As the tail-enders tied up in Caribbean‘s St Lucia just in time for Christmas, this year’s ARC as well as the first ARC+ Atlantic crossings ended with the fastest and slowest ever times for a fleet that also had never before spread so wide north and south, there being a full 1,300 miles between the extremes.
That’s equivalent to half the entire rhumb line crossing distance, or as Yachting World’s Elaine Bunting quipped: “…a good three clothing layer difference and a 20-point SP factor variation.”
The split in the fleet came in three parts. A predicted depression way north of the rhumb with the promise of high winds tempted the outright racing element while the cruising core went south and then further divided over the decision to chase or not the trades which were untypically being pushed southward by a high. Those who went at first hit calms. Those who stayed sailed into unexpected winds and powered up.
Storming the longer northern route, one-off carbon lightweight flyer Caro, 65ft and just 17 tonnes, may have smashed the course record by eight hours, arriving in just 10 days 21 hours, but the Oyster fleet with two Class winners and seconds overall in both the Racing and Cruising Divisions racked up more honours than any other single builder.
First of the Oyster ARC fleet of 15 to arrive in St Lucia was Oyster 885 superyacht Karibu, skippered by Eric Sweetser, in a comfortable 14 days 23 hours, but on corrected time, including hours under engine (this is cruising after all!), it was Eric Alfredsom aboard Oyster 53 Lisanne who scooped that prize and also took first place in Cruising Class D with Andreas Zimmerman following in third aboard sistership Oyster 53 Dragonfly and, confirming Oyster’s domination in this Class, then Klaus Schmidt fifth with Sleipnir, again an Oyster 53. Reinforcing how well first-placed Lisanne had sailed, her crew had also pulled off a second overall in the Cruising Division’s 162 finishers.
Another owner particularly delighted to take top slot in Class, and also second overall this time in the Racing Division, was Ross Appleby with his well travelled and much raced Oyster Light Wave 48 Scarlet Oyster. “We’ve now won Racing Class B for the third time in a row,” Ross enthused, “we are so delighted, only one other boat has won twice in a row in a race division so the hat-trick is very pleasing!” And well earned by a determined entrant who, troubled by time and the pre-start bad weather in the Bay of Biscay, had gone to the extreme of trucking Scarlet Oyster from the UK to southern Spain to guarantee getting to the start!
Meanwhile, the first running of the sibling ARC+ event, beginning two weeks before the ARC itself, and stopping en route at Mindelo in the Cape Verdes islands, proved a resounding success with the stopover presenting a fascinating snapshot of a welcoming and highly individual island culture. The ARC+ fleet numbered 42, taking total ‘ARC’ numbers this year to a record 268, making this the largest ever transocean event. Included in the ARC+ were three Oysters with June and Alex Laidlaw’s Oyster 46 Sonsy Lass first Oyster into St Lucia while notching third in Cruising – Class B.
The staging and staggering of these two events placed the Oyster Customer Services team on station in Las Palmas for longer than ever before with the legendary free pre-departure servicing and support for all Oyster ARC entries. And again for some rather than just being helpful this proved near critical with one self-cared for boat found to have a failed through-hull exhaust fitting that was leaking water into the lazarette. The team arranged the fabrication on the island of a complete new unit which was then fitted, tested and trialled before a safe departure.
Also among the usual several autopilot issues, custom delays for one yacht awaiting a replacement drive unit were resolved only by Oyster ultimately sourcing for the owner another unit in England and packing a staff member off on a plane to Gran Canaria. But then that’s always been the Oyster way, safe sailing well served, whether new or old, first- or pre-owned. And that’s why and how so many of the Oyster ARC participants are now enjoying more distant adventures. World Cruising too should of course be congratulated, in the 28 years of running this event they’ve helped an astonishing total of 27,000 sailors to cross the Atlantic – an extraordinary contribution to yachting and, of course, stories at the bar!
Racing – Class B
1st Scarlet Oyster – Oyster Lightwave 48
Cruising – Class A
2nd Essex Girl – Oyster one-off
3rd Delicia – Oyster 625
8th Acheron – Oyster 655
10th Red Cat – Oyster 625
12th Karibu – Oyster 885
Cruising – Class B
5th Ayesha II – Oyster 575
Cruising – Class C
8th Surya – Oyster 54
13th Vamos – Oyster 625
17th Oyster Reach – Oyster 54
Cruising – Class D
1st Lisanne – Oyster 53
3rd Dragonfly – Oyster 53
5th Sleipnir – Oyster 53
Cruising – Class H
5th Merlyn of Poole – Oyster 45
11th Sephina of Beaumaris – Oyster 406
Cruising – Class A
3rd Sonsy Lass – Oyster 46
Cruising – Class B
8th Josie Maria – Oyster 575
12th Babella – Oyster 35 Mariner