ARC Rally a fun challenge, not about racing

Parties on arrival
The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) welcomes sailors each year from around the globe to gather in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for a rally hallmarked by safe and social cruising. Rallies are about crossing oceans with friends, both new and old, and everybody celebrating the great achievement of completing an ocean passage. At its heart this is a fun competition, not a race, with prizes awarded for good seamanship, great sailing, and joining in the unique spirit of the ARC.

Since creation in 1986, the ARC has embraced the amateur, Corinthian spirit. Most boats sail in the Cruising Division, which allows engines to be used for propulsion and attracts families, cruising couples and groups of friends, to enjoy a safe and supported Atlantic crossing.

At the close of rally Prize Giving party, awards are given for a wide range of achievements during the ARC, not just for sailing performance. Safety, seamanship and the environment are recognised with special prizes for the best prepared boat, and the Eric Jean Trophy, awarded in memory of an aspiring young Saint Lucia sailor, for services to the environment. And in keeping with the festive nature of the ARC, the Arch Marez trophy, named after the founder of Rodney Bay Marina, goes the crew that most contributed to the party atmosphere of the event.

Life at Sea
However, the biggest cheers are always given for crews receiving the Spirit of the ARC award. It is the selfless desire to assist other sailors, whether in an emergency situation, or as part of a commitment to the cruising way of life, that is recognised by this very special prize. In keeping with the long tradition of the Rally, it was the determination to help another boat that won the award for the crew of Ostrea in 2012, who, with a doctor aboard, diverted to perform impromptu surgery on a stricken crew member on board Johanem.

As a Corinthian event, amateur sailors take centre stage with families and friends; the old, the young; charities, pets, and lifetime dreams all part of the mix. In all, around 80 boats receive prizes at the end of the Rally, almost 35% of the fleet!

There are also prizes which recognise sailing performance within the rally, using World Cruising Club's cruiser rating handicap, to provide an element of fun competition. In a change to the traditional 'One, two, three' ranking, this year prizes will also be awarded to yachts in the Cruising Division that are placed fifth and tenth on handicap, adding an element of uncertainty and fun to the results. Adlard Coles Nautical Publications andYachting World Magazine will be the sponsors of gifts presented to these 'winning' boats.

Andrew Bishop, who has run the ARC since 1998, explains 'I have been looking for a new way to award prizes to yachts in the Cruising Division that recognises a crew's sailing achievement, but which also introduces a random element. Crews can sail to win, but to deliberately sail to be placed fifth or 10th will be impossible! Especially when also taking into account the motoring hours of other boats and the motoring adjustment factor. We have decided that changing the traditional ranking order would be a great way to reinforce the message that competition in the ARC is all about the fun of taking part!'

Plaques for performance will still also be awarded for yachts placed first, second and third in class.

ARC Rally website