Just 16 minutes separate the first two arrivals!
After a course distance of 2,700 nautical miles and almost twelve days at sea just 16 minutes and 5 seconds separated the first two yachts to cross the ARC finish line in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia. Both skippers of the Volvo 60 Big One and the Wally 80 Bagheera enthused about the exciting downwind duel, particularly over the last 24 hours. Every few hours the boats would meet and then gybe apart, Big One staying north whilst Bagheera went south. In the end it was the final gybe that decided the first to finish with Big One on a better angle to take advantage of the wind shift they experienced as they closed in on Martinique and then Saint Lucia.
Piotr Madej, skipper of Big One commented, “Five hours before the finish we held on to the final gybe for a couple of miles which placed us in a good position for the right wind angle to take us to the finish line. We are lucky as we can sail well downwind at angles of up to 160 degrees, more than Bagheera”.
Crossing the line today (4 December) at 03 36 22 local Saint Lucia time, to take Line Honours in ARC 2009, Big One set a good time, but not a new record. Sailing outside of the competition in the Open Division, Big One is not affected by the three-hour time penalty the yacht would have incurred for crossing the start line slightly early, had she been racing.
Determined to minimise the time between the yachts Bagheera made an impressive sight as she rounded Pigeon Island and powered up on the wind for the last mile to the finish line; her dark hull stealth like against the night horizon. Crossing to take Line Honours in the RORC Racing Invitation Racing Division, the yacht bore away and de-powered downwind heading back to deeper waters; with a draft of 4.7m they needed to be careful in the shallow waters of Rodney Bay. Although the channel to the lagoon and Rodney Bay Marina have recently been dredged to 4.5m (15ft), Bagheera’s draft will prevent her attempting an entry until high water later today.
Close on their heels is the Swan 70 Stay Calm, who set the pace of the race early on, only to be overtaken in the last few days by Big One and Bagheera.
Interestingly Bagheera sailed a shade under 3,400 miles to complete the course; also straight out of the box for the race, the yacht has sailed close on 5,000nm in just five weeks, and the first breakage was a spinnaker sheet snap shackle just minutes from the finish.
All three yachts have made for an incredibly interesting knife-edge race and run to the finish, made more so by the decision of the organisers to fit Yellowbrick Iridium trackers to the RORC Racing Division yachts this year, enabling followers on the web to share the excitement.
Two other yachts – Highland Breeze and Ourson Rapide – are also expected to arrive today. However the majority of the ARC fleet still have some distance to sail and are expected to between 07-11 December.
Jeremy Wyatt – World Cruising Club
Tel: +44 (0)1983 296060