Saturday 11th January marked a special day in World ARC history as the 10th edition of World Cruising Club's round-the-world rally set sail from Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia. 33 yachts assembled at IGY Rodney Bay Marina, marking an end to years of planning and the start of an epic 26,000nm circumnavigation, with crews from 23 different countries sailing their own yachts to some of the world's best cruising grounds. It is a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity for the crews to cross the world's oceans, explore some amazing islands and experience a range of different cultures.
"We have been planning, plotting and thinking about this day for so long it is a bit surreal today." beamed the Clower family crew of Hylas 46 Amari as they made their final preparations before heading out to the starting area. "We are absolutely thrilled to be setting off."
There was a strong 20-25kt breeze over the bay at the start with the ENE gusty wind providing a good run down to the first mark at Barrel of Beef Island. As the countdown was made on the VHF radio, the motor yacht Reel Extreme was on station to provide representatives from the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, Events Company of Saint Lucia and IGY Rodney Bay Marina with an excellent view of the fleet as they hoisted their sails. The Minister of Tourism, Information and Broadcasting Hon. Dominic Fedee was also on board to wave off the fleet, and World Cruising Club's Managing Director Andrew Bishop remarked
"It's always an amazing sight to see the World ARC fleet setting off on their circumnavigation from Rodney Bay, after a week of preparations in Saint Lucia. Being the start of the 10th edition of the rally was definitely a special moment."
First over the line was Finnish boat Marja II, a Malo 46 Classic, followed by the Swan 46, Milanto. Tightly grouped together, next over the line was Amel 55 Zarya and Next Step, a Bavaria 46. Despite being a rally not a race, skippers and crews were certainly enthusiastic to cross the start line with the remaining boats quickly following on behind.
In total, 41 boats will sail with the rally in the next 15 months; some sailing the full 26,000 miles, others joining for the Panama Transit, or sailing to Australia before taking a year out to further explore the Pacific. World ARC is an international event and the crews are a mix of families, people taking a couple of years away from work, charter boats and those who have sold businesses or taken early retirement. For the first time, an all-female crew will be sailing the rally to Australia on board Hallberg-Rassy 53 Saorsa, and there are nine young sailors under the age of 18 sailing with the fleet. Mum of two, Tricia Frary sailing on Libeccio said, "It's really great to be with people with the same mind set and kindred spirits. The children are having a great time meeting others from the fellow family boats and we have had a really warm welcome from the whole fleet. We're now super excited but also a little intimidated by the weather and sea state for this first sail to Santa Marta."
The crews have enjoyed a busy pre-departure programme in Saint Lucia, with the experienced World Cruising Club team on hand to assist with their final preparations. In between the serious preparations such as safety checks, seminars and briefings, their time has been about getting to know new cruising friends, who'll be together for the many months ahead.
"Our dream to sail the world began over a decade ago, after we crossed the Atlantic with the ARC in 2007." said Richard and Petra Haig from Beneteau Oceanis 461 Celtic Star. "For us the social aspect and organisation we experienced then was magnificent, so we chose to sail our retirement trip with World ARC after nine years of preparation."
Next stop for the fleet will be Marina Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. The stopover is one of the most popular on the World ARC route, with plenty of good food, exceptional beaches and warm hospitality awaiting their arrival. The boats should make landfall from Thursday 16 January. Their progress can be followed online via the Fleet Tracker on the World Cruising Club website.
Join the Fun!
It is still possible for boats to join the World ARC fleet in Australia in late August 2020 for the Indian Ocean crossing to South Africa, and onwards to the Caribbean. This route keeps well away from areas of hostility, and allows the participants to enjoy experiences as diverse as the remote atoll of Cocos Keeling and the great animals of South Africa.
World ARC sets sail from Saint Lucia every year and so far 33 yachts are set to join the next edition of the rally departing from Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia in January 2021.