ARC Europe 2018 ended with a packed final prizegiving dinner at Marina de Lagos on Sunday 17th June where crews from 19 yachts enjoyed a celebratory end to a memorable rally. Being a multi leg event sailing west to east across the Atlantic, the atmosphere and camaraderie created during the cruise is very special, made more so by the mix of routes, stopovers and nationalities taking part. Those who sailed with the rally are at the varying stages in their sailing plans, with World ARC circumnavigators completing their trips, several Europeans sailing west to east at the end of a north Atlantic circuit, and North Americans just starting out on their adventures sailing to a new cruising ground. Stories and experiences are shared throughout the rally, and the participants get to know each other very well, in part thanks to the numerous tours and activities on the comprehensive social programme at each port.
Back at the beginning of May, yachts first assembled at the rally start ports of Nanny Cay, Tortola and Ocean Yacht Marina in Portsmouth, Virginia. A pre-departure programme of safety demonstrations, equipment checks, and socials set the mood as crews got to know one another and prepare for the transocean voyage. Nineteen yachts departed for Leg 1 from Nanny Cay on 5th May, followed a day later by five yachts sailing from Portsmouth. The fleets then converged in St. George's, Bermuda with a further six boats joining the fleet to complete the convoy.
After restocking, refuelling, a little exploring and a few Dark & Stormy's, the ARC Europe fleet were underway to the famed Atlantic sailing hub of Horta, on the island of Faial in the Azores, 1800nm away. With a “text-book” forecast for the trip, the fleet enjoyed exceptional sailing for their first days out of Bermuda as they headed slightly north of the rhumb line, skirting the Azores High to ride the favourable westerly's across the Atlantic. Whilst at sea the daily SSB radio net kept the contact and camaraderie going in the fleet as they shared weather observations, fun anecdotes, quizzes and even a song or two. Fishing triumphs and dolphin sightings were also the hot topics of conversation.
Leading the fleet into Horta was the Finnish flagged Swan 48 Lumikki, sailed double-handed by Jukka and Jaana Maki-Killa who had expertly navigated their way to the Azores, enjoying consistently good winds for their 11 day passage. They were soon joined by their many comrades to enjoy a trip to the world renowned sailor's haunt Peter's Café Sport, and several boats left their mark by decorating Marina de Horta's sea wall.
Too soon for some, the next stage in the rally saw the fleet slip lines once again to cruise onwards through the islands. With stopovers at Terciera, Sao Miguel and Santa Maria, crews got to experience the diversity of the islands; from beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site Angra do Heroísmo to inland lakes and craters, stunning white sandy beaches with rollers pounding the sand to slumbering seaside villages. “The mini cruise in The Azores was a delight, we were welcomed warmly by all the island people and we shall definitely be making a return trip to explore these islands in more depth.” Said Bee Bush from Oyster 47 Jubilate Mare.
In Santa Maria, there were a few farewells to boats headed to the UK, Ireland and Spain, whilst the majority of the fleet set sail on 9th June bound for Marina de Lagos on Portugal's Algarve coast. Another favourable forecast for the leg delivered great champagne sailing before light winds stalled the fleet towards the middle of the passage. As predicted, these picked up again as the fleet neared the Iberian coastline where the NW “Portuguese Trades”, gave an exciting and windy finish into mainland Portugal.
The warm welcome the boats receive from the friendly team at Marina de Lagos and rally staff provided an excellent reception to end their cruise. It didn't take long for crews to settle into enjoying life in the resort and the final days of the rally saw them visiting the many bars and restaurants, relaxing by the pool and exploring the local markets. Berthed nearby one another, the crews even decided to hold an open boat afternoon to walk around each other's yachts and enjoy a drink or snack and nose around onboard. The fun, accustomed, family feel was truly evident as laughter could be heard all around the docks.
Whilst all those involved with ARC Europe in 2018 will be sad that this year's rally has come to an end, crews will no doubt keep in touch for their onwards cruising adventures. Exciting times are ahead for the crews of boats exploring Europe for the first time, and for other's it marks a new chapter cruising back in familiar home waters. Several of the yachts will join previous rally participants and make Marina de Lagos their home for the summer cruising, taking advantage of the great local cruising grounds, easy flight connections and excellent facilities.
The ARC Europe 2018 fleet have enjoyed a smooth Atlantic crossing with favourable winds for almost the entire duration of the rally. Adding to their luck of pleasant weather on what can be a notoriously tough passage, visiting some magnificent ports en route and enjoying the camaraderie of sailing together has helped form many great friendships between the crews . It was evident from the atmosphere at the final prizegiving that everyone has enjoyed sailing the Atlantic together, having a very fun time along the way, with plenty of salty stories to share and memories to treasure from their time on the rally.
Entries are now open for the 2019 edition of ARC Europe, click here for details, dates and to request an information pack.