ARC Europe 2011 international fleet starts Atlantic adventure

Hampton VA start - Mojito (RSA) - ARC Europe 2011
© Andy Schell
Seventy-seven sailors on 19 yachts flying the flags of 12 countries are sailing to Bermuda, then cruising the Azores archipelago before heading for Lagos in Portugal in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), an annual rally for cruising yachts that has been crossing the Atlantic since 1986.

A multinational fleet has sailed from the Caribbean and USA to Bermuda, ready to sail across the Atlantic west to east with ARC Europe. The main fleet started from Nanny Cay on Tortola, British Virgin Islands on 05 May. The second fleet started from Hampton, Virginia on 06 May. The two fleets will rendezvous in St. George's Bermuda for some social time and preparations for the 1800nm mile Atlantic passage to Horta on Faial in the Azores.

ARC Europe Starts
On 05 May the main ARC Europe fleet of 16 boats departed Tortola in fine style in very light easterly winds. First across the line was Bavaria 38 Ocean Diatonic (GBR), flying a cruising chute, and passing so close to the start boat that they were able to ask for their trophy already! Resolution 3 (FRA) celebrated their start of their Atlantic journey by popping open a bottle of champagne as they crossed the start line. Lady Lisa (SUI), Ariane (SUI), Surya (BEL) and Diatonic (GBR) currently head the fleet, but there's a long way to go yet.

Over in Hampton Virginia, the four yachts on the US-Bermuda leg started on a reach in a brisk southerwesterly breeze. South African yacht Mojito really got the rally bug and were first across the line with the crew perched racer-style on the windward rail. The other yachts went for a more cruising approach, and with a good forecast, they should all be in Bermuda in a few days. For teenager Simon Gertler aboard Elsocare (GBR), this will be his first offshore passage, and Dad was on hand to wave him off on what should be a great adventure.

ARC Europe isn't just an A-to-B sailing rally, it is also a cruise and an opportunity to explore. In each destination, the crews will enjoy social and sightseeing activities including a rum tasting in Bermuda and watching bull running in the Azores. The Azores cruise is a popular part of the rally, that takes the yachts to four of these diverse and remote islands; Faial, Terceira, São Miguel and Santa Maria.

Larry Ivins, skipper of US-flagged Hylas 54 Berkeley East said of last year's ARC Europe: 'ARC Europe brings a whole new dimension to the term 'boat rally'. The stops in Bermuda and the Azores gave everyone a chance to really get acquainted, and the land time made it much more of a vacation, rather than simply 'moving the boat'. We cannot imagine the solitude of crossing the Atlantic alone. Our special thanks for helping to make this long passage a wonderful experience'

Boats Like Ours, People Like Us
The average size of boats in the fleet is 14.5m, with the smallest being Moody 38 Elsocare (GBR) and Bavaria 38 Ocean Diatonic (GBR), and the largest are Discovery 55 Kalandia and Beneteau 57 Fred. All major boat builders are represented in between, including Wauquiez, Bavaria, Elan, J-Boats, Jeanneau and Moody.

Skippers and crew range in ages from their late teens to the over 70s, with the average age being 54 years.

Some boats are sailing home, others just starting their cruising adventure. Many of the yachts have previously crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean with the ARC, and are now returning home after several seasons Caribbean cruising. For four boats and crews, ARC Europe is a rather more epic return home - Lady Lisa (SUI), Lady Ev. VI (GER), Ariane (SUI), Thor VI (POR) have just completed a circumnavigation with World ARC, sailing through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific, Indian and south Atlantic oceans.

Cruising Destinations
Nanny Cay on Tortola BVI and St George's Bermuda have been popular hosts of the rally for many years. Both offer excellent facilities for sailors, and really add to the cruising element of the rallies. Hampton, Virginia at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay in USA will host one of the ARC Europe starts for the first time this year. Hampton will become the home of World Cruising Club rallies in north America as it is also the start port for the Caribbean 1500.

This year the ARC Europe fleet will enjoy an extended cruise in the Azores, visiting Faial, Terceira, São Miguel and Santa Maria. The yachts have been invited to join the fun Açoriano Oriental Yacht Race from Ponta Delgada on São Miguel, before restarting the rally for the final leg to Lagos in Portugal.

ARC website