Today Saint Lucia welcomed the first arrival from the 2014 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers to its shores. Sailing within the ARC+ fleet, Alubat Cignale 18 Eleonora 2 crossed the finish line at 07:38:46 local time after a fast 2100NM passage from Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands. The international crew on board were in great spirits having enjoyed their 12 days at sea and are now looking forward to experiencing the delights of the Caribbean.
Eleonora 2 departed Mindelo, Cape Verdes on 19 November together with 49 other boats sailing with ARC+ 2014. On board, a crew of 8 from 7 different nationalities including Russian, Italian, French, Colombian, Estonian, Israeli and United States have enjoyed a smooth passage since leaving, with almost text-book NE tradewind conditions most of the way from Mindelo.
As Eleonora 2 sailed across the ARC+ finish line this morning, the crew were congratulated by ARC Rally Control who then assisted them to their berth inside IGY Rodney Bay Marina. Once lying safely alongside the dock, crew member Amadeo Sorrentino was delighted to have arrived, 'I was in Saint Lucia 22 years ago for the first Europa round the world rally and it is really special to have returned here and even better to be the first boat to arrive! All the other crew members have also been to Saint Lucia before and so we all have the feeling of coming back home.' IGY General Manager Simon Bryan, IGY Operational Manager Sean Devaux, IGY Events Manager Alana Mathurin as well as Marie-Ange Williams representing Saint Lucia Tourist Board were all on the dock to welcome the ARC+ first arrival who were promptly presented with a glass of ice-cold Saint Lucian style rum punch. 'We feel a bit tired, mentally and physically, but arriving and being the first definitely gives us a buzz to continue the day. After the great taste of rum punch, we are very happy!' beamed Amadeo. Local press and media teams were also on the dock to take some photographs and interview the crew after their Atlantic crossing.
Their closest rival, Jeanneau 57 T&T is set to follow them across the line some 6 hours behind – a remarkably close finish after more than 2000NM of ocean sailing. The French 57 footer had previously beaten Eleonora 2 on the first leg of ARC+ which departed Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on 9 November and sailed to the Mindelo on the island of Sao Vincente in the Cape Verdes.
Although behind their friendly rival, skipper of T&T Dirk Martens was delighted to approach Saint Lucia's shores, 'The hope vanished for us to arrive first once we lost our spinnaker, but 2nd place is still great. Although for us, that is not the most important part: we have truly enjoyed a blissful journey. Sometimes exciting, sometimes frightening especially if we ended up in a squall, but compensated by the beautiful sun rising and setting, the thousands of flying fish, the birds in the middle of the ocean, leaping dolphins and whales – we saw them all. The richest experience has been the human aspect, with five of us on a small yacht together it was not easy, yet it has been extremely enriching and thankfully we have managed without tensions. Overall it has been a fantastic experience!'
Further arrivals are expected throughout the week at IGY Rodney Bay Marina. There are 12 catamarans in the ARC+ fleet and it's neck and neck for the leaders of the Multihull Division who after 12 days at sea may be crossing the finish line within minutes of one another if conditions hold.
Within the next 24 hours Saint Lucia could also be welcoming the ARC Course Record breaker for the second year in a row. Leopard by Finland, the 30m (100ft) canting keel super-maxi and largest boat within the main ARC fleet of 175 yachts looks set to smash the current record after dream conditions have been delivered for their passage sailing directly from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Saint Lucia. Currently, ARC crossing record is 10 days, 21 hours, 25 minutes and 10 seconds, set by Caro Max Klink's Knierim 65 in ARC 2013 and predictions from the online fleet tracker forecast that several boats will be set to beat this with the mighty Leopard out in front.
– World Cruising Club