There are some real stunners in the 225-strong fleet – a step upwards or is it just me?

Every year the yachts on the ARC transatlantic rally seem incrementally larger, newer and more expensive, but this was the year that either the event has made a step change upwards or I’ve caught up. I certainly did a double take this time at the mouthwatering range of quality yachts among the 225-strong fleet.

From the largest (114ft classic schooner Texel) to the smallest, a 28ft Pogo 8.50, the range includes some fantastic boats. Some of the one-off carbon cruisers along the wall – always the catwalk of the ARC fleet – are a treat. Here are two yachts I would not turn down if offered.

This is Caro, a Botin 65 and a real stunner. She’s a new carbon cruiser-racer, built at the Knierim yard in Kiel she is 20m overall yet displaces only 16.7 tonnes. The sail controls are all hydraulic and push-button, so she can be raced by a crew of eight. She has another great feature for cruising: a lifting keel.

Since much of the interior as well as the hull is made of carbon and the deck of carbon with a Nomex core, you might wonder about the the weight compromise of her teak deck. Well, that’s fairly lightweight too, just a 6mm veneer. And she does look absolutely superb.

Here’s another yacht on which I would happily steal away round the world. This is Axonite, an Axonite 69 built by Netherlands yard K&M Yachtbuilders (also pictured top). She’s an aluminium yacht with a lifting keel, built by the same company that make the Bestevaer and Stadtship yachts. This first of the marque has a really striking metallic orange hull (words don’t do the effect justice). K&M are developing a 56-footer along the same lines, and on balance I might hang out for the smaller yacht. Well, I think.


The majority of the medium range yachts (the average size in the fleet stands at 48ft 6in) all look very big and glossy. Some 15% of the fleet was launched new in the last two years and increases in beam, hull volume and topside height all contribute to the sense of a fleet that has been on growth hormones.

But even the smaller boats exude money, vigour and ambition. I very much liked the new Pogo 30, Avel Biz, being sailed to Saint Lucia two-handed by Pierre-Yves Luxey and Roland Gauvin. We’ve got a review of this great little fast cruising boat in our December issue, by the way, and you can take a look at our Yachting World video here that shows it goes as well as it looks.

One of a number of boats in the fleet with an interesting history is this Robert Clark 72 ketch, Zenara. At least two generations of young sailors started their offshore passagemaking in this great yacht – she used to be the Ocean Youth Club’s training boat Master Builder. Now, she is owned by Susan Robins and has been beautifully brought up to scratch after ten months of intense refit work by skipper Brian Campbell-Bottoms. She’s a beauty.

Although you can’t help but admire the bigger yachts, family crews make up the majority of the fleet, even if they too are in ever smarter yachts. This is Didrik Aamnes, the youngest skipper in the ARC fleet, posing with his father.

He is only 19 years old and just finished school this summer, but it was his ambition to go sailing and a year ago he began planning. He found a 27ft Albin Vega he could afford, but then his Dad leapt in and offered to chartered the family Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 39 to Didrik for “a kind [financial] arrangement,” says Didrik.

He has been sailing from Norway with three 19-year-old school friends who began with almost no sailing knowledge but a lot of enthusiasm. For the Atlantic crossing, his father is coming along too, but as crew. “It was always a dream, but I never got the chance to do it,” he explains.

Asked if he’s been worried about Didrik and his friends taking off in the boat, he beams with pride and says: “No, I’ve got three children and Didrik is the youngest but he is the most experienced. I bought the boat in 2007 and he has been sailing with me all the time.”