A year of dramas, but the fastest ARC ever and one of the finest


Uninterrupted tradewinds have made this year’s ARC the fastest in its 21-year history. When the Italian maxi Capricorno set a new course record of 11d 5h for the crossing from Las Palmas to St Lucia, her margin of eight hours was just the start of it. Across the board, the usual transatlantic crossing times have been slashed. Yesterday, only 15 days after the start, the 40-footers started to arrive in a charge led by a Beneteau First 40.7, Lancelot.

They were beaten to the finish by Canadian Kim Dunfield and his crew on the 25m C&N sloop Mustang. No big surprise, you might think, until you consider that Dunfield sailed the last 1,600 miles with a stump of mast ending at the first spreaders. Mustang stormed across the finish line at 7 knots with a fully canvassed jury rig.

This is the other aspect that has characterised this ARC: it has had more than its usual share of serious incidents and breakages. There have been two dismastings and two abandoned yachts. Equipment damage is higher than usual. The sail loft, in particular, is having a bonanza.

Andrew Bishop, managing director of World Cruising Club, sees it as a trade-off, and having seeing more ARCs than I’d care to admit to, I agree with him. “There have been slightly more incidents at sea than on a light winds year,” he comments. “But the tradewinds have been near perfect and everyone has had excellent sailing and is arriving in great spirits.”

It’s incredible to see nearly 100 boats — almost half the fleet — here on day 16, and crews are telling of fantastic downwind conditions, with lots of high-speed surfing. Damn it, this was the year we should have gone!

There will be a full report, with all the gory details, in the February issue of YW…