The 2013 ARC Caribbean 1500 - the 24th edition of the annual cruising rally - came to a close in Tortola with the final prizegiving on Thursday, November 14. Despite sometimes challenging conditions offshore, the entire fleet arrived unscathed in Nanny Cay in time for prizegiving.
ARC Caribbean 1500 prize giving ceremony
The weather pattern forming prior to the planned Sunday departure presented a challenge for rally organizers when it appeared that an early departure would be needed for a second straight year to take advantage of a small weather window. A strong fall cold front was forecast to cross the Portsmouth, VA area on midday Saturday, with strong northerly winds quickly filling in behind it, followed by two more fronts later in the week. By Friday afternoon, World Cruising Club staff made the decision to depart early official.
'This isn't about deadlines,' said event manager Andy Schell. 'It's about seamanship. We leave when that front passes, not an hour earlier or an hour later.'
Timing the frontal passage was critical to ensuring a safe passage through the Gulf Stream ahead of the stronger winds forecast. A 3pm departure was set, and the rally fleet sailed out of the Bay under clearing skies and light wind as the front moved offshore.
The fleet crossed the Gulf Stream on a northwesterly breeze, with wind speeds in the 20s. As they neared the outer wall, the wind shifted NNE, as predicted, giving the fleet heavy but favourable reaching conditions over the first 3-4 days of the passage south 'with sustained winds in the high 20s, and highest seas at 12-feet, but with a long period' according to rally veterans Rick and Julie Palm of Altair. Yachts were well informed ahead of time of the conditions they'd be experiencing, and all were well prepared to handle them. Each of the 30-strong fleet made it through with only minor wear and tear to sailing gear and boat systems.
The Carib1500 fleet was rewarded with moderate breezes for the final 2/3 of the passage to Nanny Cay as conditions moderated and boats sailed into the easterly Trades.
The Carib1500 is unique in that prizes are not only awarded for the first three places in each class of the Cruising Division, but also for fun and inventive things like the 'Culinary Award', 'Best Diver' and 'Best Bruise.' In short, the prizegiving recognizes everything that makes an ocean passage so special for cruisers.
The big winners in the Cruising Division have lately been perennially entries in the Carib1500. Keep It Simple, a J/42, took Class B despite starting some 18 hours after the main fleet and sailing through rougher conditions in the Gulf Stream than most. The Hylas 54 Wings took Line Honors for the second straight year, and also corrected on top in Class A. They also took home the Steve Black Trophy for the Overall. Ryana, a Lagoon catamaran, won the Multihull Division over Nexus, who is headed to Saint Lucia for the start of the next World ARC round the world rally.
The family on board Morning Haze - 2013 ARC Caribbean 1500
Four yachts finished in the Bahamas this year, two as planned and two for various other reasons. Morning Haze, a family boat from Canada with two young girls onboard, made it safely to Green Turtle Cay after a boisterous passage. They were joined by the Dutch double-handers on Tal Lira, a Southerly 57 that sailed to the US with last year's ARC rally.
Kinship made an unplanned diversion to Nassau after losing their autopilot and all of their electronics. In true rally spirit, they received low-resolution charts via email for Nassau from former Carib1500 yacht Club Carp and her skipper Jeff Carpenter. Carpenter is not bringing the boat south this year, but participated anyway, sending Kinship the needed navigational instructions from the comfort of his home.
Topaz, the smallest yacht in the fleet, and with three aboard, diverted to the Bahamas after one of their crew suffered an injury on the fourth day at sea. Showing remarkable calm and leadership, Chuck Burns, owner and designer of Topaz, contacted a doctor ashore through Rally Control who advised the now double-handed crew. Four days later they made landfall in Man-O-War Cay. For their handling of the situation, Topaz, in absentia, received the 'Seamanship Award', sponsored this year by Weems & Plath in Annapolis.
Before the 'big' prizes were awarded, each yacht received a participation plaque, handmade and engraved by Weems & Plath in Annapolis with their yacht's name and the ARC Caribbean 1500 2013 logo.
In the BVI fleet, the 'Tempest Trophy' was presented to the yacht that best displayed the 'Spirit of the Rally,' and was again introduced by rally veterans Rick and Julie Palm of Altair.
The Tempest Trophy is given each year to the yacht that best combines seamanship, enthusiasm, and helping others. Last year the yacht Avanti was given the award, and they were invited on stage to present it for 2013. Paul and Monica Geppert and crew on Moonshadow were given the award for their continued support of the event, their enthusiasm for helping others in Portsmouth, and their help on the radio net when Kinship decided to divert.
Starbust and Altria at the Start Line of the 2013 ARC Caribbean 1500
'Prepare, prepare, prepare!' said Paul from the stage after accepting the award with Monica. 'We love this rally and we love helping all of you guys. You're family now!'
'Nanny Cay is such a great place to finish an ocean passage,' commented Julie Palm of Altair. 'With the two free nights dockage the fleet gets, everyone gets a chance to wash down the boat, do their laundry, get some hot meals ashore and have fun with the friends they've made in a fantastic setting by the beach. And for those who need work done, the boatyard is right next door.'
All yachts who took the starting line in Portsmouth arrived in plenty of time to make the prizegiving, and began arriving into Nanny Cay late in the evening on November 9, with the Hylas 54 Wings first to finish for the second straight year in just over seven days, followed closely by Nexus, Karina and Altair. Each night as yachts continued to arrive events were held on the beach in Nanny Cay marina, including several cocktail hours, a pizza party and a couple beach barbecues hosted by Peg Legs. Horizon Yachts held a popular and informative seminar on cruising the BVI.
The program of events in Nanny Cay again included a 4-hour round-the-island tour, which began last year and was very popular again, with stops at the famous Bomba Shack, Cane Garden Bay, Callwood Rum Distillery and a birds-eye view atop the island.
'This was hands-down the best part of the program here in Tortola,' said Ric Hammett of Sojourner. 'Don't ever take this off the activities list!'
The crew of Sojourner - 2013 ARC Caribbean 1500
New for the arrival program in Nanny Cay was a 'Skipper's De-Briefing.' In light of the strong winds the fleet experienced in the first four days at sea, and partially due to the emergencies suffered by the Salty Dawg Rally, ARC Caribbean 1500 organizers added a roundtable discussion designed to distill the experiences had by all and see what could be learned from it. Skipper's shared experiences with gear failures, watch rotations, sea-sickness, hand-steering, and daily meals, and reflected on what they might have done differently with the benefit of hindsight.
'It was the single best seminar I've ever been a part of,' remarked Dennis Day from Triullium, a long-time Carib1500 participant. 'We really learned a lot from each other, and that's where the strength in numbers really shows.' Trillium, a Hallberg-Rassey, is bound for Saint Lucia and the World ARC next year.