ARC 2008

Mon 22 Dec 2008 21:34


A personal view of ARC 2008, by Dave Sutherland

ARC 2008 is over, the parties have stopped, and we again have to organise our own life’s instead of being told by World Cruising what’s on when and ware. The last boat arrived in to St Lucia the early hours of this morning on the 22 Dec 08, three days after the time limit set by World Cruising.

I last did the ARC in 1988, twenty years ago, there has been quite a few changes over the years, unfortunately the ARC in 1988 was somewhat overshadowed by the Lockerbie

Incident which over shadowed our arrival in Barbados. The start on both occasions was from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, the city has grown over the twenty years but still a good place to start a trans-Atlantic crossing from with good shops and supermarkets. The Marina has expanded greatly over the years, its now huge, and one change for the better has three chandleries based in the Marina. (Just hang onto the wallets everything is double to three times the price we pay in the UK chandleries) The showers have also improved, they are now more substantial rather than wood enclosures over the grass, but there are not enough of them, and they are dirty!! World Cruising organise a number of functions, quite a few are free, or included in the ARC entry fee, others require a fee to be paid, the free parties were generally good, but the others were not good value. One trip I went on was the interior of Las Palmas, this was excellent value, we were blessed with a clear day so from the top of Las Palmas (6000ft approx) we had a good view of Tenerife.

When we left in 1988 it was a low key affair, not the same in 2008, with thousands lining the breakwater, bands playing, hooters, horns blowing to see us leave and a considerable number yachts just out to watch the start, a few even kept us company for an hour or two. Most of the yachts (200) took the cruising division start, and while the start line is long there were no incidents, everybody of the same view perhaps, on a trip of 2700 you don’t need an accident at the start. At this point I look thru the log sheets, anything worth putting down, and the answer is not a lot. The route to follow is down to the skipper, we were advised the rhumb line was not the best routine at the skippers brief, so we set off south, but as the daily forecasts came in there seemed little advantage in heading south so we started to sail direct rather than going all the way south then west. While World Cruising provided a daily forecast I generally found them not to be very good. The crossing this year was particular in that the trade winds were not evident except at the start and finish, the middle was a mixture of squall lines and no wind. We spent quite a bit of time under a third reef in the main, the highest wind we had was 38Knots, but then we had hours of no wind. We got just over half way before deciding enough and used the engine a little to help progress. We only used the engine for 10 hours in total!

In 1988 we followed a more classic route and ran south before heading west, this was in a Westerly 33, we certainly had good trades for the second half of the crossing, which wasn’t the case this year. Like any crossing we had a number of incidents on the way across but most are best left and forgotten.

Arrival in St Lucia, the rum punch still comes out to meet every boat on arrival along with a basket of fruit!. Barbados in 1988 was the same but we were also given a bottle of rum and some bread on arrival, the problem in Barbados was once cleared you then had to move off and anchor, while in St Lucia every boat on arrival is given a berth in the Rodney Bay Marina, with a couple of nights free. On arrival there were more parties two in particular stand out, these were the Marina Manager’s party, food and booze free all night (it finished at 0430 apparently) and the prize giving on Saturday night. Free booze and snacks, the other functions were not so good, in particular there were three functions in the Marina with live bands, these functions seemed to be based on the ARC but were of more interest to the local population than the ARC participants, apart from keeping them awake at night!

Unfortunately there were a couple of regrettable incidents around the Marina which show the lack of security at Rodney Bay, while there are guards walking the docks 24 hours that’s it, the docks are open to everybody, it is to be regretted but the time is fast approaching when even the Caribbean Marina will have to restrict access to the docks.

St Lucia is a small Island but does it’s best to ensure that everybody is welcomed in a very friendly manor, this is still far superior to the days spent in Barbados when everybody had lay at anchor. The Marina at Rodney bay has been completely rebuilt, its good but some of the docks need to be avoided, J dock is terrible, is right by a main road, and smelly, A and B dock are also bad for traffic noise and noise from any function in the Marina it’s self. E & F docks are the best one’s to be on! The Marina has as yet not done anything about improving its shower facilities hopefully this will happen over the next twelve months.

So how did we do, in 1988 FSP my Westerly 33 come in somewhere in the last third of the fleet. This year (Sunbeat III) we came in 66 out of 143 in the cruising division and 9 out of eighteen in class, this year the motoring penalty was very low at only 1.1, unlike some years when its more normal at 1:2,so in the middle of the fleet, hindsight is great, so what would I done differently, this year we should have gone further south rather than trying to cut the corner and if I’d known the motoring penalty was so low we would have used the engine more.

To sum up, we took 35minutes short of three weeks, ARC 2008 was well organised if at times a little in-personal, the event is big, and I know its not easy to give it a personal touch, at times felt that the yachts were just numbers. World Cruising try there best to organise everything as best the can, but hitches do occur. Any event like this it’s the people that count at least to me rather than worrying to much ware we came in the league table. We did meet some great people who it is to be hoped will become long term friends.

Dave Sutherland

22 December 08

Sunbeat III St Lucia