Unprecedented in the 29 year history of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the ARC Course Record has been broken for a second consecutive year following ideal trade wind sailing for the largest transocean rally. Leopard by Finland crossed the finish line in Rodney Bay Saint Lucia this morning at 01:09:51 UTC (02/12 21:09:51 Local time) smashing the ARC Course Record by 2 days 6 hours 45 minutes and 19 seconds.
Sailing across the Atlantic from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia in a total of 8 days 14 hours, 39 minutes and 51 seconds, the 10 Finnish adventurers alongside Leopard's regular 'pro' crew headed by skipper Chris Sherlock, celebrated successfully completing the Finnish-led transatlantic record attempt that has been over a year in the planning.
The project has the brain child of Samuli Liesti and his friends who have been passionate about bringing Finnish sailing to a wider audience and increasing the profile of the sport. Mike Slade's 30m (100ft) canting keel super-maxi was chartered for the attempt and rechristened Leopard by Finland. Liesti then recruited a crew combining some of Finland's sailing superstars, such as Whitbread veteran and two-time Finnish International Sailor of the Year Kenneth Thelen, with Atlantic novices who had not experienced crossing an ocean before.
"The idea came about to do a transatlantic because for so many people, including us, it is a dream come true. It has been awesome and great pleasure to be part of such a great team," beamed Project Manager, Samuli Leisti as he reached the dock. "Stepping on board in Las Palmas was one of those remarkable moments. Leopard is 100 foot super-maxi with canting keel and a boat that holds so many records ... it is just amazing. Before we started [the whole project], we said we wanted to first do a transatlantic crossing and second break the ARC Course Record. Now we have achieved these dreams."
ARC Weatherman Chris Tibbs commented on the weather for Leopard's record breaking crossing: "The low pressure system that caused the delayed start to ARC 2014 has meant that the wind on the passage has been more northerly than usual, enabling Leopard to sail a more direct course and not go south of the rhumb line in search of trade winds, at least until the latter part of the crossing. As they closed the finish in Saint Lucia, they have had to get south of a trough of Low pressure to stay in the trade winds, which saw them dipping in close Barbados, adding extra miles to their trip."
After a breezy preparation period in Las Palmas that saw the start delayed by 22 hours due to strong winds locally, the ARC fleet have enjoyed text-book tradewind sailing for the first week at sea that has meant two of the three fleet leaders will make landfall within the previous record time. The crew on board Andy Budgen's Volvo 70 Monster Project will undoubtedly feel some disappointment to cross the finish line in Rodney Bay within the record time later tonight, but missed out due to Leopard by Finland's triumph, having traded gybes with them most of the way across.
'We had great downwind sailing all the way, moving at 30+ knots of boat speed, surfing down waves, and here we are 8 days down the line. To take 2 days off the record; we are very, very happy; it is a great team. One of those dream crossings." said Chris Sherlock, skipper of Leopard. "This is my 29th Atlantic crossing and I have been coming to Saint Lucia for 22 years.... Saint Lucia is my second Caribbean home and we love it here." John Emmanuel, Public Relations Manager for the Saint Lucia Tourist Board greeted the 23 crew with a welcome basket and champagne to celebrate their arrival on the Caribbean Island.
"This is the 3rd ARC I have done and each year gets better and better. We are really pleased to be a part of it and World Cruising Club do a really good job of what they do. The racing division is run well. It's a great event and I can thoroughly recommend anyone who wants to do a transatlantic crossing to do is a part of the ARC."
With the previous ARC Course Record, set by Caro a Knierim 65 in ARC 2013 tumbling in less than a year, the Leopard crew are determined to keep their name at the top for a long time to come, 'We will be back next year and try and take some time off that again!" added Sherlock.