waved to bid farewell to the wonderful staff and hosts at Nanny Cay, as the magnificent Advanced A80 Apsaras flew through the start line under full sail leading the fleet to Bermuda.
At Ocean Yacht Marina in Portsmouth VA, host port for the US start, participants also got together to enjoy their pre-start build up and compare notes about their transatlantic preparations. Plenty of stories were also shared between the crews about their passages to the start port. Tartan 4100 First Light had had a 'fantastic, but chilly' sail south from the Long Island Sound, Blue Mist had come from California, down the coast of Mexico and Central America, and through the Panama Canal and British-flagged Merlyn of Poole came to Portsmouth for the winter after circumnavigating with World ARC last year and sailed over 30,000 miles in just over 15 months. The passage of several cold fronts over the past week (which brought the unseasonably cold and rainy weather) delayed the planned Saturday start so Merlyn of Poole and First Light fleet departed the day after their Caribbean comrades, and Blue Mist hopes to set sail shortly. With a shorter passage than the BVI fleet, they should have more than enough time to catch up before arriving in Bermuda, and a good weather forecast should make for pleasant sailing.