Mackay became the latest focus of interest for sailors from around the world as the first of 23 cruising boats arrived in Mackay Marina marking the half-way point in their circumnavigation under sail.
Kathea was the first yacht to arrive in Mackay taking just over six days to cover the 1,150 nautical mile passage from Port Vila, Vanuatu, the latest stage in their west-about circumnavigation. The rest of the fleet will be welcomed by the friendly staff at the well-equipped marina over the coming days.
85 sailors representing 17 nationalities are currently participating in round-the-world sailing rally, World ARC. Unlike the professional races, World ARC is a circumnavigation adventure for 'normal' sailors who sail their cruising boats over 26,000 nautical miles around the world. 2014 marks the 4th edition of the rally, organised by World Cruising Club and the third time Mackay have hosted the eclectic fleet of family adventurers, cruising couples and sailing friends.
The World ARC adventure began on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia in early January, when the fleet crossed the start line and headed south to Panama and the gateway to the Pacific Ocean. Over the last six months the rally has visited some of the most idyllic bluewater cruising destinations, including San Blas; Galapagos; Hiva Oa and the Marquesas; Tuamotos; Bora Bora; Niue; Suwarrow; Tonga; Fiji and Vanuatu.
Event Manager Paul Tetlow said “The crews have travelled over 8,000 nautical miles since they began their circumnavigation so arriving in Mackay marks a real milestone. They have enjoyed many rich experiences whilst crossing the Pacific Ocean but I know many are also looking forward to reaching Australia and enjoying what's onshore. Mackay Marina is an excellent facility and perfect for World ARC making its landfall. World ARC first came here in 2010 and have enjoyed many successful Rally visits since. The town has a great selection of what our sailors need and the yacht repair facilities are exceptional.“
During the most recent passage from Port Vila, Vanuatu, the fleet experienced light winds at first, perfect for whale spotting, followed by good strong trade wind conditions to propel the fleet to Mackay. Throughout the rally, friends and family of the crews have kept up with tales of life at sea through daily blogs, and each yacht is fitted with a Yellowbrick tracker regularly reporting positions that are then posted on the World Cruising Club website.
Australia marks the official half-way point in the circumnavigation and a natural place for some boats to take a break from the rally, either to fly home, complete maintenance projects or explore independently. Some owners plan to leave the boat in Mackay for a period of time, maybe up to a year and several will use Mackay as a base to explore the Whitsundays. One or two are getting hauled out to complete work at the excellent facilities at Mackay Marina.
“We are very excited to welcome the World ARC into Mackay for the third time,” said Ben Anderson, the Marina Manager at Mackay Marina Village as the fleet began to make landfall. “We are pleased that such a renowned event continues to choose Mackay Marina as their entry point into Australia, and believe that it is a combination of our world class facility, proximity to a fantastic cruising ground and our willingness to create a relaxed welcoming atmosphere for the participants.”
World ARC now runs annually, offering flexibility for crews wishing to take a year out to further explore the Western Pacific, including Australia, before joining a subsequent edition of the rally when they next pass through. From the 2014 Rally, nine yachts will re-join World ARC in Australia in 2015, to make a fleet of around twenty five rally boats sailing across the Indian Ocean to South Africa and then to Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. Entries are still open for yacht owners wishing to join them on this ultimate sailing adventure. Yachts can join in Austrailia to sail with World ARC to Saint Lucia or indeed sail on to complete a circumnavigation, either soon after or following a break in Europe.
After six weeks in Australia, those continuing with the current edition of World ARC and two newcomers, including Australian John Watson's catamaran 'Sirocco of Oz', will depart from Darwin on 2 September, bound for Bali then across the southern Indian Ocean, visiting Cocos (Keeling), Mauritius and Reunion before enjoying Christmas and New Year in South Africa. In January the fleet will cross the Atlantic, stopping for a short while on the remote island of St Helena, before cruising north up the coast of Brazil for the carnival season. The sailors will finish their circumnavigations after another 15,000 nautical miles (28,000km) in Saint Lucia in April 2015.