Prizegiving ceremony in St Lucia rounds off this year's successful Atlantic Rally for Cruisers 22/12/06

ARC2006, the 21st edition of this popular transatlantic rally, saw one of the fastest passages in recent years, with a new course record set, and non-stop trade winds for virtually the entire duration.

In addition to some of the best sailing ever, the full force north-easterly trade winds caused more than a few dramas this year, the big seas contributing to the toll of damaged yachts arriving in Rodney Bay, St Lucia, and providing a pre-Christmas bonanza of spinnaker repairs for the local sail makers.

Now, 25 days after the start in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and with all the yachts in port, with the exception of Whimbrell II, expected on the 23 December, ARC 2006 has been brought to a close, ending last night with a lavish prizegiving ceremony at Gaiety nightclub in Gros Islet. Attended by the new Minister of Tourism, Senator the Honourable Allen Chastanet, and the Honourable Minister Leonard Montoute, Minister for Sports, the Director of the St Lucia Tourist Board Mrs Maria Fowell, representatives from Gold Sponsors Cable & Wireless and Heineken and other local sponsors, the venue was packed with ARC participants all keen to join in the final party of ARC2006.

The first part of the prizegiving ceremony saw yachts recognised for placement in class from 4th to 2nd, youngest and oldest participants, the fishing competition winner, best dressed crew, and many other fun prizes. Without doubt the highlight of this first half of the awards ceremony was bringing all the ARC children onto the stage. Seeing them all together and knowing what they had achieved by sailing the Atlantic with their parents, re-enforced the message of what the ARC is all about – embracing the true cruising spirit across nations and ages. Each child was awarded an ARC Transatlantic Medal sponsored by Admiral Marine Insurance.

After a break in the gardens of Gaiety and a chance to swap stories and sway to the Caribbean rhythms of The Emerald Steel band in the warm tropical evening, part 2 of the prizegiving commenced with the presentation of the main prizes for this year’s ARC.

Winners of each Division and Class were presented with trophies by representatives from the Class Sponsors and the World Cruising Club team were all given a St Lucia book by the Tourist Board to remember their few weeks on this beautiful Island.

Finally the award that means so much and is what the ARC is all about. Spirit of the ARC winners, the crew of Flying Start, were given a tremendous standing ovation following the announcement of their win, for their embodiment of the true spirit of the ARC, including their enthusiastic support of the programmed activities, assistance with an incident at sea, and their friendly support of fellow participants. Skipper Nick Lewis from Wales has been dubbed “The Welsh Ambassador” by his fellow participants and regularly dishes out laminated Welsh flags with an invitation on the back to visit he and his crew aboard Flying Start.

Once the ceremony was over and the balloons released (albeit with a stick and manual help from above) over the happy crowds, participants mingled and enjoyed the sounds of the Sugar Cane Band at Gaiety late into the evening.

There is no doubt that ARC2006 was one of the hardest ever, but it will also be remembered as one of the best ever. An Australian participant, Caylie Jeffery, summed it up nicely: “Thank goodness it’s over but hey, what an amazing experience!”

ARC 2006 Resultsat