Fall rallies recover from COVID slowdown

Boats in Gran Canaria preparing for the 2021 ARC crossing to the Caribbean.

Rallies are a popular way for voyagers to cross oceans in the company of other boats. The transatlantic rally known as the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) (www.worldcruising.com) has been around for 35 years. In this year with the COVID pandemic still lingering, there seems to be pent-up demand and the ARC event has 150 entries and even spawned added interest in the ARC’s associated rally the ARC+. 

The ARC starts from Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands and proceeds 2,700 miles through the northeast trades to finish at St. Lucia. The ARC+ also starts from the Canaries, goes to Mindelo, on the island of São Vicente in the Cape Verde Islands and then crosses to Grenada in the Caribbean’s Windward Islands. The ARC+ has 70 boats participating. Both the ARC and ARC+ have expected arrivals in early December. 

As Joan Conover writes in the SSCA Bulletin, the ARC and ARC+ are well-established, big- time rallies: “Started in 1986, this is a professionally operated rally with vessel inspections, tracking, weather routing services and equipment requirements. World Cruising Club’s attention to detail and training has insured years of successful passages for thousands of sailors. After a series of professional preparation events, safety inspections and seminars, boats depart Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, during the last week of November.”

On the west side of the pond are a series of smaller rallies that are just getting back in action after a 2020 hiatus due to COVID. The ARC Caribbean 1,500 (www.worldcruising.com/Carib1500/event.aspx) runs between the Chesapeake to Tortola, British Virgin Islands. It started on Nov. 2 with a small fleet of four entries. The Salty Dog Rally (www.saltydawgsailingassociation.com) departs from Hampton, Virginia and goes to either the Bahamas or Antigua. The rally reportedly had 80 boats signed up and departed on Nov. 1. 

Another fall rally is a smaller affair called the North Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (NARC) run by Hank Schmitt of Offshore Passage Opportunities (www.sailopo.com). The NARC, which runs from Newport, R.I. to Bermuda and then south to St. Maarten, was not run in 2020 due to COVID. The rally returned this year on a more informal basis with 18 boats participating. Conover quoted Schmitt as saying, “While we are not organizing an official 2021 NARC Rally this season, we will be running our Swan Program from Newport to St. Maarten with a planned stop in Bermuda. We will allow other boats to join us as long as they know we are not responsible if countries close because of a second wave of infections in the United States. But expect to see restrictions to join as crew on any boat; it is the responsibility of the skipper to make sure crew members comply with entry requirements that may be fluid this season.”

By Tim Queeney