A Hero’s Welcome

This year’s ARC Rally arrival festivities featured a marked return to pre-pandemic spirit.
Danish brothers Claus and Stig with wives Catja and Bolette
Danish brothers Claus and Stig with wives Catja and Bolette arrived on the X-Yachts Xc-50 Alexa after 19 days at sea. Welcome rum punch in hand, Bolette exclaimed, “How fantastic it is here!” Sally Erdle

Nineteen days after leaving the Canary Islands, Maurice Mason was exuberant upon arrival in St. Lucia aboard his Nautitech 46 Open, Jadamama. 

“What a great reception,” Mason said. “The people are not only friendly, but also capable. That makes things so much easier after crossing the Atlantic. Someone even arranged for us to watch the rugby.” 

Mason and his fellow Irish crew, Maryrose, Marc and Paul, were among some 800 sailors from 36 countries on 137 boats taking part in the 2022 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), an annual transatlantic sail in company organized by World Cruising Club (WCC). ARC Event Manager Andrew Pickersgill says, “This year’s ARC was certainly back to its pre-pandemic spirit … IGY Rodney Bay Marina is alive with the unique post-Atlantic buzz fueled by Saint Lucia’s inspirational hospitality.”

Crew of First Lady
Crew of the German Beneteau First 53 First Lady — the first monohull to sail entire 2022 route — enjoy welcome rum punches, a basket of of fresh fruit and big smiles on arrival. “We’ve been dreaming of this moment!” Sally Erdle

The fleet departed Las Palmas on November 20, 2022, and boats arrived in St. Lucia throughout the first half of December. After crossing the finish line, where photographer Tim Wright snapped each arriving boat—day or night—ARC boats pulled into Rodney Bay Marina to a festive fanfare. Fellow ARC participants cheered and waved, and families who had flown in to meet loved ones jumped up and down in anticipation of that first hug. Once each boat was secured to the dock with the help of WCC “Yellowshirts” staff, a representative of the St. Lucia Tourism Authority handed each adult an ice-cold rum punch (or a fruit punch for the kids). Each arriving boat also received a basket of fresh fruits, local spices, pepper sauce, more rum, and even recipes, “so it’s not a mystery basket,” said Rodney Bay Marina manager Sean Devaux. “The arrival atmosphere is so much fun: horns blowing, flags waving, everyone welcoming the crews to the marina and St. Lucia, and celebrating their accomplishment,” he said.

Every arriving ARC boat is greeted by “Yellowshirts”— representatives of World Cruising Club. Sally Erdle

As ARC tradition goes, those first moments of jubilation are followed by cleaning and repairs, sharing passage stories at the marina’s bars and restaurants, and enjoying the sights of St. Lucia.

As for the sailing, it was a tale of two halves, according to World Cruising Club communications director Jeremy Wyatt, who noted a shift to light airs had plagued the later arrivals. 

“[It was] perfect tradewinds, a bit too strong for some boats, for the first half of the route, followed by frustrating calms on the second half, as the winds were switched off by a large low 700 nautical miles north of the rhumb line,” Wyatt said. 

St. Lucia Tourism Association
Helping hands on arrival. Representatives of the St. Lucia Tourism Association (blue shirts) and World Cruising Club (yellow shirts) assist the ARC fleet with docking. Sally Erdle

Mason on Jadamama agreed: “We could’ve used more breeze toward the end, but we kept to the southern route and overall were very happy.”

This year’s rally was not without incident, however, as some participants found the trans-Atlantic passage even more challenging than usual. Hailing from Sweden, the Wennberg family (Jorgen, Louise and their children, Alex and Inez) who had enjoyed an “amazing” crossing in 2014, this time around were hindered by a broken mast at the gooseneck more than 1,300 miles short of the finish line aboard their Grand Soleil Take Off. A family friend who had joined for the crossing, was injured in the dismasting, and with the help of a doctor aboard the nearby ARC boat Aphrodite 1, was safely evacuated onto a ship heading for the US.

Climbing the mast
Up the mast! Plenty of chores for the crew after the crossing. Sally Erdle

The Wennberg family, experienced sailors with a circumnavigation under their belts, opted to press onward. 

Rodney Bay Marina
The full-service Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia provides an idyllic Caribbean landfall. Sally Erdle

With the boat freed from the broken mast and rigging, they set up a jury rig with a spinnaker pole and a storm staysail. With that stabilizing the boat and giving up to a knot of speed, they headed onward to St. Lucia. But they’d need to motor and, coordinated by ARC Rally Control, six other boats in the fleet made transfers of fuel to them en route by floating jerry jugs tied to a line across the waves.

During the fuel transfer from the Dufour 520 Grand Large Salt, a line became fouled in Take Off’s prop. Robert Falck, crewing on Salt, swam over, borrowed some dive gear and cleared the prop. He decided to remain aboard to help the Wennbergs complete the crossing and eleven days after the dismasting, Take Off arrived in St. Lucia.

Take Off
After being dismasted 1,300 miles short of the finish, the Wennberg family was still able to limp across the finish line, thanks to the help of some other ARC participants. Tim Wright/Photoaction.com

“The welcome we received when we came in was beyond imagination,” Louise said. 

sunset party
For sailors who hadn’t had enough of the sea there was a fun sunset party catamaran cruise from Rodney Bay to Marigot Bay. Sally Erdle

A hero’s welcome indeed. And deservedly so.