On Saturday 5 May, crews from World Cruising Club’s “return ARC”, the ARC Europe transatlantic rally, said farewell to Caribbean waters as they set off for their offshore adventure from Nanny Cay towards Portugal, as one of the two rally starts got underway.
A second group set off from Portsmouth, Virginia, on the US east coast on Sunday 6 May, after a 24 hour delay for weather. Both groups will meet up in Bermuda before heading across the Atlantic to the Azores. Other boats will be joining from the first landfall in St. Georges Bermuda making a total of thirty one yachts in this multi-stage Atlantic crossing.
A full programme of safety equipment checks, top-tip seminars and social activities at Nanny Cay, kept the 60 sailors busy in the 5 days before departure. The crews, who range in age from 2 years to 71 years, are from 15 different countries.
Typically most crews leaving from Tortola have spent the winter season cruising in the Caribbean, as the boats have slowly worked their way north to the British Virgin Islands.
Included in the fleet this year are two World ARC boats – circumnavigators Edwin and Bianca on Zeeland, and Australian “half circumnavigators” Deborah and Peter on Chat Eau Bleu. American sailors make up one-third of the fleet, with 12 US flagged boats taking part, all of whom are sailing to Europe for the first time.
Leg one of the rally, from the British Virgin Islands to Bermuda always offers the best sailing conditions of the three ocean stages. Conditions for the start were just right, with a 20-25 breeze from the East with a 3-4 ft swell. True to form, the fleet has had brisk SSE winds since leaving Tortola, giving a fast passage so far. First arrivals are due in to Bermuda on 9 May, four days after departure. The USA starters where held back for 24 hours to allow for a passing weather front, and which has given them beam reaching for much of the route.
The rendezvous in Bermuda, allows time to crews from the two fleets to meet-up and fix any breakages from the ocean shake-down of leg one, before the longest passage of the rally, the 1800 nautical mile route from Bermuda to the mid-Atlantic Azores archipelago en route to Portugal.
All boats in the rally are fitted with YB satellite trackers and positions displayed on the rally website.
The rally continues from Bermuda on 16 May and from the Azores to Portugal on 9 June before the final party in Lagos on the Algarve coast on 17 June.