The 27th ARC finally draws to a close with Ostrea winning the Spirit of the ARC plum for showing the spirit of goodwill and camaraderie. Ostrea was only one of the several awards presented Saturday at Gaiety Nightclub in Gros Islet, Saint Lucia. (Perennial contenders Vaquita (AUT) and Scarlet Oyster (GBR) nabbed the RORC Racing Classes A and B respectively with the former bagging the overall crown).
The experience of crossing an ocean is one that few ARC participants will ever forget, and the focus of tonight's festivities was not only the achievement of those who crossed the finish line first in Rodney Bay but everyone who shared in the spirit of the ARC adventure in 2012.
The year with two starts
2012 will be remembered as the 'year with two starts', seeing the cruising fleet remain in Las Palmas for an extra 48 hours due to unseasonal headwinds forecast for their first days at sea . It is only the second time in the event's history that the weather has caused a delayed start, but the decision proved popular and was met with spontaneous applause by the skippers and crews as it was announced at the briefing. Some boats elected to take advantage of the stronger winds, and the racing division departed as planned on Sunday 25th November. Two days later, on Tuesday 27th November, a further 193 yachts of all shapes and sizes began their 2700nm adventure across the Atlantic.
Wet and Wild Initially the miles began to fall away as the fleet experienced some wet and wild conditions during their first days at sea. Consistently good winds and the remnants of a large sea made perfect surfing conditions as crews found their sea legs and clocked up the miles. It quickly became apparent that this year's ARC was going to be a bit different from the traditional ideal of 'sailing south until the butter melts' and gybing towards Saint Lucia. For the first week at sea, logs returned from the boats full of tales of watches spent wearing foul-weather jackets, cold nights, and rain showers. The Atlantic is a big ocean which provides sailors with a myriad of conditions to keep them on their toes; since leaving Las Palmas, almost all have reported being both overpowered and becalmed, receiving a suntan and a soaking whilst on watch and witnessing spectacular natural wonders of life offshore.
Victory for Vaquita
In the racing fleet, Akilaria 40 Vaquita (AUT) ventured alone on an extreme northerly route to Saint Lucia, taking a gamble compared to the preferred route of going south and picking up the Trades. Her closest rivals were up to twice her size, including Swan 80, Berenice (ITA), but the gamble ultimately paid off for the crew of leading Austrian sailors on Vaquita who crossed the line in a time elapsed of 12 days, 1 hour and 37 minutes.
Prize Winners Announced
With 225 boats taking part this year, the prize giving ceremony saw plenty of trophies awarded. Part one of last night's prize giving was devoted to the runners-up in each class and to the other playful prizes. Perhaps the most arbitrary of these is the 'Yacht whose arrival order number matches their boat number' prize, awarded to Sam III (yacht no. 69 and 69th to arrive) and Ravi (yacht no. 171, and 171st to arrive). Other special prizes ranged from Youngest Skipper and Senior Cup to website awards for Best Logs, awards for the Fishing Competition and recognition (and a bottle of Chairman's Reserve Rum) for the Radio Net Controllers and Finish Line volunteers.
At the end of Part 1, Troskala, the last yacht to arrive - only entering St. Lucia as the prize giving was getting started - were brought on stage to huge applause to be recognized as the last yacht to arrive that started with the fleet on Tuesday.
Part 2 began with opening remarks from Louis Lewis, Director of the St. Lucia Tourism Board, Edwin Chavez, new General Manager of Rodney Bay Marina and the Honourable Lorne Theophilius, Minister for Tourism, Heritage and Creative Industries. Following their remarks they were invited on stage to present the prizes for the winners of each class.
Vaquita (AUT) and Scarlet Oyster (GBR), familiar names in the ARC, took the RORC Racing Classes A and B respectively, with Vaquita coming out on top in Racing Overall. The all-Austrian crew aboard Vaquita added another ARC to their impressive string of recent victories. Indeed the yacht is now considered to represent the most successful ocean-racing campaign ever to come out of Austria.
The X Yacht Nix (NED) won both the Digicel Trophy for Line Honours in the Invitation Cruising Division (for yachts over 60-feet) and the Rodney Bar Marina Trophy for winning the Invitation Division on corrected time, edging out last year's winner Triumph (SWE), who came second.
In Invitation Racing, Line Honours went to the Italian Swan 80 Berenice. Tyke, also from Italy, edged her out on corrected time to win the Invitation Racing Division.
Amoress 2 (SWE) dominated the cruising division. The Swedish-flagged Swan 48 repeated their feat from 2009, winning Class E and the Jimmy Cornell Trophy for the Overall in the Cruising Division. This year they added the Yachting World Trophy for Line Honours in the Cruising Division, an accolade that skipper and owner Mats Gustavsson is most proud of.
'Line honours really means everything to me,' Mats said last night. 'That's really cool, especially to have done it on a 48-foot boat.'
But Amoress 2 barely made the start this year. They got a last minute entry when the waiting list finally sorted itself out.
'I only arrived into Las Palmas the Wednesday before the start,' said Mats. 'We were told there was an extra space, and we took full advantage,' he continued. The crew was so eager to get moving that they actually incurred a penalty for crossing the start line early. But they easily overcame that over the course of the 2,800-mile passage, sailing fast and efficiently.
In the Multihull Division line honours went to Pelican (GBR). Intrepid Bear (GBR), who despite a calm spell when they stopped to swim - encountering two minke whales in the process - sailed fast enough to win the Multihull Division on corrected time, an impressive feat for a family boat.
The rest of the Cruising Division classes shook out as such: Class H and the SLAPSA Trophy went to the Australian yacht Sundancer II; Class G and the Adlard Coles Trophy to Dream Citta di Rieti from Italy; Class E and the Gran Canaria Trophy to Amoress 2 (SWE); Class D and the St. Lucia Ministry of Tourism Trophy to Leeway (NED); Class C and the St. Lucia Hotel & Tourism Trophy to the Canadian yacht Zabava; Class B and the St. Lucia Tourism Board Trophy to Dreamer from Great Britain; and Class A and the Prime Ministers Trophy to the Kiwi yacht Savarna (NZD). The special 'Zulu' Class - created for the four cruising yachts that departed with the racing fleet ahead of the delay - was won by Frangipani from Germany.
The Spirit of the ARC award was saved for last, and each year is awarded to the yacht that best displays the general spirit of goodwill and enthusiasm that the rally strives to create amongst the fleet. The yacht Ostrea received the honour this year for selflessly sacrificing distance and time to come to the aid of Johanem whilst at sea. Ostera themselves encountered difficult circumstances in heavy weather, but managed to come to a solution nonetheless.
Following the Spirit of the ARC award, Andrew Bishop officially announced ARC 2012 closed